HL Deb 06 June 1978 vol 392 cc1153-212

House again in Committee.

Clause 3 [Elections]:

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 21A: Page 2, line 25, leave out ("an") and insert ("any").

The noble Lord said: I am better composed to deal with this Amendment than I was before dinner. It might be for the convenience of the Committee to take Amendments Nos. 21A and 22A together. They are, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will have grasped, an inquiry into the drafting of Clause 3. The purpose of an inquiry into the drafting of a clause is not purely of arid academic interest. It is made necessary by the fact that, of course, if I am wrong in my supposition about the drafting, there may be a reason concealed behind the drafting which I have not grasped.

As the Bill is drafted, it states in subsection (1): The persons entitled to vote as electors at an Assembly election in any Assembly constituency shall be— and then it proceeds to categorise them. Subsection (2) applies the provisions of subsection (1), with the necessary modifications to the election of initial members (within the meaning of section 1 above). What escapes me is the necessity of taking two bites at this apparently small cherry. I presume that there must be a difference in wording required in subsection (1), as applied to the initial election; otherwise, the clause would not be drafted in this manner. But I am not at all clear what the difference is.

Therefore, I have tabled an Amendment to delete subsection (2), and to insert in subsection (1) before the word "Assembly" where it first occurs in the first line, the word "any" intead of "an". That is how the Amendment would appear if there were no necessity for the modifications referred to in subsection (2). It follows that, if the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is to object, the grounds of his objection will be that my drafting is at fault and must necessarily reveal, therefore, what are the purposes behind the drafting that he has presented to this House. It is to discover this that I now beg to move.


Even if it were a question of arid academic interest, I should do my best to satisfy the noble Lord. But he indicated that he moved this Amendment to probe the Government about their intentions, and I hope that what I say will persuade him that what is in the Bill is, in all the circumstances, reasonable. That being so, it will probably be helpful if I spell out the purpose of subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 3.

Subsection (1) specifies the people entitled to vote at elections. The same general qualifications as to eligibility to vote apply in Assembly elections as in Parliamentary Elections. Thus subsection (1)(a) provides that a person is entitled to vote if he (or she) has his name on the part of the Parliamentary register relating to the area of the Assembly constituency, and if he is entitled to vote at a Parliamentary election in the Parliamentary constituency. Subsection (1)(b) extends the Parliamentary franchise to enable Peers to vote in Assembly elections. Subsection (2) deals with the election of Members to the Assembly before Assembly constitituencies are established. These initial Members have to be returned for the same areas as Parliamentary constituencies. Accordingly, subsection (1), which is geared to Assembly constituencies, does not fit exactly for the election of initial Members. Subsection (2) therefore provides that for the election of initial Members, subsection (1) is to be applied with any necessary modifications.

I can assure noble Lords that there is no question of subsection (2) being used to modify the basic provisions describing the persons entitled to vote; in my judgment, such a change could not be read as a "necessary" modification in the application of subsection (1) to the election of initial Members. I hope that this explanation demonstrates that subsection (2) is necessary, and that the necessary modifications will relate only to the description of the constituencies and will not in any way affect a person's entitlement to vote.


I take it then that what the noble Lord is saying is that a constituency in the initial election will be different from a constituency in the ordinary election, and that it would be incorrect to describe the constituency in the initial election as though it were an Assembly constituency, although it will have one, two or three initial constituency Members, as the case may be, standing for it. So in that sense it would to the layman appear to be an Assembly constituency co-extensive with the Parliamentary constituency; that this would not be a definition that was correct in law, and that that difference of nature necessitates the addition of subsection (2). Can the noble Lord confirm that I have understood correctly?


Yes. We are dealing, first, with the initial election when, as the noble Lord will recognise, the constituency will be the Parliamentary constituency and there will be a certain number of members for that constituency. After the initial election, there will then be a different situation where Wales is divided up into Assembly constituencies, and the distinction that we are making is between the initial election and subsequent elections.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.9 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 2, line 34, after ("date") insert—

  1. ("(i) have their names on such parts of the register of local government electors as relate to the Assembly constituency; and
  2. (ii)")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is identical to one put down by the Government for Report on the Scotland Bill, to correct a flaw which was detected by the noble Lord, Lord Gray, during Committee on the Scotland Bill. Clause 3, as it stands, makes it possible for a Peer living in a local government area which straddles two Assembly constituencies to choose in which Assembly constituency to cast his vote. As was made clear in the Scotland Bill Committee debate on this point, there is no possibility of a Peer being able to vote twice, because it is the Government's intention in the order made under subsection (3) to attract Section 48 of the Representation of the People Act 1949, which makes plural voting an offence.

The Amendment would correct the flaw by providing that Peers who are entitled to vote in any Assembly constituency shall be those who have their names on parts of the register of local government electors which relate to that Assembly constituency. I beg to move.


My noble friend Lord Gray is not in the Chamber, but I am sure that if he were he would be glad to see that his labours have been doubly fruitful.

[Amendment No. 22A not moved.]

Lord ELTON moved manuscript Amendment No. 22B in substitution for Amendment No. 23: Page 3, line 10, leave out from ("officers") to ("and") in line 11.

The noble Lord said: I think that this refers to Amendment No. 23 which I put down and which has become garbled in the print. I do not know upon whom the responsibility for this rests. If it rests upon me, I apologise unreservedly to the Committee. If noble Lords will look at Amendment No. 23, they will see that at present it reads: Page 3, line 11, leave out from ("enactment") to the end of the line". This leaves out the word "and" and nothing else. Devious as my approaches may be, noble Lords will recognise that that was not my intention. The intention, as is now shown in manuscript Amendment No. 22B, was that it should read: Page 3, line 10, leave out from ("officers") to ("and") in line 11". That, I hope, coincides with what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has in front of him?


Yes, it does.


This is a slightly different but again a probing Amendment about drafting, and it interests me very much. If language is used in the normal manner, it appears that subsection (4) describes in two chunks what an order may apply. If we look at the first chunk, paragraph (a), everything that appears from the beginning of that paragraph to the word "officers", which I have drawn to the attention of noble Lords, is subsumed by the words "and any provision made under any enactment". If we were to leave in those words, it would read: An order under this section may— (a) apply, with such modifications or exceptions as may be specified in it … any provision made under any enactment". I cannot see how that power is in any way limited by including the words any provision of the Representation of the People Acts, any provision of the enactments relating to returning officers". If it is already enabled to apply, with modifications, any provision made under any enactment, those words must be superfluous. If, on the other hand, it is not intended to apply any provision made under any enactment, then the words that I have moved to delete are superfluous. There must be a reason, but I have failed entirely to grasp it. I beg to move.


If I could point out a minor flaw in the manuscript Amendment, the last "and" in line 11 must remain because we are joining two paragraphs.


We say that we should leave out the words from the last word which we are leaving in to the first word that we are leaving in again; so the word "and" in the manuscript Amendment should be there because it remains in the subsection, as redrafted.


I apologise to the noble Lord.


The provision which this Amendment seeks to delete enables the order relating to the conduct and questioning of elections to apply with such modifications as necessary any provision made under any enactment. This, in our judgment, is a necessary provision. Without it, the order would be confined to applying the provisions of the Representation of the People Acts, and of enactments relating to returning officers. But there are other provisions made under other enactments which we may wish to apply.

Let me give an example. Regulation 9 of the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1969 removes the need for planning permission to be obtained for the display of election notices and posters. This Amendment would mean that we could not apply this provision, and every election notice and poster would require individual planning permission. I do not think—and I am absolutely certain that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will agree—that local authorities would relish the prospect of having to deal with the flood of applications which could arise in a situation of that kind.

If I may give another example, paragraph (a) enables us to apply provisions of the Representation of the People Acts, but there are enactments made under these Acts which we also need to apply but which we could not apply if this particular Amendment were made.

To give another example, the Representation of the People Regulations 1974, which were made under the 1949 Act, prescribe the form of the official poll card for Parliamentary elections. That is the purpose of these regulations. It will be necessary to apply these regulations, modified as necessary, to the Assembly elections.

This provision appears in the Scotland Bill and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, will no doubt recall, in the European Assembly Elections Act, where it appears in Schedule 1, paragraph 2. As the noble Lord and, indeed, the noble Baroness will recall, Amendments were not put down so far as either the Scotland Bill or the European Assembly Elections Act were concerned. If this Amendment were made, the Wales Bill would be the only one of the trio which would be out of step. With the explanation that I have given, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his Amendment.


What the noble Lord has succeeded in convincing me of is that I have moved to leave out the wrong half of the subsection. Surely nothing is necessary in order to enable the Secretary of State to put into effect, or apply with modification, those powers under the Representation of the People Acts to which the noble Lord has just referred other than to say that an order under this Section may apply, with such modifications or exceptions as may be specified in it … any provision made under any enactment". It seems to me that it is the first part which is superfluous. I cannot see the purpose of having both parts. I do not wish to appear to be obtuse, although often it is useful to do so because it means that one receives a better explanation, but I do not see why, if one already has the power to apply any provision made under any enactment, one needs to add to that specific powers under specific enactments, because one already has them all in one's hands.


All I am saying to the noble Lord is what the effect of this Amendment would be. The noble Lord has made it clear that that is not his intention. If the noble Lord will put down a different type of Amendment at a later stage, we shall be delighted to look at it.


I think that will be the answer. I should have put down the other half of the clause. If time permits, no doubt we shall be able to do so at a later stage. In the meantime, let us not delay any further. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.19 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 24: Page 3, line 18, after ("the") insert ("Welsh").

The noble Lord said: Ever hopeful of having discovered an oversight, it occurred to me and my friends that the fund to which the noble Lord was opening the door in subsection (5) of this clause must be the Welsh Consolidated Fund. It may be that we are wrong and that we shall be told that drafts will be needed before the Welsh Consolidated Fund has got anything in it. In that case, I suggest that the clause is inadequately drafted, because it will continue the power to draw on the United Kingdom Consolidated Fund at a time when the Welsh Assembly is supposed to be entirely subsistent upon the Welsh Consolidated Fund. Indeed, it would make a great nonsense of much that is intended in the Bill if the funds which are specifically for Welsh purposes should continue to be drawn from the Consolidated Fund. It would also make budgeting extremely difficult. I expect that there is an explanation of this, but that is what the situation appears to be at the moment. I beg to move.


The Government believe that electoral arrangements for the Assembly should as a matter of principle be reserved to the United Kingdom Government and to Parliament. The Assembly will have no discretion to alter the requirements laid down in the Bill about electoral arrangements, and will therefore have no control over the financial implications of meeting these requirements. In these circumstances we believe it is fair that the cost of elections should be borne by the United Kingdom Consolidated Fund. This is in line with the policy we have adopted throughout the Bill; namely, that only expenditure over which the Assembly will have discretion should be charged to the devolved Funds.

This is an issue of principle rather than practice. Whether the cost of elections is charged to the United Kingdom or to the Welsh Fund will make no difference to the allocation of resources between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. If the cost is borne by the Welsh Fund, the size of the annual block fund granted to the Assembly, which, as the noble Lord will know, has to be approved by Parliament, would in practice be adjusted to take account of the extra expenditure involved. But, although this has no practical consequences, the Government believe that it is an important issue of principle and that expenditure over which the Assembly has no discretion whatever should not come out of their block fund. That is the reason for the present form of words which appears in the Bill.


It is a very interesting reason and a very interesting principle. I should have thought that the cost of the elections would be part of the running costs of the Assembly and that a lot of people would want to know how much they were. Indeed, I hope that in a moment the noble Lord will tell us how much he expects it to be, in the first instance and subsequently. I think he may get some guidance from the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum at the beginning of the Bill. I should also like to know whether this is the way in which the Scottish elections are to be charged. A number of the objections are based on financial grounds, and, as I have already said, it is going to cost the Welsh a dickens of a lot to have this particular form of devolution and it seems a pity to hide some of the cost and indeed to share it out over the United Kingdom as opposed to those who actually benefit from it. Can the noble Lord give us any enlightenment as to the scale of this?


To answer the question whether this provision is the same as in the Scotland Bill, yes, it is precisely the same. I have tried as fairly as possible to deploy the argument and, as I have indicated, it is an issue of principle rather than practice. It is a matter which is reserved to the United Kingdom Government and to Parliament and in that situation we do not think it would be appropriate to follow the advice of the noble Lord so far as this Amendment is concerned.

I will look into the question of the cost of the elections. I cannot off hand answer that particular question, but I will gladly let him have the information. Of course, it does not relate directly to the issue of principle involved, and, as I have indicated, it would not make a great deal of difference which way we did this in terms of its practical effects, but in the view of the Government it is quite clear that where a matter is manifestly one for the United Kingdom Government and Parliament it is right that this should not be charged to the devolved Fund, and that is why we maintain the position that I have indicated.


I see the argument that the noble Lord is putting before us, and doubtless in a moment we shall pass on from this point. I notice in a paragraph on page v, under the heading "Financial effects of the Bill", we are told that—and I quote: The costs of the referendum, the initial elections and the attendant publicity on both referendum and elections are estimated broadly at £1¼ million". I should be grateful if the noble Lord could investigate and let us know the amount of the sum involved.

As to the other issue of principle, if one runs a motor car surely not only the petrol and the maintenance but also the road fund licence is part of the cost of running the car and something about which you want to know. So if the principle is broadly agreed I shall not dissent from it, but merely say that it is rather an odd one, and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 3, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

8.26 p.m.


At this juncture I should like to ascertain something which perhaps I should have deduced from the Bill, but I have not done so. I regret that I have not given the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, notice of this, but we are all arriving pell-mell from the holidays and we shall be better organised next week. I should like to know what are the provisions for the election expenses of the candidates for the Assembly elections, both initial and ordinary? It may be that the answer lies in the Representation of the People Act, but if it does, will it be in the Parliamentary section or will it be in the local government section? Will the election expenses be adequate if they are not revised more frequently than they have been for Parliamentary Elections? This area may not be of much interest now, but it will be of considerable interest to candidates for election. It may indeed even influence the kind of people who will stand for election and it will be something which election agents will need to know in some detail. Therefore, it would be helpful if the noble Lord could give us some indication of what those proposals may be.


I hesitate to intervene in this most amusing dialogue which is taking place between the Front Benches and which has been going on for seven hours; but the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, mentioned the point of principle. May I, as a true Welshman, say that there is one great principle which should be adopted by the Government and I hope will be adopted by the Government; that is, that all expenses which can possibly be put on to the Consolidated Fund should be put on to it and not on to the Welsh Consolidated Fund which is referred to in Clauses 40 and 41.


From that comment I take it that I have an ally in the noble Lord in resisting this impetuous Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. The noble Lord has raised a very detailed question and I will gladly write to him before the next stage of the Bill, if that is convenient to him.


It is indeed. May I say as an Englishman, although I am acting as a Welshman, that I am also very anxious that there should be a just allocation between the Consolidated Funds of the two countries, and I do not join in this particular aspiration of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran.


I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, that under this Bill he will be classified as an Englishman and not a Welshman, and he will not have a note in the referendum.


I am not sure about that.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [By-elections]:

8.29 p.m.

Lord LLOYD of KILGERRAN moved Amendment No. 25: Page 3, line 26, at end insert ("constituency").

The noble Lord said: Clause 4 is concerned with the administrative procedure for dealing with by-elections. Since this Bill was drafted in its present form your Lordships have decided that some form of proportional representation should be introduced, and with the leave of the Committee in moving this Amendment I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 29.

Amendment No. 25 is merely designed to clarify the position as to where the seat of the Member of Assembly which falls vacant is to be dealt with, and we introduce the word "constituency" so that it is now the seat of a constituency Member. The by-election in the case of Amendment No. 29, concerns that other class of Member of the Assembly, the additional Member, and it is the procedure for dealing with the vacancy when it is created for an additional Member of the Assembly which falls in line with the provisions of Part V of Schedule 1 to this Bill, which was the subject of the lucid explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, when he was introducing Amendment No. 17. In view of the length of time that was taken in dealing with procedural matters arising from Amendment No. 17, perhaps I could leave it there. I should like to add this: as far as the ordinary constituency man is concerned the voting is very simple indeed. There are some problems in relation to the allocation of numbers of seats and that sort of thing, but that does not affect the simplicity of the procedure of proportional representation for the individual voter. I beg to move.


Perhaps either the noble Lord, Lord Harris, when he replies, or the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, when he resumes his feet, will explain to me what happens if there happens to be no willing candidate left on the list. I think there is a danger that the Kilbrandon group of Amendments may leave a situation where they have deleted the normal method of holding a by-election, or alternatively left only a non-proportional representation method of holding a by-election, to be operated in the middle of what is otherwise PR procedure. One assumes there will be many people on the lists and that those towards the bottom will be less acceptable than those at the top. The same system operates in Norway, and I have always wondered what happens if there is nobody left. How do you have a PR by-election in a single constituency under the Amendment as it is now?


Again, I do not want to interrupt the dialogue, but the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was looking so deliberately at me; all I can say in answer to his hypothetical question is that I cannot conceive as a practical matter that there will not be a candidate available from Wales to fill the gap to which he refers.


I can. You have an electoral region with, let us say, 12 candidates on the list for a particular Party for that region. Suppose three of them are elected; that leaves you with nine. One has died, two have taken jobs that they cannot combine with representing the constituency, a fourth has gone to gaol, a fifth has disqualified himself. These things can quite easily happen. We have four years of hazardous life to get through, and life in Wales can be hazardous.

Baroness ELLES

It might at last give a chance for the women to get into the Welsh Assembly, because they are certain to be put at the bottom of every list, as they usually are.


I am sorry if I suggested that I did not think, in the circumstances, that there would not be a man available in Wales; I should have said "man or woman".


The noble Lord has not replied to my question. These could be the circumstances, with no undue stretching of the imagination. What does he propose should be done to fill the seat? Should it stay vacant for two years?


Well, this is a hypothetical question, but from my practical knowledge of Wales the flexibility of all procedures in relation to Wales is so great that when that crisis arises, particularly when so many will be going to gaol according to the noble Lord, I am sure some adjustment will be able to be made and the problem solved.


I do not wish to be difficult, but we are treating a potentially serious matter with a certain levity. If the noble Lord is going to press this Amendment it is important that it should be right. If he is going to deal with it at a later stage, of course, it need not detain us quite so long. But we do not know what his intentions are. I am a friend of proportional representation, as I have already made clear, possibly to my own cost. In those circumstances, I should like it to work. I cannot see how it will work in the not altogether hypothetical circumstances I have adumbrated.


Perhaps at this stage I might invoke the help of the noble Lord, Lord Harris.


I am always anxious to spring to the assistance of either the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, or the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I do not want to go into these metaphors used by my noble friend the Solicitor-General for Scotland; he said it was a question of whether he was a pork or beef eater, or some metaphor of that sort. I find it difficult to give vigorous and unqualified advice to the Committee because this Amendment was carried against the view of the Government. That being so, in my view, it is not incumbent upon me to explain what it is supposed to mean. But I believe that this is consequential upon the earlier Amendment, and therefore this Amendment, together with Amendment No. 29, should be added to the Bill simply because it takes account of the decision made earlier by the Committee on this question.


The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has referred to the ingenuity of the Welsh. If one looks at the three sets of circumstances which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, thought might arise—the death of a candidate, his getting a job somewhere else, or being in prison—I should have thought that there is only one of these the Welsh could not rectify in that they would be unable to resurrect the dead. I am quite sure they could get people back into Wales for the election, and it might well be within possibility to get them out of prison.

8.37 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 26: Page 3, line 33, leave out ("presiding officer") and insert ("President").

The noble Lord said: I am very sorry indeed not to see the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, in his place, because the purpose of this Amendment is to remove what I think is the offending and misleading description of "presiding officer".


If the noble Lord will forgive me, perhaps we could take Amendments Nos. 26, 27, 28, 30 and 31 together, because I think they are inter-related.


Indeed we could, and the noble Lord, who has looked at it so carefully, will see that there is an occurrence earlier in the Bill which I missed. It seems to us that to call the person presiding over the Welsh Assembly, if that is what he is to do, its presiding officer is inevitably to confuse people as to his function, because an officer of local government is normally a paid, non-elected, full-time person, and we are talking, of course, of an elected person. We are talking of an elected person holding an office of, I would have thought, considerable importance, not only for its function but also as a figurehead. After all, this Bill is largely designed, is it not, to satisfy the understandable aspirations of Welsh nationhood?

The person who is at the titular head of that organisation ought to be called something that does not lead people, who are necessarily more ignorant on this side of the Border, to suppose that he is some glorified town clerk. The nearest that I could pitch upon to the phrase in the Bill, "the presiding officer", is "President". That is a term which is full of honour and honourable associations. I had hoped—and maybe I shall not be disappointed—that some Welsh Peers would come forward with perhaps more colourful and more appropriate terms than I can, and that between us we might choose one of them which Englishmen could spell and pronounce. However, in the absence of such assistance, I move that we substitute the name "President" with a capital "P", for the term "presiding officer" with a small "p" and a small "o".

Baroness VICKERS

I should like to support my noble friend in suggesting a different name from the one in the Bill. On Second Reading I suggested that the Assembly should not be called "Assembly", and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, was kind enough to suggest that they had the Pendragon and that was the official name. In Ireland they have been able to have the Dad, and the Taoiseach as their Chief Minister. I would suggest that the Welsh should be able to think of a name for their own leader, because to my mind "the presiding officer" means the chap who looks after the elections. We always have the "presiding officer" for elections, so we would have to find another name for him at election time. I do not like the word "President", because it is rather too continental to my mind. Moreover, we have a "President" in so many voluntary organisations. Therefore, in my view, the simplest and most satisfactory solution would be to have a Welsh name as this is to be a Welsh Assembly which, I understand, is to be bi-lingual. That would be a good way of getting this Assembly or whatever it will be called—the Pendragon—off to a happy start.


I should like to support my noble friend Lord Elton in moving the Amendment. In my view it is so important when we are devolving responsibilities to the Assembly that we should get it off on the right foot and give the officer who is to preside over the Assembly a proper title. With my noble friend, I do not think that the term "presiding officer" fits the case in this instance. It is important that he should he given a proper terminology. I should like to support my noble friend in his Amendment.


May I add a few comments. The choice of words is most significant when describing an important matter. I have always been most impressed by the fact that a particular organisation of people at the beginning of the war were called the LDV, but in his wisdom Mr. Churchill changed that title to the "Home Guard"—a very important sounding name. All too frequently these days it is left to officials to construct a logical name which has no inspiration at all. I suggest to your Lordships that "presiding officer" is just such a logical uninspiring name. If Wales is to be given an Assembly which is meant to he something to Wales, what better than to have the term "President" unless, as my noble friend Lord Elton has said, the Welsh themselves can choose an even more inspiring name that we can all pronounce.


I too support my noble friend, but I should like to add a slight variation. It has been suggested that the Assembly is a type of superior county council. Therefore, would it not be more appropriate to call the person in charge "the chairman", because that is used in another context?

Viscount LONG

I am absolutely amazed at where this name came from. To me "presiding officer" sounds extremely second rate and I believe that it is an insult to the Welsh people. As one looks around the world today other countries either have a Monarch or a President. I cannot see why the Welsh people should not have the term "President" applied to their Assembly.

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)

Is the noble Viscount suggesting that the Welsh people will not have a Monarch?

Viscount LONG

No, not at all. I am suggesting "President" rather than "presiding officer". They can have their Monarch. I am saying that in the Bill they are to have a "presiding officer", but in my view they need a "President" for their Assembly. I do not know how anyone could possibly use the term "presiding officer"; in my view this is an insult. "President" is a much stronger name for the Welsh people.


I am always, I hope, very amiable when I follow the noble Viscount, but I am bound to say "an insult to the Welsh people" seems to be putting it rather strongly. Apparently there has also been an insult to the Scottish people because this went through, so far as the Scotland Bill was concerned, without any form of discussion at all.

Viscount LONG

I did not take part in the Scotland Bill: I am only interested in the Welsh and I do not think that the Welsh, at this stage, have been sufficiently defended by the Government.


I just draw the matter to the attention of the Committee which must have its own view of the matter. The fact is that this is exactly the same procedure as was followed in the Scotland Bill. Let me give an explanation which I hope will satisfy the Committee. I shall do my best not to be "too continental", to quote the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, although I do not think, as I am sure she would agree, that that should always necessarily be considered a term of abuse.

As in the case of the Scotland Bill, the Government believe that we should leave it to the Assemblies to decide what specific title they should give to their equivalent of Mr. Speaker in another place. Both Bills deliberately adopt the neutral expression "presiding officer". I think that the Government would consider it altogether too paternalistic to seek to insist that any particular title such as "President", "Speaker" or indeed "chairman", were used. I very much hope that this issue will not he pressed. The Welsh Assembly can indeed adopt the form of words suggested by the noble Lord, but we think that this is a matter for the Assembly to decide. Perhaps I may finish with a final low blow: we do not believe that the gentleman in Whitehall necessarily knows best!


Perhaps the noble Lord will tell us where in the Bill there is provision for the Assembly to decide on the title of its chief officer? I think that we have had this problem on a previous occasion. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, may remember that before the dinner break he was quoting an idea which I entirely applauded. Of course the Welsh decide, but there is nothing in the Bill about it. Perhaps the Government might care to put down an Amendment to make sure that there is something in the Bill to say that the title of the chief officer should be one for the Assembly to decide.


I have listened to the enthusiasm with which Conservative Members of this House are jumping up to deal with the very important question of what the Speaker in the Welsh Assembly should be called. I welcome the fact that the neutral term "presiding officer" is used. There may be a conflict, but I can assure Members of this Committee that the Welsh people will choose a suitable name in their own time. It is certainly not strictly necessary to have the term put into the Bill. To use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, before the dinner break, one must leave it to the common sense of the Members of this Welsh Assembly to choose the name they wish.


Would it help at all if we simply put the letter "a" in front of "presiding officer", leaving it thereafter for the Welsh people to decide what "a presiding officer" should be called. "A presiding officer" gets us out of the difficulty.


My noble friend Lord Harris referred to the fact that the same words were in the Scotland Bill and that no exception was taken to them. I can assure your Lordships that the reason why no exception was taken was that when the words appeared with small letters rather than capital letters they were not taken as being a title, but as a description of the office. Nothing in the Bill as it stands will stop the Assembly calling the "presiding officer" by such title as it considers appropriate. I am quite certain that the Welsh will do the same.

If we seek to put in the title it is almost certain that both the Scots and the Welsh would dislike what we put in. They will then abandon it and choose something of their own and be in conflict with the Act. It is much better to leave them with a totally unfettered discretion, as the Bills do at present.


This has been a fascinating exchange, which took a course quite different from that which I had expected, as is often the case. Plainly, there is much to digest between now and a later stage. If, during that time, attractive and acceptable suggestions are made, I am sure that they will find their way to the Marshalled List. I suspect that not all the Welsh are as neutral in their attitude to this matter as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. On the other hand, I have always thought of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who sits below the gangway, as being less than neutral, but he is taking a vehemently neutralistic attitude on this occasion. Therefore, I confess that I am sufficiently perplexed and desirable of hearing a better solution to withdraw the Amendment at this stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.50 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 27: Page 3, line 35, leave out ("three") and insert ("four").

The noble Lord said: I think that this Amendment may conveniently be taken with Amendment No. 28. It deals with the question of the lapse of time as regards a particular occasion. Clause 4, which we are now discussing, deals with the calling of a by-election. In line 35 there are the provisions which state when this is to happen. What concerns me is this. The chain of events which leads to the calling of a by-election is that, first, a vacancy occurs. However, even before that, the terms which actually entail a vacancy occurring are decided. When it is decided what constitutes a vacancy, that event has to be brought to the notice of this gentleman who is occupying the PO position. This may take some time to happen. Thereafter, there will be a delay of up to three months.

It seems to us that, if the vacancy does not come to the notice of the presiding officer within a month of it occurring, that is a rather strange circumstance, and that under all circumstances it should be possible for notice to have been given and steps to have been taken to set in motion a by-election so that it can take place at the end of four months from the vacancy occurring.

In the first instance, I should like to know what circumstances the Government foresee whereby a vacancy could occur and be concealed from the presiding officer for a period of more than a month. Furthermore, I should like to know how long that period might be extended before they would be surprised, because I think that there should be some terminus—some cut-off point—and that it should not be left as open as it is now. I beg to move.


The Amendments suggested seek to ensure that any by-election should be held within four months of the vacancy occurring, subject to the proximity of the next ordinary election. But what they seek to achieve might not, in fact, prove possible in practice in the most exceptional case, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just referred to that. Consider the position if an Assembly Member disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It could in exceptional circumstances be several months before the mystery was unveiled, though it could unfortunately prove to be the case that a vacancy had existed throughout the period he was missing. Let me give an illustration. He was not a Member of another place at the time, but the late Mr. Victor Grayson disappeared after he had been a Member of another place. Of course, he could have disappeared while he was a Member of another place. It is exactly this highly unusual situation that one is talking about. I do not expect there to be many such cases, but nevertheless the noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked for clarification on this point and, therefore, he cannot complain because he now has it.

As it stands, the clause has sufficient flexibility to meet this kind of case and the proposed Amendments would not. Of course, this is obviously a most exceptional case, but in the more normal course of events it can be expected that a delayed notification would be for more mundane reasons—such as the long vacation—and it seems reasonable to suppose that under the Bill as it stands by-elections will be held within about four months of the vacancy occurring, except in the most exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless, the Bill must be capable of meeting such circumstances, and in the light of what I have said I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will take the particular point that I have endeavoured to make.


This actually raises a new consideration (does it not?) which was of considerable interest to the other place when Mr. Stonehouse was a Member thereof. It has been suggested to me that some requirement of attendance should be built into this Bill at some point. If someone is capable of not turning up for three, four, five or six months and everybody says, "That is very odd, perhaps he'll come along tomorrow", one wonders at what point it will stop. I rather think that not so long ago another place would also have liked to have had some regulation when one of its Members was, in fact, in Australia. It would surely do something towards achieving this if the terms upon which a vacancy was said to have occurred included reference to the number of possible attendances which a Member had failed to honour in either a committee or the Assembly.

But as the Bill now stands, so far as I can see we would have a mystery going on for perhaps six months—the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, suggested this. I do not think that that would be acceptable. I do not think that there is anything sacred about the four-month period that I have suggested. I think that there is something very unsatisfactory about having the possibility of a vacancy continuing indefinitely until someone becomes so embarrassed that something has to be done. The whole point of the law is that it is supposed to tell us at what point we should become embarrassed, and we are not embarrassed up to that point. I think that I have made this clear. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Harris, wants to say anything further. I think that he is seeking reinforcements and possibly if I dwell a moment longer on the point he will be able to contribute.


No, I was just trying to recall the situation as regards members of local authorities. I say this with some caution because I received an embittered attack from one of the noble Lord's friends a few moments ago for having made the parallel with local government. However, there is a provision as far as local authorities are concerned. My noble friend agrees with me that there is a provision whereby if a person does not attend a meeting for six months, the authority concerned can take action. As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will realise, this is obviously a rather different point though not "unadjacent" to the one which we have been discussing. I shall look into it before the next stage of the Bill to see whether it is appropriate to take any form of action. I do not know in which particular direction our researches will lead us.


I am obliged to the noble Lord for that explanation and also for the phrase "not unadjacent"; perhaps one could say "less than semidetached". I should have thought it was slightly closer than that. Perhaps we could digest what has transpired and, if necessary, return to it. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

Lord LLOYD of KILGERRAN moved Amendment No. 29:

Page 3, line 38, at end insert— ("(4A) Subject to subsection (4) of this section where the seat of an additional member of an Assembly is vacated the vacancy shall be filled by the first willing candidate of the party of the vacating member on the relevant party priority list as prepared at the preceding ordinary election under the provisions of Part V of Schedule I to this Act, such candidate not already being a member and having indicated his willingness to fill the vacancy in such manner as may be required by the standing orders of the Assembly.").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this Amendment. It is consequential upon Amendment No. 17, which the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, dealt with earlier. I beg to move.

[Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 not moved.]

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Disqualification for membership]:

8.58 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 32: Page 4, line 4, leave out ("(e)") and insert ("(f)").

The noble Baroness said: A series of Amendments have been put down to Clause 5 because I think it is vital when we are setting up a new body like the Welsh Assembly that people who want to become members of it should know if they will be entitled to do so. Regrettably, I find that Clause 5 is singularly indefinite and unclear. If I was a housewife in Carmarthen wishing to stand for the Welsh Assembly, I should find it very difficult to know whether or not I would be eligible.

Clause 5 seems to fall somewhere halfway between Sections 80 and 81 of the Local Government Act, which sets out very clearly what disqualifies a person from being a member of a local authority. On the other hand, we have the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, which also sets out very clearly the disqualifications. I agree that in Section 1(1) of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 paragraphs (a) to (e) are perfectly legitimate disqualifications and we agree with them. But I think that paragraph (f) should also be included in the Bill.

Paragraph (f), as the noble Lord will know, sets out in Parts II and III of Schedule 1 over 200 bodies and offices, membership of which disqualifies people from standing as Members of the House of Commons. This was discussed during the debate on the Scotland Bill on 12th April. The reply of the Government appears in cols. 664 and 665, to which I shall refer, because the arguments there do not seem to be relevant to the case of the Welsh Assembly. In any case, this is a subject which it is vital should be debated—not just because it happens to have been already debated for Scotland, but because the Welsh body that is to be set up is a completely different issue.

As regards the Schedule which has been omitted from this Bill, the Government's argument was, first, that in that Schedule there were bodies which did not deal with devolved matters. However, the fact of the matter is that many of the bodies which are listed in the Schedule deal with matters which are of influence and cover many of the aspects which will be devolved to the Welsh Assembly. We only have to take, for instance, in Part 2 of the Schedule, the Land Authority for Wales, the Commission for Racial Equality, or the Health Services Board. These are all bodies which must, in exercising their powers and functions, have an effect on matters which may affect the decisions of the Welsh Assembly. I think therefore it is vital that these bodies should be included in any list which concerns disqualification for sitting in the Welsh Assembly.

Another argument that was put forward by the Government was that many of these bodies operate exclusively outside Scotland. But here we are not dealing with Scotland. We are dealing with Wales. Many of the bodies listed in this Schedule deal not only with England and Wales as a whole but with Wales specifically. We only have to turn to Parts 2 and 3 of the Schedule to see, first, the Area Electricity Board in England and Wales and the Commission for Local Administration in Wales. There are many of these bodies listed which obviously should be included in this particular Bill.

However, there was an even less acceptable argument. I was surprised that somebody so democratic as the noble Lord, Lord McCluskey, should have given it as a reason why it was not necessary to include this Schedule in the Scotland Bill, but using this argument that it should be included in the Wales Bill. The noble Lord said: It is not essential that the public should be able to have instant access to these matters". [Official Report, 12/4/78; col. 665.] I think this is exactly the kind of information that should be available to the public, particularly the Welsh public, if they want to know whether or not they may stand for this Assembly. This is a new body. It is not something that has been going on for centuries and gradually evolved its own practice, standards and regulations. This is something new for which both Houses of Parliament are responsible in setting up and getting off on the right foot.

I should have thought it absolutely vital that the public should be able to have instant access and to know who is available to stand for membership, and whom they could be looking out for as Members for their constituencies, or whether any individuals themselves would have the right to stand. It may well be that one of the noble Lords opposite is about to be offered a chairmanship of a public body. Noble Lords may wonder whether it would be rather nice to draw £1,000 a year or whether they should risk waiting for the chance of standing for the Welsh Assembly. I think that noble Lords have as much right as anybody else to know what the position is. After all, the great cry today is, "We have the right to know". I would think that noble Lords would have the right to know whether it is worth while taking up a new chairmanship, or waiting and being able to stand for the Welsh Assembly—which many of them support most strongly.


It is interesting that the noble Baroness should refer to noble Lords on the Government side being offered appointments to public bodies. In fact I think I am the only person in this Chamber at this moment who has been for quite a long time—except possibly for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest—actually resident in Wales, and who is therefore classified as being Welsh under the Bill. I should like to let the noble Baroness know that I am already the chairman of a public body, so she has no need to offer me anything.

Baroness ELLES

I am delighted to hear that the noble Lord is so fortunate. As he well knows, I am not in any position to offer anybody anything. I think that closes that matter. If we are talking of public bodies, I would draw the attention of noble Lords to two very interesting documents which set out the kind of body which I think should be included in such a Schedule. One deals with public boards, Cmnd. 6803, which lists all the names of persons who have been appointed—I repeat the word, "appointed"—as chairmen and members of various boards of a commercial character. An even more interesting document is the Directory of Paid Public Appointments made by Ministers, published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Under the Welsh Office alone there are something like 14 boards and councils which I think should be included in a list of boards which should disqualify members from standing for the Welsh Assembly. I shall not take up the time of the Committee in reading them all out. I shall just give one or two: the Area Health Authority, Wales, the Land Authority for Wales, the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales, the Rent Assessment Panel for Wales. These are all boards whose officers and chairmen are holding paid public appointments.

In normal parlance I presume it would be referred to as holding office of profit under the Crown. All these should be listed in a Schedule which should be available, particularly to the Welsh people, so that they may know whether or not they are able to stand. That would be of great benefit to everyone. It would also clear up the fact that the reason for the exclusion would not necessarily be that the functions overlapped, because that, as I understand it, is of secondary importance. What are of importance are posts available as a result of patronage. It is the patronage element which I think would be worrying. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether lie would consider agreeing to the fact that we should have subparagraph (f) of the relevant Schedule to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 included in this Bill.

9.8 p.m.


Perhaps I may begin by saying that I am unhappily not in a position to say that we have been altogether persuaded by the noble Baroness in moving these particular Amendments, for reasons which I shall try to give. I fear I am going to take a little time, but this covers a substantial amount of territory, as the noble Baroness has indicated. I shall take the issues one by one. Dealing first with Amendments Nos. 32 and 35, may I begin by saying that I think it necessary when looking at Amendments to Clause 5 to consider them as a whole. I think that that is the only sensible way in which to approach this matter.

Baroness ELLES

If that is the case—


I fear I am going to take a fair amount of time, but I should be glad to give way to the noble Baroness and then I could deploy my arguments.

Baroness ELLES

If the noble Lord is going to take them all in one would he rather that I spoke to all the Amendments now?


It would be helpful if that could be done. It is difficult to pick and choose between these Amendments. If the noble Baroness would like to deal with any of the other Amendments, it might be more sensible for me to then deal with them and try to wrap the whole thing up together.

Baroness ELLES

With the permission of your Lordships I shall deal with these Amendments together: that is, Amendments Nos. 33, 35, 36 and 37. These are presumably the Amendments in question.


The trouble is that we have two lists of Amendments before us. The Amendments I am advised it would be sensible to take together would be Amendments Nos. 32, 33, 35A, 36A and 36B, 37, 38A and 40.

Baroness ELLES

Then of course, as the noble Lord will understand, I shall also take rather a long time in going into some of these matters, and I apologise in advance for taking up the time of the Committee. However, it is important that while we are dealing with them we should clarify the matter and know where we stand, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for dealing with it in this way.

I have already dealt with Amendment No. 32. May we take Amendment No. 33, which is to remove the words, or is disqualified otherwise than under that Act for membership of that House or for sitting and voting in it; Here again, I am perturbed by the fact that an ordinary citizen of Wales is not likely to have let alone the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 but a copy of Erskine May on his bookshelf. He is likely to have his Bible and a good many other useful books of reference but I very much doubt whether Erskine May would be one of them.

If you take the disqualifications which are set out in Erskine May, apart from those under the House of Commons Disqualification Act, they include subjects such as aliens and persons under 21. Are we sure, or do we know, that the Welsh would not rather like to have an opportunity of having Members of their Assembly aged 19 or 20 rather than 21? Have they been given a chance to discuss this, or to consider it? I think they would probably agree on the question of bankruptcy or treason. They would probably also agree on lunacy. I see that "Peers", who usually happily go with "lunacy", are being removed from disqualification under Clause 6, but certainly the question of a person under 21 is a matter for discussion at some stage, and is a consideraation which should be put before your Lordships.

The other point I should like to raise is also on Clause 5, where it says, is disqualified otherwise than under that Act for membership of that House or for sitting and voting in it". Can the Minister say in his reply whether there is any difference between a disqualification for membership and a disqualification for sitting and voting? If there is no difference, why put in the words "for sitting and voting"? If there are differences, may we know what they are? It would be helpful to the Committee to know that.

With regard to Clause 5(1)(c), this comes back to my original argument under Amendment No. 52 which refers to an Order in Council being proposed by the Secretary of State to say who are the people who are to be disqualified. I would ask the noble Lord to consider this matter of having a list which is published in some form or another and which will be available to the Welsh people, or indeed to anybody who wishes to stand. The noble Lord will agree that at present it is very difficult for the ordinary citizen, however intelligent, to discover from the Bill whether or not he is disqualified. There is no schedule of offices which debar him from standing and there is no elaboration of disqualification other than as referred to in the House of Commons Act. It would therefore be of considerable benefit to the public in general, and prospective candidates in particular to know whether they are eligible.

Coming to Amendment No. 36A—I apologise for the fact that in the original list of Amendments some of the Amendments were not well drafted—this deals with Ministers of the Crown. Nowhere in the Bill does it say that a Minister of the Crown is not eligible to stand for the Welsh Assembly. I think the Committee will agree that it is totally unsuitable that anybody who holds a position in Cabinet or as a Minister of the Crown should be allowed to stand for the Welsh Assembly. I appreciate that in your Lordships' House this would immediately disqualify the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and even the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, both of whom have a great love of Wales. Perhaps I might say from this side that they will soon be eligible to stand for the Welsh Assembly, but that is in no sense derogatory of the excellent contribution they make to your Lordships' House.

Nevertheless, for the time being I think it would be suitable that they should be considered ineligible to stand for the Welsh Assembly. It is a kind of dual mandate, a duplication of work, and it would be totally unacceptable, in view of the functions and powers which they exert and hold as Ministers of the Crown, to expect them to make decisions in a Welsh Assembly as an elected Member of part of Wales. Again, there would be the patronage element because as Ministers of the Crown—I have referred to the directory of paid public appointments—they have powers to appoint people to paid jobs, and indeed it is their duty to do so for the functioning of these various bodies. I believe it would be wrong that people to hold such powers should also be able to stand for election to the Welsh Assembly.

Similar arguments would apply to membership of the House of Commons. As Lord Harris will be aware, one of the many matters that come up when we discuss the European Assembly elections is the question of dual mandate. We did not discuss it in your Lordships' House but it is a matter which has been exercising all Parties; how can one fulfil the role as a representative of a constituency or a group of constituencies, or as in this case part of a constituency, properly and do one's duty to the people who elected one if one is sitting in two democratically elected bodies? For that reason, disqualification of Members of the House of Commons should also apply.

I regard Amendment No. 37 as very important. It is designed to draw the attention of the Welsh people to the way in which the Bill has been drafted; this is a sloppily drafted clause. There is no way for the Welsh people to know who might be elected to be a Member of the Welsh Assembly. The people who want a Welsh Assembly, the people of Wales who live in Wales, imagine they will get people from their local community who are Welsh and who are concerned with the Welsh culture, tradition and interests. But as the Bill stands—I say this subject to correction by the Minister —any of the 600 million British subjects scattered throughout the world are entitled to stand for the Welsh Assembly. Of course, some of them might make excellent Members, but one can imagine that many people in Wales would feel that they would not necessarily make good representatives. I am not saying they would be elected; that is another matter. The fact remains that, under the Bill as drafted, a British subject anywhere in the world could stand for election to the Welsh Assembly, in precisely the same way as one can stand for the Westminster House of Commons.

As the Committee knows, it is one of the anomalies of the House of Commons that one must be a resident of the United Kingdom to vote, but one does not have to be a resident of the United Kingdom to stand for election. And in this case, where the whole point of devolution and of having a Welsh Assembly for the Welsh people is to have people who have lived in Wales, who know the Welsh people and their problems and who understand their attitudes to life, at least the Welsh people should be represented by people from Wales. I therefore submit that Amendment No. 37 would assist in selecting people for the Welsh Assembly who would be best suited to the task. This would mean that only those people who are entitled to elect Members to the Assembly under Clause 3 would be eligible to stand for a Welsh Assembly. Of course, having only local people is localising the problem, but I think this is within the spirit of the Welsh Assembly Bill. Therefore, I think it is essential that at least a period of residence should be accepted before anybody has the right to stand for election to a Welsh Assembly.

Perhaps I may now speak to Amendment No. 38A, which seeks to draw attention to various anomalies with regard to convicted persons and their right to stand. Here again it might be said that a person convicted of a serious offence would not be selected as a candidate. But in the Bill the conviction and sentence have to have been in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Irish Republic. But as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, knows, in the light of our exchanges over the Suppression of Terrorism Bill, that new arrangements for dealing with terrorist cases would enable a person to commit a crime in one country and be convicted and sentenced in another. A person who committed an act of terrorism in the United Kingdom could be convicted and sentenced in, say, Western Germany, and would be eligible under this Bill. On the other hand, a person who committed a similar act of terrorism in West Germany and who was not extradited to West Germany but was convicted in the United Kingdom and received a sentence of imprisonment of a period of not less than three months without the option of a fine would be ineligible. This surely is a nonsense. Of course, I may not have drafted the Amendment correctly, but with increasing international elements in crime and increasing interdependence of States, and as a Member of the European Community, one has to take into account that we are a much closer-knit society than when the original disqualification on conviction was drafted.

I think this question should be looked at. Not only is there this international element of committing a crime in one country and being sentenced and imprisoned in another, but there is the ridiculous situation where a person could be convicted of any criminal offence across the Channel, in Northern France for example, or of a serious crime within the last five years. There could be a sentence of two years' imprisonment and the person might then come and settle in Wales. That might be a very nice thing to do. Nobody would necessarily know. That person could stand although he had committed a really serious crime which would disqualify him automatically from being allowed to stand as a candidate. It may well be said that it would be difficult. How would one know whether this was so? The fact is that nobody may find out, but if the Bill is so drafted that if and when it is found out this would then retrospectively disqualify a person from continuing as a Member of the Assembly, this would be to the advantage of those who are standing.

Similarly, a person may stand as an independent, and so would not be dependent on any political Party adopting him. He might have committed a criminal offence abroad, and yet be able to stand as an independent candidate for the Welsh Assembly. That would be totally unacceptable to the Welsh people. I should be grateful if the noble Lord would comment on that particular aspect.

Finally in this group of Amendments, we come to Amendment No. 40, which I think was the last one. What is proposed in this Amendment was also debated during consideration of the Scotland Bill, but it has a slightly different effect in relation to the Wales Bill. The Amendment seeks to delete that part of the subsection which empowers the Welsh Assembly to change the list of offices disqualified from membership of the Assembly if a request is made to the Secretary of State.

There is a similarity here to the situation in Scotland, though it is not entirely identical. It seems that an order can be varied in only three ways so far as the Welsh are concerned. This is because they do not form a legislative body and so, unlike the position in Scotland, cannot pass an Assembly Act. However, the variation could take place by United Kingdom Act of Parliament, or by Order in Council as provided under Clause 5(1)(c), if that remains, or under Clause 5(5), if that remains.

To my mind, the citizens of Wales are here being denied the right to know at any one time who can stand for election to the Assembly. It is a situation which would lead to confusion and to a certain amount of ignorance as to who can or cannot stand for election. There is no necessity to have any publicity at all for the order. At least if the proposal is laid before Parliament the document in question has to be published; it is available if one knows where to look for it. But here I do not see anything in the Bill which says that orders which are made by the Welsh Assembly must be made public. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to say that I am wrong, and I shall be glad if I am. As the Bill stands at the moment, the Assembly could request the Secretary of State to make an order recommending that certain offices should be either removed from, or added to, a list of disqualification from membership, but this need not be known to the general public. This is a bad way to start a public body of this nature. I think that I have gone through most of the points relating to what we are proposing, and I shall try to clarify any points which I may not have made clear. I should be very grateful for a reply from the Minister.


I feel sure that there must be some pithy Welsh equivalent of the cry, "No placemen and no carpetbaggers." That, I think, is what my noble friend is asking for, and I should like to support her most strongly. We need to remember that we are legislating for a brand new Assembly—one which has no tradition of the kind we have in this House of being a self-regulating place. I hope that my noble friend will press the Amendments, if necessary.

9.29 p.m.


I think that in certain respects some of the noble Baroness's honourable friends in another place might be rather surprised if she did press some of her Amendments. I say this for reasons I shall come to in a moment. I repeat the point that I made in my introductory remarks a little while ago, arid I think that the speech of the noble Baroness has emphasised the need for this. The point is that it is necessary to look at the totality of the issues involved in Clause 5 in the way in which the noble Baroness, if I may say so, has just done.

I think our approach to this is fairly straightforward. It picks up certain major group disqualifications—and I am talking now particularly in respect of Amendments Nos. 32 and 35—which apply in the other place and adds Lords of Appeal (who, of course, would otherwise qualify under Clause 6) and, to take a rather different group, persons recently convicted of an offence. I do not bracket the two together except in terms of presenting the argument in as intelligible a form as possible. Then it provides for disqualifying offices to be designated by Order in Council. It does not rely on the long list of disqualifying offices contained in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. We do not regard all of those offices as necessarily disqualifying for the Welsh Assembly; and, moreover, we do not propose to clutter the Bill with any list of its own. We regard the matter as appropriate for subordinate legislation, and that is the purpose of Clause 5(1)(c).

By contrast, Amendments Nos. 32 and 35 would adopt the 1975 Act list and add to the Bill a Schedule which apparently does not exist as yet. The result of the Amendments would be to disqualify some people who should not be disqualified, and then to saddle the Bill with a Schedule which requires constant amendment. The Government consider that for these reasons the technique proposed is mistaken, and we believe that our own is more appropriate in all the circumstances. I should add that the corresponding Scottish clauses have not been similarly questioned, and it is difficult to see how one could justify one set of criteria for Scotland and a totally different set so far as Wales is concerned.

Now I come to Amendment No. 33. So far, the Committee has been concerned with the case of disqualification through holding a particular office. There is, so far as we are aware, no dispute about this underlying principle. We now come to disqualification by reasons of individual circumstances. Here it becomes difficult, sometimes, to see what is the right principle to apply in all the circumstances. The Government believe in one principle for certain: that anyone disqualified for membership of the other place otherwise than under the 1975 Act should be disqualified likewise for the Assembly. There is no reason for having two different codes: and, in any event, these other disqualifications, although a motley collection, are all, I think, easily understood. They are explained beyond fear of ambiguity in Erskine May from page 36 onwards, and I shall just read the paragraph headings because I think they illustrate the point. They are: "Aliens", "Persons under 21", "Lunacy", "Peers"—who, as we know, are always very adjacent to lunacy—"Bankruptcy", "Treason", "Other Crimes", "Corrupt Practices at Elections", "Clergy" and "Returning Officers". Those are the paragraph headings in Erskine May. Amendment No. 33 would qualify all those who are potentially disqualified by the provision now in the Bill. I should point out in passing, of course, on these Amendments, that we do not need Clause 6(1), which qualifies Peers and clergy.

But there is more to come. Amendment No. 37 would disqualify anyone not entitled to vote as an elector at an Assembly election. Under Clause 3 there are two groups: first, those who are on the relevant part of the register and would be entitled to vote as electors in a Parliamentary Election ; and, second, Peers who would be entitled to vote at a local government election in the relevant area. I am omitting, in order to speed things up a little, some detail which is not, I think, in all the circumstances material. But we have to go on to consider who is entitled to vote as electors at a Parliamentary Election. Erskine May, on page 19, puts it in a couple of lines as those who are: resident there on the qualifying date for inclusion in the electoral register, who are not subject to any legal incapacity to vote, are either British subjects or citizens of the Republic of Ireland, are on the date of the poll of the age of 18 years or over and are registered in the electors' register". I think we could perhaps be forgiven for misunderstanding the effect of all this, but one major and critical difference exists between the Government's list of disqualifications and the list proposed by these Amendments. As a result of the noble Baroness's Amendment—and I think she very fairly indicated this in her speech—persons aged between 18 and 21 would be eligible for membership of the Assembly; and this is the point, if I may say so, that I was making in respect of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. The noble Baroness—and I make no Party point about this—has proposed these Amendments from the Opposition Front Bench. I do not know whether this commands the support of the Opposition. If so, it is an interesting development which I think that we would wish to study carefully. But I do not see that it would necessarily be very sensible to make a decision so far as the Welsh Assembly is concerned in isolation from the situation in the United Kingdom Parliament.

Why, if it is right to have 18 to 21 year-olds as Members of the Welsh Assembly should it be wrong to have them—as it is at the moment impossible to have them—as Members of another place? I do not see that it would be sensible to make provisions of this sort to take the Welsh Assembly in isolation. That is the reason why I said to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that I should be mildly surprised if this Amendment were pressed to a Division because it seems to me to be making a major policy decision on this matter which I suspect would interest the friends of the noble Baroness in another place considerably. Our view is that a major change in the law as to the qualifications for membership of a major elected body should not be made by what is, in effect, a side wind in a Bill relating only to the Welsh Assembly. The law as to Parliament and Assemblies and local authorities, should, we think, be considered in relation to the United Kingdom as a whole.

We come now to the case of Ministers and Members of another place. The Government in this Bill have tried not to put in provisions to regulate the obvious. It is inconceivable that a Minister in this Administration, or, probably, in any other Administration, would be allowed to moonlight and to sit as an Assembly Member. Therefore, we see no reason for an express prohibition. The matter could be dealt with speedily. If a Minister felt constrained to sit as a Member of the Welsh Assembly, the Prime Minister of the day might consider it appropriate to remove him from office. I should be surprised if any Prime Minister took any other decision. There is always a case for arguing as the noble Baroness has to some extent argued this evening that what we want is greater clarification. That is a very understandable position, when we listen to her noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham talking about the sheer size of the Statute Book. One cannot have it both ways. If we want to start concerning ourselves about the sheer weight of the Statute Book, it is incumbent upon us not to add unnecessary provisions to the Statute Book. That is why we have come to the conclusion that there is no point in regulating the obvious, if I may so describe it. We do not see any case for saying that Ministers should be prohibited by Statute; because the Prime Minister of the day could deal with this slight local difficulty and would do so.

Now we come to membership of another place, which raises a different question. The Government can see no inconsistency between membership of Parliament and membership of the Welsh Assembly and it would be surprising if we were to do so because, as the noble Baroness had indictaed, we did not rule out a dual mandate so far as membership of the European Assembly is concerned. It seems to me—and I suspect I would carry with me the noble Baroness, whose experience in this matter is substantially greater than mine—that, although the Welsh Assembly will have substantial powers, there is no doubt that the weight of responsibility on the individual Member of the European Assembly, taking into account not only his responsibilities in Strasbourg and Luxembourg but also the sheer physical problem of getting over there, is a very substantial one indeed. If we did not think it right to rule out the mandate so far as the European Assembly was concerned, I do not see that there is an argument for ruling it out so far as the Welsh Assembly was concerned.

It may be that local constituency organisations will be extremely hesitant about agreeing to a person's candidature if he is a Member of another place and wishes to stand for the Assembly, but we should not rule it out so far as this piece of legislation is concerned. I should point out that there is no corresponding disqualification for Members of your Lordships' House. I wonder whether we are all that different from Members of another place. If we rule out one, I am not quite clear why we do not rule out the other. As I have indicated, our view is a straightforward one. We do not think that anyone should be ruled out so far as this section of the Bill is concerned. That deals with Amendments Nos. 36A and 36B.

I come now to Amendment No. 37. What I said on Amendment No. 33 covers most of the relevant ground. I am saving up one major point which is I hope calculated to appeal to opponents of devolution as well as to some of its supporters. This Amendment would require a species of residential qualification for a candidate in an election to the Assembly. There is in local government a string of qualifications—the noble Baroness is well aware of this—intended to ensure a local connection. But as regards Parliament, there is no restriction; and it would be difficult to argue plausibly for any restriction. As the noble Baroness is aware, there are certain restrictions so far as the United States is concerned. We have not thought it appropriate to adopt that method in this country.

It may be suggested that the nature of the Welsh Assembly is such that a local connection is necessary, indeed essential. Having considered this matter, we do not accept that view. We are not talking here simply about local government. We went over this ground an hour or so ago. In regard to the Welsh Assembly, we are talking about a body of a national character. The Government do not consider that the Assembly should be treated as a species of local authority. We accept that at Westminster there is no call for a residential qualification of Members. Indeed, the nature of the duty to be carried out by Members could sometimes make it remarkably difficult to frame a rule without causing a great deal of inconvenience all round.

I ask the Committee to consider exactly how the rule proposed by the Amendment would work in practice. One simply has to take a map and look where the border comes down between Wales and England to realise the absurdity—and I put it as strongly as that—of disqualifying automatically anyone who lived just over the border in England. Not only would it be simply absurd to make a provision of this sort, it would also be divisive in that it would throw the Assembly back on a membership which has to be drawn exclusively from people resident in Wales.

It may be that Welsh constituencies will, perfectly naturally in many circumstances, prefer local men. So be it; let it be their decision rather than a statutory requirement. It does not follow that I think we should elevate any preference of that sort regarding a group of people in the constituency Party into what would be a rigid principle. For that reason, we are not persuaded that it would be right to debar anyone automatically, even those who happened to be over the border in England by a mere hundred yards or so.

We now come to the question in Amendment No. 38A of a person convicted of offences abroad. I can perfectly well understand the case which the noble Baroness put so persuasively. Unfortunately, we have had the opportunity of studying this matter only fairly recently. I understand the idea to keep criminals—possibly dangerous ones—out of office. But how can one know for sure without hiring English lawyers, and lawyers expert in the relevant foreign law, what offences committed abroad could be said to correspond with offences committed in the United Kingdom?

Let us take one or two examples. What about the person convicted in a court in the Soviet Union? It might be described in all sorts of ways. Would we automatically accept an assertion of that sort from any other country in Eastern Europe? We do not have to look at Eastern Europe. There are other countries in the world where I suspect we would be very hesitant to make a judgment of that kind. It would require a massive amount of research in order to find out the answer to this particular question and I frankly do not consider, although I wholly understand the motives of the noble Baroness, that the Amendment is workable. I am sure she would agree with me, having confidence in the judgment of the people of Wales, that it is not likely that many members of the Baader Meinhof group are actually likely to be elected in Welsh constituencies—a rather small proportion of them is likely to be successful at the polls.

I would commend to your Lordships the provision which is contained in Section 80, subsection (1)(d) of the Local Government Act 1972. That is the model for Clause 5, subsection (1)(d). That was enacted by the Government of the noble Baroness and her colleagues and I think those thoughts are rather better than this attempt to shut out the doubtless small and select band of Welshmen who have carved out for themselves a criminal career outside Wales—a career in crime which, by definition, has been an unsuccessful one. Therefore, I would repeat that, although I understand the motives of the noble Baroness very clearly, I do not believe we could possibly introduce this concept into the Bill because I do not believe it would be even remotely workable.

Lastly, as regards the Order in Council, in connection with Amendment No. 40, the Government's scheme puts the list of disqualifying officers into an Order in Council. When the Government amend the order the amending order requires, as the noble Baroness is aware, an Affirmative Resolution. But if the Assembly itself proposes the Amendment and the Secretary of State endorses it, the amending order requires no Parliamentary procedure. We deliberately give the Assembly this important role, and we do the same in Scotland. It is a compromise between keeping the list solely under the Government's control and placing it under Assembly control. I apologise for having spoken at some length, as did the noble Baroness in speaking to these Amendments. I hope I have in the time available dealt as comprehensively as possible with the many questions that she put to me.

9.48 p.m.


The noble Lord who spoke from the Government Front Bench did have the courtesy to apologise to us for his very long exposition, but I would address all your Lordships by saying that it seems to me that in the last 20 minutes, 30 minutes or whatever it is, we have been subjected to a procedure which, to my mind, is quite contrary to the principles of a Committee stage of a Bill. The noble Lord on the Government Front Bench invited my noble friend to take a whole series of Amendments—virtually a whole clause—in one section. Many of these details were admittedly comprehensive and they dealt with the same subject; and that is the way that Bills are constructed. Every clause contains a whole series of things dealing with the same subject. But many of the individual Amendments had different points about them, and although my noble friend and the noble Lord on the Front Bench had their clear view of the total picture, many of the Back-Benchers—and I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has not got much respect for Back-Benchers—


I do not know why that rather absurd statement should be made by the noble Lord. I try always to behave with courtesy to Members in any part of this Chamber, and I would ask him to withdraw that statement.


Perhaps the noble Lord addresses us with superior courtesy. The fact of the matter is that I am talking about the technicalities and I would ask your Lordships to forgive me if I get a little carried away in doing this, because I think the noble Lord has his own interest in this. The technicalities of it are that I do not think that this particular stage of our Committee proceedings has been properly dealt with. Many individual Back-Benchers would have had a contribution to make on certain of the Amendments, though not on others. We listened to my noble friend making a long exposition about the reason for the Amendments and then we listened to a long exposition by the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench, making his comments. One became quite out of touch with all the points, and it would have required a brief of one's own—not a Committee stage process—in order to be able to rise to pick up all the points on the individual Amendments, which is what a Committee stage is all about.

I press both Front Benches, if I may do so from this very inferior position, not to allow this kind of process ever to occur again. If it were possible—I do not suppose that it is, according to our procedure—to have the whole thing all over again, that would be very much better. But, in the event, I personally feel that some of these Amendments are more important than others. In the usual way, when we take several Amendments together, we do it on the basis that they are withdrawn together or voted upon and then made consequential. I trust that this wide range of Amendments is not treated in that fashion, and that each Amendment is tackled in its own right, so that we can at least make our decision as to whether or not we want to accept it, even if we have been made to hear a conglomeration of a speech to explain the whole lot to us.

Baroness ELLES

In view of the remarks of my noble friend, perhaps I may say a word from these Benches. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I take full responsibility for having dealt with these Amendments in this way. I accept the remarks of my noble friend and that it may have been unacceptable to him, in which case I apologise to him and to all other noble Lords in the Committee. But I am certain that the noble Lord opposite will also agree that any Back-Bencher is entitled to get up and make any comments on any of these Amendments about which we have spoken. I absolutely appreciate what my noble friend has said, and I quite see why he has said it. But I hope that he and other noble Lords will feel completely free to make any comment on each one of the Amendments that we have now discussed.


I am not accusing my noble friend Lord Harris, or the noble Baroness, of any discourtesy at all. It is not a matter of courtesy; it is a matter of form. I have been in this Chamber for a long time, and I have never heard a series of Amendments on separate subjects discussed like this, one after the other. Earlier this afternoon, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, and the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, discussed a series of connected Amendments which were, for convenience sake, all spoken to together. Then, when the Amendments arose later, and the Chairman read out the number and so on, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, said "I beg to move" and we all knew what it was about. But to take, I think, five Amendments all on different subjects did not give any of us a chance. I wanted to say something when my noble friend Lord Harris was on his feet, and I was just about to get up and refer to the subject that he was talking about when he switched to something completely different. It is very difficult for what I might call lay Members of the Committee to discuss Amendments in this fashion. It is also very unhelpful.


I should like to come to the defence of the Minister. To me, this is as clear as daylight. We are discussing qualifications or disqualifications for membership of the Assembly. As a Sudeten Welshman, I am delighted to know that I can stand and that I need not be living in Pembrokeshire or Gwent. I have been following the discussion all the time. I did not want to interrupt, because I interrupt too often. But I certainly feel that this is absolutely clear and elementary, and I was hoping that we could come to a quick decision. Having said that, I had better sit down.


As the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, said, if any noble Lord in any part of your Lordships' House wishes to raise a question on any of these Amendments, he can do so. But as my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek has pointed out, all these Amendments are extremely closely related to one another, which is why they were discussed together. However, if anybody wishes to raise an individual point, he can do so. If I can have the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone—I apologise to him but I want to refer to what he said—he indicated that he had been carried away. I assume that that is his definition of an apology, and I accept it.


I should not like to accept that sort of position. It was no apology. If the noble Lord would like me to apologise for something, perhaps it might be something which could be responded to by an apology for having, I think, misused the procedures of the House. I will certainly apologise to the noble Lord for saying nasty things about him, but I would rather expect him to make some kind of an apology to the Committee and not to me.


I think that the noble Lord and I have exchanged sufficient gracious remarks to satisfy the convenience of most people. The noble Lord may recall his reference to my attitude to private Members of the House. That remark was totally uncalled for. I am surprised that he has been so ungracious as not to withdraw it without reservation, as I hope I should have done if I had made that allegation against the noble Lord.


I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord said that when it came to the elections for the Welsh Assembly it would not matter, give or take 100 yards or 200 yards, whether somebody was resident in England; he would be eligible to vote for the Welsh Assembly. This is a point which worries certain Back-Benchers and laymen on this side of the Committee. If it is said that 100 yards or 200 yards either way do not matter, why should it not matter whether it is one, two or three miles? It may be that some of us are rather pernickety—I cannot think of a better word—but, in devolving these powers to the Welsh Assembly, we feel that we have a duty to adopt a constructive attitude towards the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will consider the matter in that light, because that is what we on this side of the Committee are trying to do.

Baroness ELLES

I wonder whether I may reply to some of the comments of the noble Lord the Minister on these various matters, upon which I take a middle line; all of them are connected with disqualification. Some of the matters are more related to one another than certain other of the Amendments with which we have dealt, and I accept the criticism which I have justly received from my noble friend.

With regard to certain aspects of the matters to which the noble Lord the Minister replied, there is, first, the question of the size of the Bill. Anybody who has to go through Schedule 2 will not be perturbed if he has to look at a list of offices, if it is added. We accept that a list of offices contained in another schedule would be far more legible, understandable and useful than the appalling contents of Schedule 2, which we shall no doubt reach, so I do not think that that argument holds water.

I very much hope that before we reach the end of all stages of this Bill the noble Lord will be able to prepare a schedule so that we may know which offices the Government consider should be disqualified when it comes to standing for the Welsh Assembly. The noble Lord said that such a list is not being prepared for the Scotland Bill. If, however, I remember correctly the words of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, he at least threatened the Minister who was dealing with the subject that if a Government schedule was not forthcoming before we reached the end of all stages of the Bill, he would prepare one in order to show the people who would be disqualified. I know that the question of who should be eligible to stand has caused considerable concern in both Bills. At col. 667 of the Official Report on 12th April my noble friend asked: is it really not possible for the noble Lord to tell us at this stage what the Cabinet office or the Privy Council Office has decided is the list of offices? Have they not made up their minds yet? My noble friend pressed the noble Lord to give a list of the offices, and I feel that this should also be done for the Wales Bill.

The noble Lord made great play of the fact that people should not necessarily he resident in Wales. I thought the whole point of devolution was that the Welsh people did not want to be governed any more by the English and the Scots, but perhaps I have got it wrong. Perhaps they do. Perhaps the English and the Scots will now rush to have a nice holiday in Wales in one of those delightful little cottages referred to so touchingly, if I may say so, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, in his Second Reading speech. I can think of nothing nicer than standing for a constituency in Wales, so I think that perhaps the Welsh Assembly will not be the answer to the aspirations of the Welsh people that we thought was intended

However, we are very glad to hear it from the lips of the Minister and not coming from this side of the Committee, and as to the noble Lord's words about the borders of England and Wales, I think we shall hear a very different argument when it comes to devolved matters and planning and the Town and Country Planning Act and the Community Land Act. There will be a great difference then when it comes to borders and as to the rivers; that will be another matter again. So I think that an argument on borders between England and Wales and the point of 100 yards here or there works very well in this particular argument, but it will not work quite so well when we get to the rather more difficult parts of this Bill.

So, to conclude, I am not satisfied with the answers given by the Minister. He seemed to be rather pleased because I believe he thought he had caught me out on the question of the age of 18 and he thought that my colleagues in another place might not be very pleased with me. But I hope I am happy to tell him that he is wrong because my Amendment No. 37 in fact says that he is not entitled under Section 3. This means that he will still be disqualified for being under 21 under Clause 5(1)(a), but nevertheless he must also be resident. He would be entitled to vote under Clause 3 but he would of course be disqualified for being under 21. So the two would work together. My answer would be that he would be over 21 but he would have to be resident. Perhaps the noble Lord does not read it in that way but that is certainly my intention. If the Minister does not accept Amendment No. 37 I should like to press it to a Division. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 32.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]

10.4 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 34: Page 4, line 6, after ("or") insert ("(aa) he").

[Amendment No. 35A not moved.]


Before the Committee continues, I am not sure whether Amendment No. 36 has been dealt with.


Amendment No. 36 has been withdrawn and in substitution we have Amendments 36A and 36B which I am now calling. Does the noble Baroness wish to move them?

Baroness ELLES

If the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, wishes to speak on Amendment No. 36A, would it assist him if I were to move it? I understood, from the ad hoc arrangement that I had heard from across the Table, that despite what might be termed the "bloc speech", Back-Benchers would certainly have the right and privilege to speak on any of these Amendments, and if the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, wishes to speak on Amendment No. 36 I assume that he would be entitled to do so under this procedure. I therefore move Amendment No. 36A:

Page 4, line 12, at end insert— ("( ) he is a Minister of the Crown; or").


I was instancing this as the kind of difficulty one can get into through speaking to a whole series of Amendments at once; one is not sure which Amendments are being moved, which are being withdrawn, et cetera. It is a matter of form. If we do this, we can get very confused indeed. That is all I wanted to say. I thank the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman.

Baroness ELLES

I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 36B:

Page 4, line 12, at end insert— ("( ) he is a member of the House of Commons; or").

The noble Baroness said: I had spoken already to this Amendment, but I nevertheless wish to move it in order to allow other noble Lords to speak upon it.

Baroness VICKERS

I am not at all happy with this. I know that a Member of the House of Commons can be a member of local government, but I feel that this Assembly is not a local government body and not a legislative body, either. I consider it would be very unfortunate if a Member of the House of Commons, who is used to dealing with legislation, were a member of this body. I would prefer that he or she did not stand. A great many other people will be equally qualified. Surely a Member of the House of Commons has sufficient work to do. Members of Parliament already complain about the late hours and the amount of work they have to do. If an MP is also a Member of the Assembly, I do not think he will be able to undertake both jobs satisfactorily.

I do not think it has anything to do with being a member of the Parliament of the EEC. At the moment that is not a legislative body, but I assume eventually it will be. So I do not want to compare this with being a Member of the House of Commons and the European Parliament. Perhaps the noble Lord on the Front Bench will give further reasons why he thinks it is a good idea, and why they have particularly recommended that someone could be a Member of the House of Commons and of the Assembly at the same time.


The noble Baroness is absolutely right; the European Assembly is not a legislative body, but, of course, nor is the Welsh Assembly.

Baroness VICKERS

It will be.


No, with great respect, it will not be a legislative body. We have discussed this matter some few hours ago. I made the point that it is different from the Scottish Assembly which is a legislative body. That, I think, is probably the case the noble Baroness has in mind. There is this distinction between the powers of the Welsh Assembly and the position of the Scottish Assembly; it is a very different matter indeed. I think it would be quite impossible to defend a situation where this House had cheerfully agreed that there could be a dual mandate so far as the European Assembly is concerned, that a Member of the House of Commons could be a Member of the European Assembly if he could get selected, which is a very important proviso, but that it would be wholly wrong to have a Member of another place also a Member of the Welsh Assembly. I do not, with great respect, see how one could justify one's stand on that question. That is why I think it is wrong to legislate in this particular way.

There would probably be real difficulties in the path of a person who did try to become a Member of both organisations; I think the physical strain would be very substantial. Also, I think that it would be very difficult to persuade a constituency organisation that one would have time both to do one's job in Westminster and to fulfil one's responsibility in Cardiff. It is, with great respect, better to leave it at that, rather than to write this provision into the Statute.

Baroness ELLES

I should like the noble Lord to answer one query. Is there anything which would prevent a Member of the House of Commons from drawing his salary as a Member of the House of Commons and also drawing a salary as a Member of the Welsh Assembly? This is a completely non-Party point.


No, I think that it would be exactly as for the European Assembly. I think that a Member could undoubtedly draw both salaries. Indeed, I should be very surprised if he were debarred from doing so. He would be a Member of both organisations. This particular point has been made more in relation to the European Assembly, because of the discussions of which the noble Baroness is aware about the pay of Members of the European Assembly, than in regard to the situation as regards the Welsh Assembly. I think that if a person is a Member of two organisations, both of which entitle him to a salary, expenses or whatever it may be, he is undoubtedly entitled to obtain both salaries.

Baroness ELLES

Surely it would be a different situation. The salary of a Member of the European Parliament, when settled—it has not been settled yet—would certainly be paid from the European Community and not from the United Kingdom budget. But in the case of the Welsh Assembly, both salaries would come from the Consolidated Fund.


If the noble Baroness will forgive me for saying so, I admire her ingenuity in creating a distinction, but British taxpayers will be making a contribution to the salaries of Members of the European Assembly, as I am sure she will recognise. It is an absolutely inescapable proposition that, if a person is a Member of two bodies, both of which entitle other Members to a salary, he is entitled to obtain both salaries. I do not think that there is any way in which one could possibly deny that proposition.


I do not want Members of Parliament, whether in the Assembly, the EEC or the other place, to appear like professional footballers before the electorate competing for salaries. There is a certain decency in having the privilege of serving the public. Some of us are old-fashioned enough to have come into the other place many years ago for the ridiculous salary of £400 a year. I do not want that to be the standard. Nevertheless, I believe that if we consider this matter, many members of the public will think that we are talking of farming salaries. I believe that a Member of the other place should be paid and worthy of his hire and do that job well and not expect to represent his constituency in any other phase. He must be one, two, or three—Assembly, the other place, or EEC. However, as for triple serving, it is sheer acquisitiveness, which is not of the nature of a Member of Parliament, whatever Party he may have belonged to in the past or may belong to in the future. I hope that that caveat is noted.


I would never dream of crossing swords with my noble friend, colleague and compatriot at this hour of the night or at any other stage of the day, but there is a positive point to be made and that is that there could be positive value in people having dual membership. As regards the point he made about the salary, of course all of us here in this ancient House are foolish enough to attend for no salary at all, so the service goes without saying. The point that needs to be made is that, as in the EEC and as with local government—although the Assembly is not local government—there is certainly advantage in the odd case here and there of duality, even, I would think, of triplicate membership of an Assembly if it were physically

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

10.23 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 37: ("( ) he is not entitled under section 3 above to vote as an elector at the Assembly election concerned; or"). possible. Moreover, the Assembly itself will be dictated by the electorate and the electorate must make the judgment. During this debate we are rather prone to assume that the electorate will not make the appropriate judgments in arguing these points.

Baroness ELLES

There seems to be a rather interesting division on this. I seem to have a colleague on the other side of the Committee who also agrees that one should not be a Member of the Welsh Assembly and a Member of the House of Commons. In view of the support that I have had from my noble friend on the Back-Benches, I should like to press this Amendment to a Division.

10.15 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 36B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37; Not-Contents, 28.

Balerno, L. Gowrie, E. O'Hagan, L.
Belstead, L. Gray, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gridley, L. Romney, E.
Chelwood, L. Henley, L. Sandford, L.
Crawshaw, L. Hylton, L. Sandys, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Killearn, L. Selkirk, E.
De La Warr, E. Long, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Margadale, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Elles, B. Masham of Ilton, B. Strathclyde, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mottistone, L. Tranmire, L.
Elton, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Tweeddale, M.
Ferrers, E. Vickers, B.
Fortescue, E. Newall, L.
Birk, B. Kirkhill, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Raglan, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Seear, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. McGregor of Durris, L. Stedman, B. [Teller.]
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L. Stone, L.
Fisher of Camden, L. Northfield, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Harris of Greenwich, L. Oram, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Parry, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hood, V. Peart, L. (L, Privy Seal.) Winstanley, L.
Wynne-Jones, L.

The noble Baroness said: We have discussed Amendment No. 37. It refers to the fact that somebody who is over 21 must qualify by residence in Wales in accordance with Clause 3. Should any other Member of your Lordships' Committee wishes to speak on this Amendment, I beg to move.


I should like to remind the Committee on what we shall vote if the noble Baroness presses this Amendment. I would particularly ask those who are opposed to devolution to consider exactly what they are voting on. What they would be saying is, "Even if it is the desire of a group of people in a Welsh Assembly constituency to have a person resident in England as their candidate, they would be debarred from having such a candidate". I suggest that that is a very remarkable doctrine indeed. I suggest

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

10.34 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 38: Page 4, line 13, leave out from ("has") to ("been") in line 14.

The noble Lord said: It might be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 39. It is the custom and practice of your Lordships' House that any Member may object to Amendments being taken together, and if any Member so objects then Amendments will not be taken together. Unhappily, some of to the noble Baroness, if she presses this Amendment, that some of her colleagues who pronounce themselves to be wholly opposed to devolution might just consider exactly how they would justify their position intellectually.

10.25 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 37) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37; Not-Contents, 28.

Balerno, L. Fortescue, E. Newall, L.
Belstead, L. Gowrie, E. O'Hagan, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gray, L. Romney, E.
Carr of Hadley, L. Gridley, L. Sandford, L.
Chelwood, L. Henley, L. Sandys, L.
Crawshaw, L. Hylton, L. Selkirk, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Killearn, L. Skelmersdale, L.
De La Warr, E. Long, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Margadale, L. Strathclyde, L.
Elles, B. Masham of Ilton, B. Tranmire, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mottistone, L. Tweeddale, M.
Elton, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Vickers, B.
Ferrers, E.
Birk, B. Kirkhill, L. Raglan, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Seear, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Stedman, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Stone, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) McGregor of Durris, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Fisher of Camden, L. Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hall, V. Oram, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Parry, L. Winstanley, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.) Wynne-Jones, L.
Hood, V. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

those who took the point are no longer in their places; let us hope they read this in Hansard.

During the Committee stage debate on the corresponding clause of the Scotland Bill the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, asked how the clause conformed with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The Government's reply explained that the clause, for all practical purposes, conformed with Section 7(1)(d) of the 1974 Act since five years was the minimum rehabilitation period for an offence invoked by Clause 5(1)(d). The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, then went on to suggest that to link a Member's disqualification to the date of the last ordinary election effectively debarred an offender for up to nine years, rather than up to the five years that had been intended.

After consideration, the Government have concluded that the provision—which is identical in both the Scotland and Wales Bills—was indeed more restrictive than had been intended. These Amendments therefore correct the position, so that an offender can stand for any Assembly election or by-election held more than five years after the date of his conviction. Identical Amendments have been put down to Clause 8 of the Scotland Bill.

Baroness ELLES

I should like to thank the noble Lord for that explanation. I think it clarifies this point about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 38A not moved.]

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 39: Page 4, line 19, at end insert ("and a period of less than five years has elapsed since the date of that conviction").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 [Exceptions and power to grant relief from disqualification]:

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 40A: Page 5, line 1, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Baroness said: This is a probing Amendment, somewhat similar to the one put down during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill. Clause 6(2) gives the right of the Assembly to consider it proper to waiver a disqualification for a Member. We should like to have from the Minister some guidance as to the kind of situation or circumstance likely to arise when the Assembly would, in fact, deem it proper to waiver this disqualification. I think the subsection itself gives rise to a certain questioning. If it did not appear proper to the Assembly to waiver a disqualification, could the Minister tell us whether the individual Member would have any right of appeal against the decision of the Assembly?

The other question I should like to ask the Minister—I do not know whether he is listening; we have had a rather funny evening and I wonder whether he is. I am putting questions to him. The first one is this. Where the Assembly decided it was proper not to waiver a disqualification, would that individual Member—or ex-Member in the case of someone being already disqualified—have any right of appeal against this decision? Secondly, could the Minister inform the Committee whether this is a matter which could be given to a committee to decide and thereby go to the leader of that committee? I think we shall be debating this matter later on in dealing with the Bill. There is considerable concern that many matters which deal with the rights of an individual will be decided by one person. In this case concerning the rights of a Member, the matter should be clarified, and it may be necessary to put something in the Bill at a later stage to protect the right of that individual from any arbitrary decision, possibly a political decision, by one Member of the Assembly.

In this particular case, when the matter was debated during the Scotland Bill, there was some suggestion that the procedure was exactly the same as in the case of a Member of the House of Commons. But it is not quite the same, because a person objecting to this disqualification would, in a case involving the House of Commons, have to go to the Privy Council, whereas in this case, as I read Clause 8, judicial proceedings would go to the High Court. So the situation is not quite the same. Therefore, I should like some comments from the Minister on these points. I also wish to know from the Minister, if it is not to be the leader of a committee who decides these matters, what kind of machinery the Government are considering should be set up to deal with this kind of matter. Although a small point in practice, it is a very important one in principle: any rights of individuals should be protected, if necessary statutorily, rather than just by the standing orders of this body.

10.42 p.m.


Using the formula that I used on the last Amendment, I propose, with the permission of the Committee, to discuss this Amendment at the same time as Amendments Nos. 41 and 42, which are related to the same question. The Government regard subsection (2) of Clause 6 as a necessary provision, although we now recognise that the subsection as it stands at the moment is not entirely satisfactory, which is why we have put down Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 which I hope we will be taking in a few moments.

Let me explain the position in detail. As it stands, Clause 6 enables the Assembly to grant relief from disqualification if it considers that the ground has been removed, and also that it is proper to do so. Those are the criteria. This might appear to permit the Assembly to grant relief in certain circumstances from any of the grounds listed in Clause 5. If this were so, then the Assembly would appear to have wider powers than are now available to Parliament. The Government do not now think this would be right.

The purpose of the Government Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 is therefore to restrict the Assembly's power. It will be able to grant relief in proper circumstances only where disqualification has arisen through tenure of an office which the holder inadvertently—an important qualification—failed to resign in due time. An obvious example is that of a member of an area electricity board who, as a result of an act of inadvertence, got the time-scale wrong regarding resignation, and found himself in a very difficult position.

There are two categories of disqualification which the Government Amendments explicitly remove from the Assembly's ambit of relief. First, there is the example of common law disqualifications from the House of Commons; that is, disqualifications other than those arising from the holding of the offices listed in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Secondly, there are disqualifications arising from crimes for which the person has been sentenced to a prison sentence of not less than three months within the last five years, as provided for by Government Amendments Nos. 38 and 39, to which the Committee has agreed.

In practice, it would rarely, if ever, have been possible for the Assembly to grant relief from these disqualifications, since the ground for their imposition can never be removed. The common law disqualifications arising from, say, treason remain valid for life. Similarly, it is a matter of fact whether a prison sentence of at least three months without the option of a fine has been imposed within the last five years. There can be no question of that ground being removed. Nevertheless, on reconsidering this clause the Government concluded that, as it stands, it could be misleading and convey the impression that there is some way to remove grounds which are inherently irremovable; and, as I have indicated, the Government Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 put the position beyond peradventure.

So far as concerns the point about the leader or an individual Member having, as it were, delegated powers in this particular matter, I should like to look at the point raised by the noble Baroness, and I will communicate with her before the next stage of the Bill.


Perhaps I may ask my noble friend a question before we depart from this issue, because it occurs to me that there might be a particular point of view. First, we have no clear idea of whether there will be personalities of the standard of Ministers, or what terms will be applied. We know that if a certain post is held and a Government income arises—and there is a list of these—it must be declared and the monies therefrom given up. This has happened to many of us in another place when we have become Ministers there. We may be directors of companies; or I may be the holder of a directorship in a bus company in Caerphilly or Cardiff. If I am a Member of the Assembly, what happens to me? Do I have to give up my directorship of the Cardiff bus company, for instance, when I become a leading personality or an officer speaking from the Front Bench in the Assembly? I do not think that my short question is irrelevant.


It would depend on the nature of the employment whether a person would be disqualified or not. I gave one particular example—the area electricity board. There is no doubt at all about the position so far as that is concerned. It is obviously difficult to answer a detailed question without devoting a great deal more attention to it, but there could undoubtedly be inadvertent error, and what we are anxious to do is to ensure some machinery whereby the problem created by inadvertent error call be dealt with expeditiously. But so far as the much more serious question is concerned—namely, a person who has been convicted of a criminal offence within a relatively recent space of time—there should, in our view, be no doubt at all about disqualification in a case of that sort; and that is why, as I have indicated, the Government Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 deal with this particular question.

Baroness ELLES

I should be grateful if, when the noble Lord writes to me about the point of the leader or the committee or who else deals with this matter, he would also answer my question as to whether some right of appeal will be given to the individual Member. I am happy to see that the noble Lord has already pre-empted at least one office in the Schedule, when he referred to a member of an area electricity board as one that will be listed as an office which will entail disqualification from membership. At least we have one line of a list from him, and we hope that some more will come out during the course of the debates that we shall be having on this Bill.

I think that the question of office which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, has raised precisely indicated my worry in regard to Clause 5—the lack of a Schedule, the lack of a list, the inability to know what the position of any individual is via-á-vis the Assembly. I go back to that, because I think this is something we shall have to look at on Report, if only, as I say, to protect the individual and enable him to know exactly where he is and whether or not he is liable to be disqualified. I should be grateful if the noble Lord would write to me on the two points he has mentioned. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendments Nos. 41 and 42:

Page 5, line 2, leave out ("on any ground").

Page 5, line 3, after ("constituency") insert ("on any ground other than one falling within section 5(1)(aa) or (d) of this Act").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 and they have been discussed. With the leave of the Committee, I beg to move the two Amendments en bloc.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.


I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.