HL Deb 15 June 1978 vol 393 cc515-88

3.36 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Lord GREENWOOD of ROSSENDALE in the Chair.]

Schedule 2 [Existing statutory functions]:

Lord O'HAGAN moved Amendment No. 46BB:

Page 40, line 38, leave out Part IV of the Schedule.

The noble Lord said: We now return to more tranquil subjects—to the Wales Bill. Your Lordships will remember that Clause 9 lays down that certain powers previously held by Ministers are devolved and that Schedule 2 enumerates in considerable detail under various headings exactly what powers remain with Whitehall and Westminster and which powers are now devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

In moving my Amendment No. 46BB, I have tried to provide your Lordships with an opportunity of discovering exactly what is to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly in the fields of housing and landlord and tenant legislation. I took the view that since this part of Schedule 2 was wholly undebated in another place, and since it is a matter which concerns the citizens of Wales in a very important way, and the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole in an equally important way, it was far more constructive at this stage of our proceedings on the Bill not to put down a long string of Amendments but to examine the part of the Schedule as a whole. As I hope I managed to explain to the noble Baroness earlier in the week, it was my intention to raise certain general matters about the purport of this part of the Schedule, with a view to examining some of them in greater detail at a later stage if necessary.

One starts from the White Paper Our Changing Democracy: Devolution to Scotland and Wales, as updated by the Supplementary Statement. The proposals that the Government put forward in that White Paper so far as housing is concerned are really quite striking. The first question I want to put to the noble Baroness is this. Have the proposals I am about to read out been fully implemented in Part IV of Schedule 2 under Clause 9 of the Bill? The Government said, at the time they published their White Paper in November 1975: The Assembly will be responsible for all aspects of housing, except that the Government will remain responsible for housing finance in the private sector (building society mortgages and the like) and will also keep a reserve power to prevent or restrict increases in public and private sector rents where general economic and counter inflationary policy makes this necessary. These limited qualifications apart, the Assembly will be able to have its own policies, for both the public and the private sectors, on the provision and upkeep of accommodation, the control of rents, subsidies to local authorities and housing associations, renovation, building standards and slum clearance". What I am sure your Lordships would like to hear from the noble Baroness is how those proposals have been implemented, and whether the safeguards that were promised in paragraph 245 of Our Changing Democracy have been built into the Bill, so that the Government themselves are still firmly responsible for housing finance in the private sector, and have a reserved power to prevent or restrict increases in the public and private sectors. I am sure that your Lordships would like to know how those proposals have been affected.

There was also a Supplementary Statement. There is one point in that which affects Wales, which brings home with particular vividness—certainly to me—the difficulties that devolution brings about in so far as it affects housing finance. Paragraph 44 of the Supplementary Statement (Cmnd. 6585) states: For its activities in Wales the Housing Corporation, which provides finance for housing associations, will be financed by and accountable to the Assembly, and the Assembly will share in making appointments to it. It may be that nominated bodies will form the subject of a more substantial discussion on other parts of the Bill. But could the noble Baroness explain to the Committee how it will be possible for the Housing Corporation to carry out its statutory duties in a way that can really give it a general oversight and form part of a general United Kingdom attitude to housing finance and housing policy, if its Welsh arm is to be devolved? Also, what is the nature of the accountability which Her Majesty's Government propose that the Welsh Assembly should set up for supervising its part of the Housing Corporation; or will this be a matter that is left entirely to the Welsh Assembly to work out for itself, once it has got under way and decided how to go about its tasks?

Having looked at the wider provisions of the White Paper and the Supplementary Statement, l began to go through the provisions listed in Part IV of the Schedule in order to try to form an overall picture of exactly what aspects of the law affecting housing have been devolved, and what have not, because we are dealing with subjects which are of enormous importance to individuals. If the Welsh Assembly has control over security of tenure, rents and so on, these are not trivial subjects from which one can easily turn aside and say that it does not really matter how this will work. It matters very much, and it matters very much to everyone in Wales.

One of the first difficulties that I encountered was that a considerable number of the Acts—not so much under this Part as under other Parts—are not available in the Printed Paper Office. So that one is trying to look at those Parts of old Acts which are to be devolved or not devolved, and it is very hard to do so because they are not readily obtainable. This increases the importance of the answers by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, because only those who have access to all the Acts can see what this Part of the Schedule really means. As this aspect has not been debated at all we are now giving the first opportunity to the Government to explain precisely the borderline between the powers that are devolved and those that are not devolved.

I thought that I would concentrate on one or two of the major Acts. I attempted to grasp how the Leasehold Reform Act would be affected by devolution, but I am afraid that it was beyond my mental capacity to grapple with this problem. So if the noble Baroness can enlighten me, and the rest of the Committee, I, at least, shall be very grateful. But on the Rent Act 1977, I made progress slightly nearer "0" level standard, because I found, for example, at Section 42, that the power of the Secretary of State to issue regulations prescribing forms for notices, certificates and other documents required or authorized under this Part of the Act", and so on, was to be devolved. Section 42 of the Rent Act 1977 deals with such matters as rent books, grant aided improvements and the variation of rents during protected tenancies. I wonder whether the noble Baroness can tell me whether power to issue regulations of this kind can conflict with the residual powers remaining with Her Majesty's Government, as set out in paragraph 245 of the White Paper because in the White Paper there are powers retained which deal with what seem to me, at first sight, to be similar matters.

Another subject which gave me anxiety was Section 63 of the Rent Act 1977 which deals with schemes for the appointment of rent officers. If this is a devolved subject, am I to understand that the Assembly could decide to appoint rent officers in a different way from the rest of the United Kingdom? If it does not mean that, I do not see what the devolution of Section 63 can add to the powers that the Assembly will possess. My study of Section 63 led me to the conclusion that if this Bill was devolving a real power, it must mean that the Assembly could appoint rent officers in a different way from the rest of the United Kingdom. I wondered, again, how that would fit in with the balance of power as now to be divided between the Welsh Assembly and Whitehall and Westminster.


I apologies for interrupting, because the noble Lord has a very difficult task. He has been very frank in saying that he does not understand certain of these Acts and finds them very difficult to construe. Therefore, I wondered whether, when he is talking about the Rent Act 1977 and specifically referring to the powers under Section 63 for the appointment of rent officers, he will be proposing an Amendment that Section 63 should be included in the excluded functions? If he is going to go through all these Acts, we shall be here for ever, and my interruption is an attempt to save some time. These Amendments have come in rather late and, like the noble Lord, I have not been able to go through all the sections. But if they are so obscure to a distinguished noble Lord, is it not far better to leave these domestic matters to the Welsh Assembly forthwith, for it to elucidate them?


I was trying to save time by giving to the Government an opportunity to explain the division of power between the new Welsh Assembly and the Westminster Government so that we could understand, so that I could understand, so that the noble Lord himself could understand exactly who was allowed to do what. If I were sufficiently wise, no doubt I should have put down 573 Amendments, which would have taken even longer. If the noble Lord interrupts me, I shall be here all night. Perhaps he will allow me to continue.

I am bringing forward some examples merely to illustrate the nature of the difficulties which will come to be resolved in the execution of the policy that lies behind this Bill, if it is ever implemented. Another series of conundrums seem to me to raise themselves in the case of the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976. This is an Act which raises considerable difficulties. Under Section 18, there is the same kind of difficulty which I have seen—and I may have seen it quite wrongly—over the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations. These regulations are devolved, but I do not quite see how they would fit in with what remains at Whitehall.

More seriously, I am concerned about Section 29. Section 29 is that part of the Act which sets up the Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees, presently known as ADHACs, which have a considerable role to play in the provision of agricultural housing—and very important bodies they are, too. I understand that the power to nominate members to these committees is to be passed from the Minister in Whitehall to the Welsh Assembly. These committees will have considerable authority, under the successive Landlord and Tenant Acts and other Acts affecting agricultural housing, to deal with the provision of housing for those who are working in the agricultural industry, and the Welsh Assembly will be choosing the people to man these committees, issuing regulations, laying down how they should be run, appointing secretaries for such committees and issuing money to keep them going. This means that these committees could be operating in a quite different way from the same kind of committees in some of the Border areas between Wales and England.

Are there not some difficulties here? Are there not some potential conflicts? And how much thought have the Government given to the resolution of the kind of discrepancies which might arise if some of these ADHACs are pursuing policies different from those that are becoming the practice in the rest of the United Kingdom?

One particular question which strikes me—it may be wholly irrelevant to the Schedule but it is very important to those parts of the Schedule which deal with planning, landlord and tenant, housing, roads and pollution—is whether the Bill has any effect on the district valuer: his function, his rôle and his accountability. I presume that the district valuer is still under the respective local government authority, but is the nature of his work to be altered? He will be a highly important figure in many of the activities that your Lordships will be discussing as we go through this Schedule, and it would be very useful if we could know the answer to that question now.

Then again—and this may not arise directly from the Schedule but it is of great importance if there are to be certain discrepancies which will be ironed out during the initial stages after this legislation comes into force—will the new Welsh Assembly Commissioner cover housing? Will housing be within his remit? Can the Commissioner look at complaints that arise from what the Welsh Assembly does under its new housing powers? Is that the kind of power that he will have? Since the Welsh Assembly will have the obligation to play a very active part in some of these housing matters, if, unfortunately, it does not succeed in discharging them as well as it should, it is important that the Welsh Assembly Commissioner should have the power to look at these matters. Perhaps, however, that is something else which will be dealt with at a later stage.

Turning to one or two final points, during the Report stage in another place, certain Amendments to Part IV of Schedule 2 were passed without discussion, including some references to the Rent Charges Act 1977, and certain of the excluded functions were altered. That was not explained, because it was dealt with under the guillotine in another place. Could the noble Baroness tell us what is the importance of the provisions which are now to he excluded as a result of the new wording, as dealt with late at night in another place?

I hope that I have not subjected your Lordships to too many detailed questions on this point. I am glad to be reassured by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that we need to understand this point clearly. We need to know what is the boundary, what is the balance of power, between what the Assembly can do and will do under the Government's scheme and what will remain at Whitehall, at Westminster.

I hope that in putting forward my Amendments in this way I have saved time rather than wasted it. By giving noble Lords the opportunity to look as a whole at all the housing provisions contained in this Schedule, we can see how they relate to each other. We have provided Her Majesty's Government with the opportunity to explain to us how they work. I beg to move.

3.58 p.m.


I shall not detain the Committee for very long. I want to assure the noble Lord who has just spoken that I consider that he has done a service to the purpose of the Bill by carrying out all that meticulous work and by asking those questions. I do not think that they were wrecking questions; they were probing questions, which any democratic House is entitled to ask.

I should like, in passing, to point out something. Land valuers also come into the question, from the agricultural point of view. I am not quite sure about the function of the district valuer. Obviously, the noble Lord has done a worthwhile job of work and the best thing now, for the information of the House, is to allow my noble friend the Minister to give a constructive reply.


Before the noble Baroness replies, I should like to say to my noble friend that I think he has been much too kind. It is not the job of an Opposition, when wanting legislation that is workable, to he kind to a Government. Is it not the job of an Opposition to probe? If ever there was a part of this Bill that wanted to be probed, it is Schedule 2. I doubt whether the noble Baroness or her excellent adviser really are aware of all that is involved in Schedule 2. It is most intricate. What it is likely to cover is almost incomprehensible. To put questions in an omnibus way will allow the noble Baroness, or whoever is to reply for the Government, to get around so many of the detailed points by answering the one or two that she might be able to answer.


I want to reassure my noble friend that my lack of partisan activity is not quite as sinister as it may appear. I think you get a much better debate and a more practical discussion on a Bill like this if you return on Report to a large number of detailed points, when you can probe them. But if you do not understand them when you are trying to probe the probing is not much use. My intention today was to prepare the ground for probing by giving the Government an opportunity of justifying what they put forward.


The noble Lord has been a long time with me in the other place, and what he is trying to do now reminds me of the Irish comedian I once saw who went off the stage crying because everybody was laughing at him.


I never quite know why the noble Lord wants to be all things to all men. Last week he was very pro the Scottish Bill, now he is talking on the Welsh Bill but he cannot prevent himself from bringing in Ireland as well. I suppose that is what is called being broad-minded. I accept my noble friend's explanation. I think it is the right tactic to ask for a general explanation on Committee providing we get the probe on Report. But there is no support from the Liberal Benches.


There is indeed great support for the Wales Bill and the conception of devolution in the Bill. Let there be no misunderstanding about that.


I have had one or two dealings with the noble Lord and I have never before found in him an inclination to give anybody a blank cheque.


I come from Cardiganshire where we are renowned for being very careful about blank cheques.


This is the second time that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has spoken for purposes other than saying that he was not going to make a speech. I think that is useful, but we want to progress with the delicate method we have devised for this Bill rather than spend too much time in ridiculing it.


I merely wanted to have on the record the sinister attitude adopted by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. What he said in his intervention was quite clear. He said, "Your Lordships do not spend any time on it, pass it, it does not matter what is in it; let the Assembly deal with it the best way they can when you give them the powers whose coherence you have not even taken the trouble to examine". That is not very good. I hope that when he comes to make the speech that he said he is not going to make he will make it perfectly clear that it was said in some inexplicable period of exuberance and not what he really meant.

There was one point I wanted to make. The only reason I wanted to come in on this Bill is that here we have what I would call Border difficulties on a greater scale between Wales and England. On the Border we get different judgments and different values which can cause real suffering. On the Border a decision and a set of values set by the Assembly in Wales may be very different from what they are in England, which may be very damaging. The part of the reply which I shall be very interested indeed to hear is how you are going to get over this boundary distinction which has always existed; it has been overcome when the powers came from Westminster covering the whole of the United Kingdom, but that will not be so in these very important, sensitive sections when power is handed over to the Assembly. I shall wait with interest to hear the probing of my noble friend at Report stage.


The difficulty might be overcome by all the decisions given by the Assembly being in Welsh, and all the decisions South of the Border in English.

4.4 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

May I first of all add my comments to my noble friend in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for the tremendous amount of homework which he must have done on this Bill, in sorting out all the Schedules and things concerning them. I know that he will not expect me to have remembered or taken note of every minute point which he made this afternoon but I shall do my best to deal with some of them, and in any event I shall write to the noble Lord and to noble Lords on the Liberal Benches, and, if it will help, also to the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls.

To start with perhaps I should explain what we have done in this part of Schedule 2. This is the part which transfers to the Assembly most of the existing ministerial functions relating to public, private sector and housing association housing. The main ministerial functions which are not to be transferred to the Assembly relate to the provision of mortgage finance by private financial institutions. So the ministerial functions which we have transferred in Part IV include—and I am afraid it is rather a long list but might be helpful to hear it—those relating first to the provision, improvement and managing of houses by local authorities; local authority mortgages; the provision of hostel accommodation; housing associations and cooperatives, and the activities in Wales of the Housing Corporation; housing schemes devised by new town corporations; housing standards, slum clearance, and housing action areas; improvement grants and housing subsidies; rent assessment committees and tribunals; landlord and tenant matters and rent rebates and allowances, which is a fairly hefty programme of things which have been transferred but they are all things which are very pertinent to those who live in Wales.

The principal functions excluded from matters transferred relate to the Lord Chancellor's powers to regulate the procedure of rent assessment committees and rent tribunals; the prosecution functions of the Attorney-General; compensation—the basis for payment of compensation is generally reserved throughout the Bill; building societies and option mortgage which involve national tax and national economic management issues; rent allowances and rebates in respect of persons in receipt of supplementary benefits because the social security system is reserved; and Crown land which is held other than by the Assembly. To the housing corporations this means that the arrangements for transfer to the Assembly of functions relating to their activities in Wales will be set out in an order under Clause 59, made by the Secretary of State, and the order will be made after consultation with the corporation and will provide for the apportionment of assets and liabilities and for accounts and reports to be submitted to the Assembly rather than to Parliament.

It is Clauses 55 and 56 taken with Schedule 6 which will empower the Assembly to make advances to the corporation and for it to repay to the Secretary of State sums corresponding to the payments received from the corporation in respect of existing borrowing at such times and such rates of interest as are to be determined by the Treasury. The Secretary of State is to pay the sums he receives into the National Loan Fund. The corporation may also make to the Assembly certain payments which would otherwise have been made to the Secretary of State in respect of loans originally made to housing associations. In addition, this particular part also provides that the powers to borrow outside the United Kingdom or in a currency other than sterling may not be exercised without Treasury consent and approval.

The Government believe it is right for the Assembly to be given substantial powers over the provision and financing of housing of Wales. Housing is essentially a matter which is of very close, everyday concern to the people who live in Wales but has very little impact on matters which must be dealt with by the Government of Great Britain as a whole. The Government make no apology for the scope of the transfer of housing functions in Part IV of Schedule 2. The Assembly will be given the functions that I have outlined: local authority house building with subsidies for housing; local authority mortgages; the regulation of housing associations and their subsidies; new towns housing, rent rebates and allowances; the working of the Rent Acts; leasehold enfranchisement, and agricultural tied cottages.

The Government accept that the transfer of housing powers cannot be total, and this is reflected in the exclusions in column 2 of Part IV of Schedule 2. These largely concern housing functions which impinge on other matters which are not transferred in any context. Certain functions in Schedule 4 of the Housing Finance Act 1972 concern the payment of rent rebates to persons in receipt of supplementary benefits. These are reserved because the social security system from whom these payments come is reserved. And, more important, all the functions in relation to building society finance for house purchase and the option mortgage scheme are also reserved. This is because there is a very close connection between these matters and the regulation of lending institutions and the fixing of interest rates, which must be reserved as part of the machinery for the management of the economy.

The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, kindly wrote to me about his Amendment, and I agree with him that his writing perhaps was not all that it might have been, but we think we got the gist of it. He asked me specifically what change Part IV of this Schedule would make, as he put it, to the average Welshman's everyday existence. I make two points by way of preface: first, devolution of itself will not change people's lives. What we are doing is to provide the opportunity for change, should the Assembly as a body elected by the residents in Wales consider that the existing policies are not sufficiently attuned to Welsh needs. Secondly, we are devolving only the executive powers and only existing ministerial powers; so when the noble Lord is looking up all the many statutes, when he sees, "the Secretary of State may" do this, or "the Secretary of State shall" do that, if he just writes in the words "the Welsh Assembly" in place of "the Secretary of State" all will be clear to him in the many Acts that he consults.


That is what worries me.

Baroness STEDMAN

Housing is a subject which is primarily the responsibility of the local authorities. Where local authorities at present have policy discretion, as for instance on the sale of council housing, or on the level of rents, that will continue after devolution. Equally, where matters such as security of tenure and a fair rent system are set out in detail in legislation with little or no ministerial discretion, then the powers of the Assembly will be correspondingly limited. But specific ministerial powers do not tell the whole story. I suggest that the Assembly will be in a position to influence housing policy in Wales in a major way, as are Ministers at present. In particular, they will be able to determine the level of resources for housing and the different sectors of housing. For instance, they will be able to control the balance between the housing associations and local authority housing; between local authority expenditure on loans for private house buyers and on building houses for rent, and in determining their policies and priorities they will be able to take greater account of particular Welsh circumstances and needs. I understand that leasehold reform is a far more important issue in Wales than in most parts of England.

The effect of the proposed Amendment, and I accept what the noble Lord has said—that is, that this is a case for probing and for information—is not selectively to reserve powers which are interrelated with other reserved matters. As it is worded at the moment, it is to remove entirely the Assembly's housing powers and would leave the Assembly powerless in just the kind of matters in which we think the Welsh people are looking for them to take action.

With regard to the question of the district valuer, land officer, or whatever they may be called in Wales, the district valuer will remain an officer of the Inland I Revenue. His functions in relation to valuation of property for rating remain devolved. He will continue to be accessible to the local authorities and also to the Assembly, no doubt, for the provision of advice on property values. On the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976, the power to establish the advisory committees on agricultural housing, the intention is that the ministerial powers should pass to the Assembly. The committees are concerned primarily with housing. Housing conditions vary between areas of different kinds, and housing is essentially the kind of matter which is suitable for devolution. The Government think it very suitable that these committees should become the province of the Assembly. They see no cross-Border problems, but human beings being what they are we may find some problems.

On the Housing Corporation, the noble Lord asked about the arrangements which will apply to that Corporation. No powers will transfer until an order has been made under Clause 59 of the Bill, conferring specific powers on the Assembly. The intention is that the Corporation should become answerable to, and financed by, the Assembly for all its operations in Wales, and that the Assembly should exercise the powers in relation to its operations in Wales which the Secretary of State continues to exercise in England.

Turning to the changes since November 1975, when we first started talking about devolution, the Government have reviewed the housing provision since the 1975 Paper. There were two matters mentioned there, which were referred to by the noble Lord, which the Bill does not deal with. First, we no longer propose to devolve powers relating to building regulations. There will continue to be a single set of regulations for both England and Wales. Secondly, the Bill contains no provision enabling the Government to direct a standstill in rent for counterinflationary reasons. That has been dropped. We take the view that, if a Government wish to exercise such powers they should seek them separately in the circumstances of the time. As indicated in the White Paper, there is no devolution in relation to the provision of private sector finance for housing; that is, in relation to the building societies.

On the Rent Act 1977, where the noble Lord asked whether the Assembly will take over the responsibility for appointing the rent officers, the answer is, Yes, and they could be appointed in a different way from the rest of the United Kingdom, subject to compliance with Section 63 of the appropriate Act. I realise that I have not answered all the "nitty-gritty" details—

A noble Lord

Hear, hear!

Baroness STEDMAN

There is another piece coming up. The district valuer's valuation functions are reserved, they are not devolved. I regret that; it was a slip of my tongue. I will read Hansard carefully tomorrow to study the very detailed points which were raised by the noble Lord and which other noble Lords have brought out in the course of the debate. I will certainly see that everyone is advised of the Government's opinion on the particular problem before we get to Report stage, in the hope of clearing the air.


I have listened carefully to the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and I am sure the Committee will be extremely grateful to her for going into the detail which she has given. She has spelled out extremely clearly those particular subjects which are to be reserved, and we are glad to know that. Another most important point which she touched on was the fact that the Welsh Assembly will have a very large measure of discretion in housing policy and housing priorities. I think it is correct to say that it will have control of the balance of allocation of finance to the various sectors of housing. We have also noted what she said about the Housing Corporation in Wales being financed by the Assembly. However, I should like to ask one question. She said that rent rebates and rent allowances would be devolved. I take that to mean the administration of them, and I should like to ask whether the Assembly will have any power, whether by statutory order or otherwise, to alter the method of calculation of rent rebates and allowances. If they are able to alter them, I think it would be unfortunate, to say the least, because it would put tenants on one side of the Border in a totally different position from those on the other side.

I hope this may be a suitable occasion to welcome a recent circular from the Department of the Environment, No. 38/78. I hope this document will be very closely studied indeed by those who are elected to the Welsh Assembly (if we ever have one) and certainly by members of housing authorities throughout the United Kingdom. In my view, the circular is extremely important because it relates the previous statutory duties of the housing authorities to inspect the whole of their districts both to national priorities and to local priorities and relates those two to the available resources in cash terms that may be available in any one year. From that circular it should be possible to make better housing investment plans than have been made up to now.

The circular is of particular importance to Wales owing to the rather large number of unfit houses to be found in Wales, in particular in the older parts of cities where there is a great need for rehabilitation work. If the contents of this circular can really be put into practice, I hope that we shall be able to avoid the under-spending, under-spending even in spite of the cuts that have occurred both in Wales and to a lesser extent in England in recent years.


I wonder whether the noble Baroness will forgive me making a rare intervention in a Bill in which I have not taken any considerable interest, both because there are so many better informed people and also because I am not bursting with energy. The noble Baroness said that she recognised that the question of leasehold reform was of special importance in Wales, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, mentioned the Leasehold Reform Act as one which gave special provisions. I am almost the only surviving member of the two or three leasehold committees which sat under the late Lord Justice Jenkins to examine the various positions so far as houses were concerned; I am quite sure I am the only Labour survivor. The evidence given to us on Wales showed, first, that Wales probably had a larger proportion, particularly in South Wales, of long leasehold houses of the ordinary type, the usual type of 99-year lease, than any other area. Secondly, it was unfortunate that unhappily many of them were about to run out. So provision had to be made to provide for protected tenancies for occupiers of leasehold premises in advance of any major measure of leasehold reform, which was brought in under Mr. Crossman, who did not take much notice of the existing policy in his provisions.

There is a problem concerning the other place so far as leasehold reform is concerned; that is, that in England there are exceedingly important but limited areas concerned in this matter. I would say that of the constituencies in Great Britain a great many have no concern or interest in the matter at all because the system does not exist. Secondly, in Lancashire, where I tried to activate opinion on this, many of the leases were 999-year leases. The result is that in the problems which affect the average man, Wales has a very special interest in this matter. While my opinions on devolution have varied from time to time, I should think it of extreme importance to Wales, if devolution comes, that the consideration of this matter should be devolved and that the problems should be examined by people who have close and intimate acquaintance with the problems and who may feel that they are a matter for special attention. The noble Baroness promised to look into this matter, and all I ask is that she does look at these problems. I hope these remarks will be helpful in the very special consideration of Wales in this matter.


Had I known the specific contents of the letter which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, sent to the noble Baroness, I perhaps would not have been quite so militant in the probing interruption that I made at the beginning of his speech, because I thought he was going to take a course which he has not taken. I therefore add my praise to the manner in which has he has presented the case for amendment. The specific point which he, unknown to me and unknown to your Lordships, had put to the noble Baroness, was to explain to your Lordships what would be the reaction of the average Welshman to the Amendment proposed by him to delete Part IV. May I, therefore, congratulate the noble Baroness on taking on, so fearlessly and courageously and charmingly, the part of the average Welshman in this matter. I have nothing very much to add to it.

The noble Baroness, in presenting the attitude of the average Welshman, did not deal with one matter which the noble Lord raised at the beginning of his speech; that is, the question of possible conflicts arising from devolution of these powers and the retention of concurrent powers. I must say that I myself have had some anxiety as to whether the procedures in the Bill are effective to deal with all the conflicts that arise. I of course realise that domestic matters in Wales will be resolved by an elected Assembly, elected to represent all parts of Wales and to bring the opinions of Welshmen from all parts of Wales. I have been wondering, therefore, whether the Government would find it helpful to refer to Clause 17 of the Bill referring to subject committees and particularly the procedures set out in subsection (2)(a) and (b) and subsection (3) of that clause. May not this help your Lordships to understand that there are some procedures in the Bill for dealing with conflicts?


The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, asked a specific question about whether the Assembly would take over the responsibility of appointing rent officers. He did that in connection with Section 63 of the Rent Act 1977. My noble friend received a note which was inaccurate, and perhaps I might take this opportunity to put the point right. It helps if one looks at Section 63 of the Rent Act, because it demonstrates how the whole Schedule works. Section 63 begins—I read it short: The Secretary of State shall make … after consultation with the local authority, a scheme providing for the appointment by the proper officer of the local authority— (a) of such number of rent officers for the area as may be determined by or in accordance with the scheme". So under Section 63 as it stands, the appointment is made by the proper officer of the local authority under a scheme which the Secretary of State makes. Post-devolution, the appointment will be made by the proper officer of the local authority under a scheme made by the Assembly. That is the answer to the question. That applies equally in relation to Section 29 of the other Act the noble Lord mentioned.


I am most grateful for that particular group of clarifications with which the noble and learned Lord has provided us. I think we must return in detail on Report to some of these more elaborate particular instances of the relationship between the local government and the Assembly where they affect housing. I must say to the noble Baroness that her answers about the district valuer have left me more confused than I was before, and I am afraid that we shall have to return to that subject.

Did I understand the noble Baroness to say that building regulations were going to continue to be uniform throughout the United Kingdom and that they are not to be devolved? Could she perhaps nod to me if I have got this right: that there is no residual power retained by Westminster to control rents in council houses for counter-inflationary purposes—or is that something that in the speed of her delivery skipped over my head and I did not grasp correctly? I seemed to be under the impression that, in one of the examples she was giving of a development or alteration in the policy of Her Majesty's Government since the publication of the original White Paper, they had decided to look at this aspect in a different way and that there was now no residual power in Whitehall that might be useful or necessary, for the management of the economy at any particular time, to have an impact on council rents.

Baroness STEDMAN

I should like to repeat the point I made about housing which is worrying the noble Lord. I said that the Bill contains no provision enabling the Government to direct a standstill in rents for counter-inflationary reasons. We take the view that if a Government wished to exercise such powers they should seek them separately in the circumstances of the time.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to the rent and rate rebates which have been devolved. In this connection, assume that guidance will be offered, but it is up to the Welsh Assembly whether it accepts that guidance. I am sure that the people who are members of the Welsh Assembly will be conscious of what is being done in other parts of the country and will want to do no worse and no better than other people. They will want to give their people a fair crack of the whip, but not more than that. As regards the leasehold, my noble friend must understand that the leasehold has been devolved. It has been devolved because we realise what a special problem it is to Wales and we think that Members of the Welsh Assembly are the best people to take this in hand and to try to do something about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, referred to the possibility of conflict. We spent much of yesterday talking about concurrent powers and so on. We hope that there will be very little conflict, but we all know that at present there is conflict. There is conflict from time to time between individual local authorities or local authority associations and my Department, the Department of the Environment. Sometimes there is conflict between local councils and Westminster. No doubt there will come a time when there may be some conflict between the local authorities in Wales and the Welsh Assembly or it may even be that Westminster will not like what the Welsh Assembly is doing. However, that is not something that we are seeking out. We are accepting that responsible Welshmen elected to a Welsh Assembly to serve the Welsh people will carry out their task to the best of their ability and in a very conscientious and responsible way.


In the interests of proceeding, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.33 p.m.

Viscount LONG moved Amendment No. 46CC:

Page 42, line 39, after ("sections") insert ("2(3), 6, 9, 12(5), 14(1),").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 46CC which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Amory and myself. With this Amendment, we begin Part V of the Schedule which is somewhat more delicate and, in my view more important. We are dealing with a service which was built up in 1940 throughout the United Kingdom—the Fire Service as a whole. I am sure that none of us would wish to go any further at present than to say that we have a Fire Service which is probably second to none in the world. In that case, it seems a tragedy that at present we are considering a Bill by which we are about to break up the United Kingdom Fire Service into different areas or different countries. We are now dealing with the Fire Service for Wales which is to be run more or less by the Welsh Assembly.

It is interesting to note that the Government, by means of the Bill, have excluded certain sections—namely, Sections 23, 26 and 29—of the Fire Services Act 1947 and also the functions under Section 36 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and indeed, the functions under Section 1(4) of the Fire Precautions (Loans) Act. Those Acts contain many more sections of great interest.

First, I should like to ask the noble Lord the reason why only parts of these Acts have been removed for the Home Secretary to look after. We believe that as a precaution we should add to the Bill one or two more important sections contained in the 1947 Act in order to cover further ground. Section 23 relates to the Secretary of State establishing a central training institution and also local training centers. Section 26 deals with the firemen's pension scheme and under Section 29 it says: The Secretary of State shall constitute a Council to be called the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council. I have put those three sections together but because they are so important it seems to me that the Secretary of State should and must keep them under his control—which the Government have done in their Bill—in order to protect the Fire Service as a whole.

The experience that has been gained over the years in the fire services must be maintained, and that is what it appears the Government are doing with the four sections contained in the Fire Precautions Act and the Fire Services Act. We felt that it was important to add other sections; namely, Section 2(3) which deals with mutual arrangements—in other words duties of fire officers—which are most vital. It is no good having training centers established without that training being put into practice when problems arise. Moreover, there must be reinforcement schemes for particular types of fire. I should have thought that it was right to include that in the Bill. Wales has particular fire risks—for example, forest fires which can become out of control—and so this matter should definitely be left with the Secretary of State.

Under Section 6 the Secretary of State has the power to make combination schemes, which is roughly the same as is covered by Section 2. However, the important matter about which I should like to make a few comments is that of a state of emergency. As we read the Bill, there will be the fire brigades of, as it were, two countries: the Welsh Assembly and Westminster. If there were an emergency, there could be the problem of one fire brigade trying to get through to the other fire brigade. For example, there may be a border accident or a similar emergency and there would probably be a series of breakdowns in one or the other brigade. Thus the efficiency in dealing with the emergency would break down and instead of it being dealt with immediately there might, for one reason or another, be a delay.

Delays could arise in one or two ways. First, there is the school of thought in Wales that the Welsh language must be taught along with English in the schools. I understand that a certain amount of money from the bulk sum is to be designated to help the Welsh people to learn their language. I entirely agree with that. It is vital to preserve that language. However, I understand that during training it was noticed that two fire brigade cadets would speak only Welsh. That could produce a problem—although it may be a minor one—because communications could break down due to the language barrier. In that case we might well have to consider having an interpreter on the tender or in communications. I am probably exaggerating, but I raise this matter as something that might possibly happen. At the training school the Secretary of State could possibly ensure that officers or men do not communicate in a language which is difficult to understand. That is only a small example, but it could happen in an emergency. We believe that the Secretary of State should remain in charge of those powers.

Within the bracket of the tire services is the problem of equipment. This probably falls outside what I discussed just now, but if we have a Fire Service in Wales which can buy its own equipment—if it can afford to do so—and it buys more sophisticated equipment, which is not the standard equipment for the English fire brigades, and if a problem arises on the Borders of England and Wales, I can foresee the possibility of efficiency breaking down and the equipment not being balanced. I believe that the Government should examine this important matter, because if Wales is allowed to buy its own equipment and machinery, it must be really and truly through the Secretary of State.

I turn to training. I must ask the Government whether it will be necessary to build a new training center in Wales. If so, that will mean further costs. Would it not be better to keep the training center at, I believe, Dorking? Coupled with that is the further problem of the Fire Services Inspectorate. Do we need two inspectorates, rather than the one that we have at present, which works throughout the United Kingdom? Would it not be an inconvenience to have two? If the fire services came under the Secretary of State, I am absolutely certain that it would be in unison with Wales and there would probably not be two groups working against each other for different reasons. I say that because it is important. I have dealt with different equipment. I believe that training should he kept as it is at present.

I have been probing to discover as much as I can, and there is a great deal more. I wonder whether the Minister or anyone else can help us any further. Unless we are very careful, we shall have a very confused Fire Service in Wales. I should like the Fire Service in Wales to come under the Secretary of State, because if it comes under the Welsh Assembly, we shall have a muddle and an inefficient service in Wales. I beg to move.

4.44 p.m.

Viscount AMORY

I should like strongly to support what my noble friend Lord Long has said. He has outlined so well the problems that I think I can support him with extreme brevity. This Amendment concerns the Fire Service and I strongly agree with what he has said. In this country we have a most excellent Fire Service. It is a delicate balance within the national instrument and between the organisations concerned. However, I should have thought that the Fire Service was almost an extreme example of the powers that should not be devolved, for I think that much may be lost.

There are a host of regulations affecting the Fire Service—some of which my noble friend has referred to—dealing with matters like discipline, standards of training, uniformity of equipment, since equipment must often be shared, and the making of combination and mutual assistance schemes, which are and should be on a United Kingdom basis. Surely all the experience of the Fire Service confirms that. Questions of appeals, disputes and the failure of authorities to carry out their duties, clearly should stay with the Home Office. There are almost certain to be questions of inter-authority arrangements across the England and Wales Border.

Over the years the interdependence of the Fire Service and fire brigades has changed out of all knowledge. I am old enough to remember when our local borough fire engine was drawn by two very attractive grey horses—Daisy and Mabel—and they were universally admired. However, they seldom put out a fire more than three miles away because local public opinion could never decide whether Daisy and Mabel should be made to trot uphill or whether they should be allowed to walk uphill. I shall not take that line of thought any further because unquestionably things have been changing.

My noble friend referred to the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council, which works on a United Kingdom basis. Yet despite these facts the Bill proposed that all functions of this sort should be devolved to the Assembly. Like my noble friend Lord O'Hagan, I have great difficulty in understanding the principles on which the decisions have been reached as to which powers shall be devolved and which should be excluded. Those principles seem to be very obscure indeed, and in no case are they more obscure and perplexing than in this matter of the fire services. It would be a great pity to do anything to upset the delicate balance to which I have referred, which exists under present arrangements and which seems to work very well. Can the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, tell us that further consideration will be given to the powers belonging to the Fire Service which are to be excluded and to those which are to be devolved? I should like to support what my noble friend Lord Long has said in every detail.


Before the noble Viscount sits down, could he clear my mind on one point? He rather suggested that training was to be devolved. The noble Viscount, Lord Long, on the other hand, indicated that training should remain as an England and Wales affair. I should like to know which is right.


In supporting my two noble friends I should like to ask for some information. If the Fire Service is to be devolved, what procedures of consultation between England and Wales will be laid down with regard to uniformity of equipment? I well remember when I was working in Plymouth during the war that Plymouth burned because the hydrants were not the right shape to fit the Exeter Fire Brigade pipes. Therefore, if there is to be devolution, what procedures will there be of co-operation between England and Wales?


I should like to intervene very briefly on this matter to make a relevant point. Some years ago I was responsible for devolving a national customs service to a State Legislature. The problem with which we were then faced was to transfer equipment and salary scales from a national basis to a State basis. I wonder whether the Government have considered all the problems which could arise in this connection with regard to the uniformity of the Service.

The Fire Service is a national service, and if there are men to work in Wales for whom the Assembly is to be responsible, can we have an assurance that their national salary scales will be the same? To what extent will any pension scheme they may enjoy be the same as those for people who belong to the national service in England? There are problems like that which ought to be considered. If they are not considered, then distractions and difficulties may arise between the service in England and the service in Wales. I should like to know whether the Government have considered those points.


Several years ago, when the National Health Service reform Bill was going through your Lordships' House, I remember urging the Government of the day to allow the Greater London Council to keep in being its ambulance service. This was on the principle that when you have a really excellent service you ought not, for arbitrary reasons, to change it. In the same way, I should like to support my noble friend's Amendment and to urge that those parts of the Fire Service which are at present unified and specialised should be kept together and not broken up. If the Government, in replying, say, "You must trust the Assembly", I reply that of course you must trust the Assembly; but why not trust it to create some good new institutions, and keep in one piece those old institutions that are working really well?

4.53 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

A number of questions have been asked, and I shall do my best to answer them. I was intrigued to hear the episode retailed to us by the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, about Mabel and Daisy, and the decision which was taken. I find it hard to believe about Devon, but possibly even in Devon it was far better to allow them to walk up the hill rather than trot because, as he would know, we are a nation of animal lovers and we would far prefer to be incinerated in our beds than to inconvenience a horse, even one pulling a fire engine.

Some of the more substantial questions which have been raised in this debate are based on a fundamental misconception of what is proposed in the Bill. I shall, therefore, first of all indicate what is in the Bill, and then deal with some of the more detailed points which have been raised. The Government believe, as has been said by many of my colleagues during the discussion of the Bill, that the Assembly should, wherever possible, take over responsibilities for services of a local nature. The fire services fall within this category, and they are closely allied to a number of other local functions which are going to be devolved to the Assembly. Consequently, the entries in Part V of Schedule 2 devolve wide-ranging power to the Assembly in the field of fire services.

The powers and functions which the movers of this Amendment seek to exclude from the Assembly's competence are largely concerned with situations in which co-operation between fire authorities has proved to be less than perfect. We have already discussed on a number of occasions the quasi-judicial appellate functions of the Assembly and I do not want to go into that again during the course of this debate. All I need say for the purposes of this discussion is that to deny the Assembly this sort of power would be to risk interfering in its ability to run the functions devolved to it effectively and efficiently.

Finally, so far as our intention is concerned—I shall then come to some of the more detailed questions—I should point out to your Lordships that these Amendments, as drafted, could lead to some very strange results if they were to be carried and added to the Bill. Perhaps I can illustrate this by reference to Section 12 of the Fire Services Act 1947. This is concerned with arrangements whereby one fire authority may enter into arrangements with another for the provision of services to fulfill the first authority's functions. This could happen in the case of a small fire service where there was need for some co-operation between more than one fire authority.

Section 12(4) allows for representations to be made to the Secretary of State about arrangements of this sort. This particular function of the Secretary of State will be transferred to the Assembly by the terms of the Wales Bill. Subsection (5) allows the Secretary of State, after considering the representations made under subsection (4), to which I have just referred, to direct that arrangements of a particular character should be made. This Amendment seeks to maintain the Secretary of State's role in respect of subsection (5). In other words, the representations would be made to the Assembly—this is the purpose of the noble Viscount's Amendment—but any subsequent directions issued as a result of those representations would be made not by the Assembly but by the Secretary of State, a totally separate person. That is the effect of this Amendment, which I suspect is not what the noble Viscount intended when he drafted it.

I suspect that, on reflection, the noble Viscount will agree that it would not be particularly sensible to say that you may have to make representation to one body but that some totally different body would make a decision in the matter. That would be absurd. I suspect that it is not the intention of the noble Viscount that this should be so. I therefore hope that on that basis alone he will decide not to press this Amendment.

Disputes of the kind to which I have just referred, basically between one fire authority and another, over payment of a bill for some service carried out by one authority in the area of another, are not an unimportant question. However, so far as we know there has been only one such dispute in recent years, and that was not in Wales. Therefore, the issue does not seem of fundamental importance. It is no doubt a matter of some academic interest as to what these arrangements should be, and if there was a dispute it is obviously sensible that we should have some rational basis on which somebody would clear the matter up; would arbitrate between two separate authorities. It seems to me that it is perfectly reasonable in a situation of this sort that the Assembly should do it. As I have indicated, they are hardly likely to be overworked with only one case, so far as we know, in recent years, and that, I repeat, not in Wales.


I am not knowledgeable on this, but it occurs to me that the noble Lord may be describing something which could happen across the Border. What happens when one authority is in Wales and one is, for instance, in Herefordshire?


I assume that the Secretary of State would make a decision in that matter, but I shall find out the answer to that question. Regarding the points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Long, it certainly would be a tragedy to break up a United Kingdom Fire Service, but of course there is no such thing. There is a series of local authority fire services. We do not have a nationalised Fire Service. We did at one stage, but we do not now. At the moment there are two Secretaries of State. The Secretary of State for Scotland has ministerial responsibility for fire services in Scotland. There is therefore no unified ministerial responsibility for the Fire Service at the moment.

There are other problems involved in what the noble Viscount said. He said that it would be a serious matter—and I agree with him—if as a result of this Bill there was any damage to the efficiency of the Fire Service, leading to breakdowns during emergencies. But why should there conceivably be such breakdowns? The Fire Service will continue to be a local authority service in exactly the same way as it is at the moment. Local chief fire officers will co-operate in precisely the same way as they do at the moment, even if it is between a Welsh fire officer and one in Herefordshire, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I think we can make a little too much of this point.

We had the interesting example from the noble Viscount of two fire cadets who spoke only Welsh. I can imagine that to be a grave matter; but, as I understand it, it is a situation which has already arisen, and therefore it has not taken place as a result of the passage of this Bill. I fear there may be difficulties in future in this important respect, but with respect to the noble Viscount, similar difficulties would arise even if the Wales Bill were not going through Parliament.

We then come to the question of differences in equipment. This too is an important matter; but there will be absolutely no difference compared with the present arrangements. The equipment will be bought not by the Welsh Assembly—they have quite limited powers so far as this is concerned—but by the local authority, in exactly the same way as at present. There will be no difference whatever. As for the inspectorate, as the noble Viscount will be aware, these appointments are made by Her Majesty and the appointments will continue in exactly the same way after devolution.

We then come to the important question of pensions, conditions of service and so on. Again, these will be conducted in exactly the same way because the local authorities, not the Welsh Assembly, are the employers. To deal with the question of training, another important matter, the Welsh Assembly is not being given the power to build some college of its own at great expense. There will be central arrangements for training in exactly the same way as at present, because the local authorities have come to the conclusion over a period of time that this is a sensible way in which to conduct our affairs.


In relation to pensions, salary payments and so on, the noble Lord will be aware that recently we had a national strike on the part of the firemen and I find it difficult to understand his analogy that all these situations which might arise will be settled by the local authority. The members of the Fire Service consider themselves a national service, although in effect the local authority may be employing them. I can conceive a situation once they are transferred to the Assembly—and the Assembly will carry out certain functions in the performance of their duties to the Fire Service—where there might be difficulties on this score and that is why I raised the question of pensions, emoluments, the payment of salary and so on. The Fire Service men consider themselves to be part of a national service.


I wonder, with respect to the noble Lord, whether that is really so. I was on the periphery of that dispute because I do not have day-to-day responsibility for the Fire Service; that is for my right honorable friend the Home Secretary. But I saw no disposition on anybody's part during the fire dispute to suggest that in some way they were employees of Central Government. There is no such belief in the Fire Service, I can assure the noble Lord. I think too much is being made of this situation. It is perfectly proper that questions should be raised about the position of the Assembly when the Bill is on the Statute Book, but I hope I have emphasised that the Fire Service will continue to be in the future, as it has been in the past, essentially a local authority service.

There are a number of limited areas in which the Assembly will have a role, and I have given one example of that role in relation to disputes between fire services. I do not think local fire authorities believe there is a national Fire Service, and I think they would be more than a little surprised to have it suggested to them that they did so believe. I suspect that Lord Amory, with his substantial experience of local government, would agree with me on that. It is clearly a local service and it will continue to be a local service. If any point of detail is raised about this where further clarification would be required, I will do my best to answer it; but as I hope I have indicated, the Amendment would create an extremely anomalous situation for which I believe there is no justification.


The noble Lord's remarks have been extremely helpful, and from reading them we shall be able to decide whether he is right or wrong in assuming that too much has been made of this matter. I think he will agree that the four principal issues are compatibility of equipment, efficiency of communication, speed of reinforcement and co-ordination of operation as they are affected by the Bill and with those are linked conditions of service. If he can assure us there is nothing in the Bill which affects those first four heads—the other of course comes under a different purview—that would help us in our reflections.


There is another matter I wish to link with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and I apologies to the Minister for not having given him notice of it. Can we be given an indication of the position in regard to the important matter of research into the prevention of fire? This subject has achieved considerable importance and I trust the Minister will look into it and let me have an answer.

5.8 p.m.


I have been prompted to rise by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful, who reminded us of her experience in Plymouth during the war, when it was found that hydrants did not fit hoses in several parts of that city. That was 30 years ago and much has happened since then in regard to the standardization of hydrants and hoses. In 1948, when the Fire Service was devolved from the State to county councils, I was an alderman of Essex County Council and my colleagues decided that I should be chairman of the fire brigades committee. I had the task of building up one of the biggest fire brigades in the country, catering for a population of 2 million people, and organizing a force well over 1,000 strong.

The first task to which we devoted ourselves was the standardization of hydrants throughout the county. We immediately consulted the various water authorities, some public authorities and some public companies, and arranged for the wholesale conversion of such hydrants as were out of step with the equipment of the fire brigades. In the 30 years that have elapsed I am sure that process has been continued throughout the country and I doubt whether there are many, if any, places now where the equipment of the fire brigades does not marry up with hydrants in the street.

Language difficulties will always exist; they exist now, without devolution, and I imagine that the same people in the fire stations and the same people living in the houses in the district will face the same language difficulties, if they exist. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, spoke of two cadets who could speak only Welsh. Those cadets will have a certain amount of training before they qualify as fully-fledged firemen, and some of that training will be in the signals they will be required to give to the switchboard of their fire station when they are engaged on a fire. In the Fire Service this question of signals has been reduced to utter simplicity. A man attending a fire, if he requires reinforcements, does not go into a long conversation with the switchboard. He simply says, "The fire in New Street, make pumps six", which means there are four pumps on the job now and he wants another two. So it is quite simple, and I do not think that there will be any difficulty at all here. I am quite sure that as the cadets mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, graduate into full firemanship, they will be given simple instructions on how to use the few English phrases that they will be required to use.

Another point that was made related to the equipment and machinery. In this regard there is almost complete interchangeability between one county fire brigade and its neighbour. There is no problem about pumps—pumps are what the populace at large refer to as fire engines. There is no difficulty about ladders, nor about hydrants. By way of reinforcing my view that there is great interchangeability and very little difference between the various brigades, I should say that when we invited tenders for pumps or ladders there were very few firms in the market submitting tenders. Thus, there was considerable standardization; and as every fire brigade deals with the same few firms, I believe that the question of standardization is not serious and need not trouble us. Moreover, the Welsh fire organization will be subject to the overseeing of the inspectorate, just as it is now, and I am quite sure that any little rough spots will be smoothed out without any difficulty.

The question of reinforcement has also been mentioned. I do not know what the present arrangements are for reinforcing the Welsh brigades, or the extent to which one Welsh county reinforces its adjoining county, or one English county, such as Herefordshire, reinforces the Welsh county just over the Border. However, I recall from my experience as chairman of the County Brigade Committee which I mentioned earlier, that we had to enter into a number of reinforcement agreements, and we found no difficulty at all. Mind you, the adjoining county probably asked us to pay a respectable fee for the promise of assistance, but we were always able to make agreements when they were necessary.

Finally, I should like to say that in most parts of the country the fire brigade is the outstanding emblem of civic pride, and I feel that nothing would be lost if a Welshman could say: "This Welsh fire brigade is mine; it belongs to my country". I think that that would enhance the pride and interest which the people have in the fire brigade, rather than detract from it.

Viscount LONG

We have had a very good debate on the fire service, and I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for dealing with my probing points. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Amory, my other noble friends, and noble Lords on the other side of the Chamber. I think that it would be best for us to read Hansard tomorrow to see what further points we can gather from what we have been saying. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.13 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge) moved Amendment No. 46EE:

Page 43, leave out lines 25 to 29 and insert—

("The Mental Health Act 1959 (c. 72) section 3(4), Part IV, sections 64, 81, 85, 99, 133, 142 and 143 and Schedule 1, The powers under section 39(1) and (4) and the powers of consent under sections 41 and 47 (being powers conferred by virtue of section 65(3)).
The functions under sections 81 and 85 so far as relating to a patient subject to an order or direction restricting his discharge.
The powers under section 99 other than the powers to direct transfers between hospitals in Wales.").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical Amendment, and does not represent any change in the Government's policy. It is the Government's intention that the Assembly should have powers in relation to mental health, in keeping with its wide-ranging responsibilities for health matters in general. In view of the fact that this is the first Amendment on health matters, perhaps I should take a few moments of the Committee's time to remind your Lordships that the Assembly will have power over the administration of the National Health Service: for example, after devolution, Area Health Authorities will be responsible to the Assembly, and not to the Secretary of State. The Assembly will also have responsibilities for the private sector of medicine and nursing homes, but there will be some important exclusions from its competence. Power in relation to the control of drugs and medicines will remain with the Secretary of State, as will regulation of the Health Service professions, and the remuneration of Health Service staff. We shall have the chance to discuss this question when we debate the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, which I understand is the next Amendment on the Marshalled List.

It would be quite wrong to separate the powers in the field of mental health concerned with the health and social services aspects of the subject from the other powers in these fields which are to be devolved to the Assembly. The powers and functions that the Government have in mind to devolve to the Assembly are primarily about compulsory admission to hospitals and guardianship, and the transfer of patients between hospitals. However, the Assembly is not to have the powers of the Home Secretary in special matters relating to patients who have been concerned in criminal proceedings, because powers and functions in the field of crime are not to be devolved to the Assembly. This is the reason for most of the exclusions in column 2 of Part VI in relation to the 1959 Act. For example, the powers in Sections 39, 41 and 47 are devolved to the Assembly by the listing of Part IV of the Act in column 1. They are concerned with the granting of leave of absence from hospitals, and transfers of patients between hospitals. The entry in column 2 for these provisions is necessary to restrict the Assembly's competence in respect of a patient in respect of whom an order restricting his discharge has been made

I hope that this explanation of the Government's Amendment has given the Committee a clear picture of the powers to be devolved to the Assembly, and that your Lordships will therefore he disposed to accept the Amendment. I have a list of all the sections of the Mental Health Act 1959 which are affected by the Amendment, but I think that it would be tedious to read it out to your Lordships, unless you particularly wish. I beg to move.


I am advised that if this Amendment is carried, the next two Amendments on the Marshalled List cannot be moved.


The Committee will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, for his preface to the Amendment. There are a number of difficulties connected with this matter, and I hope that I shall not take up the time of the Committee too much if I preface my remarks with a few words about the Mental Health Act 1959, because of its particular difficulties. The Act consists of no less than 154 sections and eight Schedules. It is a considerable Act, including consolidated sections of lengthy Victorian Acts of Parliament concerned with lunacy. The revisions of those sections which took place in the Act of 1959 were insufficient to give the Act the flexibility which my noble friends and myself believe is necessary, particularly when it comes to devolution.

I would not dispute that Sections 41 and 47, which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, concern matters which we would wish to debate, but it is the functions under Sections 81 to 85 on which I wish to lay particular emphasis. We have here a matter of considerable administrative difficulty. These sections refer to the transfer of patients between different parts of the United Kingdom, and there is a large number of complications relating to these points. For instance, Section 81 of the Act refers to transfers of patients to and from Scotland, while Section 82 deals with removal of patients to Scotland. Section 83 relates to the application of Scottish enactments to patients removed under Section 82. Section 84 relates to the removal to England and Wales of State mental patients in a criminal category, already referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. Section 85 is concerned with the removal of patients to and from Northern Ireland.

There can be any number of different origins and destinations in this particular field, and the original intention of those who drafted this Statute is to some extent obscure, because there are parts of the United Kingdom not referred to. It is difficult to see other than great confusion arising here, unless we are very clear as to how we are to adapt these particular sections.

It is our belief on this side of the Committee that it would be very much better to devolve these particular functions. It would also be a matter of especial consideration to your Lordships if I could refer to the problem of the Act as such, and in this respect I should like to refer to what was said by the Secretary of State for Social Services on the 13th June, only two days ago, at col. 817. Special reference was made in the Secretary of State's answer to the forthcoming White Paper which is to be issued on the working of the Mental Health Act. The Secretary of State referred to the fact that this Act has been subjected to particular scrutiny for the last two years, and the Government are clearly seized of the problem of the management of the clauses referred to. Nevertheless, a White Paper is not a Bill in draft, and we are concerned with these particular sections as they stand at present on the Statute Book.

I feel that at the present time it may well be better if I refer in a little more detail at a later stage to the problems of the Mental Health Act, but, as the noble Lord, the Lord Chairman, has said, we are in some difficulty here because if the Government are successful in gaining the agreement of the Committee to this Amendment then my Amendment and the successor will fall.


They will fall because they are covered by this Amendment, which I hope the Committee will accept. I am surprised that the noble Lord thinks it would be better to devolve the powers under Sections 81 and 85, to which he referred. It is a complicated and difficult situation among England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will always be complicated; and I think it would make it more complicated, not less, to devolve it. We are quite clear—and this is why, in the name of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, we have put down this Amendment—that it would be better to leave it as it is. We are not denying that there would be difficulties about it, but in our opinion they would not be solved by devolution; and I hope the noble Lord will not find it necessary to press this, because I really believe it would be a mistake.


I am not at all clear, I do not think the Amendment is very clear, and I should like to seek clarification. The Amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor says: The functions under sections 81 and 85 so far as relating to a patient subject to an order or direction restricting his discharge". That refers to Part IV of the Mental Health Act, and Part IV of that Act covers Section 29, which is a three-day order and which is one of observation in emergency; Section 25, which is a 28-day order and which is for observation; Section 26, which is a one-year order for observation, admission and treatment; and then, of course, Section 60, which is for the compulsory admission for the guardianship of patients convicted of a criminal offence. I can understand Section 60 being included, but I cannot understand the other sections to which obviously Part IV refers; and it would surely be a most cumbersome arrangement for these sections to be devolved. Have I got my facts wrong, or am I correct?


I think the noble Baroness is correct, and that is what I am saying. It would be most cumbersome to devolve these, which is why, in this Amendment, we are "involving" them. We have put them into column 2, which means they are reserved and not devolved.


May I get this clear? They are in column 2 because they are going to be reserved to the United Kingdom?




If that is so, it surely is a most cumbersome arrangement to have to deal with the United Kingdom on the various orders of restriction which I have mentioned. It just is not practicable.


It is dealt with through the Secretary of State for Wales—that is what reservation means—as it is now.


There are a number of points I should like to raise. I am very glad that my noble friend Lady Faithful referred to Section 29. Section 29, as she has already observed, is the emergency clause. It seems that there is here a case for asking the question: Why constrain devolved competence in this particular field? I must say that it occurs to me on reading this section of the Mental Health Act that there would be grounds for considering that it might be one of the devolved functions under Part IV of the Act. I wonder whether the noble Lord would agree.


I feel rather inclined to go through this again. I first of all thought that the noble Baroness was saying that it was cumbersome if it was not to be devolved, and then I think she said that it was cumbersome if it was to be devolved.




The position is that the Amendment refers to: The functions under sections 81 and 85 so far as relating to a patient subject to an order or direction restricting his discharge". This covers, basically, criminal cases, and that is all that is being reserved. The other items about which the noble Baroness spoke—the three days' notice, the six days' notice and so on—are already devolved.


In that case, ought it not to mention Section 60, which covers the mental patients who have committed a criminal offence? Because it is not clear that it does not refer to Sections 29, 25 and 26, which are the three-day order, the 28-day order and the one-year order. It does not seem to me that it is clear. If it is only Sections 60, 61 and 65, which deal with the mental patients with criminal offences, then should it not just refer to that fact?


I should like to support what the noble Baroness has said in this respect. Those who have been associated with the rural areas of Wales may have come across the difficulties which arise in dealing with the mentally sick; and representations have been made to me on many occasions as to the nature of the restrictions imposed upon some unhappy, mentally ill person. If, as the noble Baroness has indicated, the Government are restricting only the discharge in relation to persons under Section 60 of the Mental Health Act, I should have thought that some clarification was required here.


I cannot at the moment explain why we have not got reference to Sections 60 and 29, and I think I should look at this. From what the noble Baroness has said, I am rather of the opinion that she has put her finger on something, and perhaps I may take it away and look at it.


I would be very grateful to the Minister, and I thank him.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for his attitude on this particular Amendment, because not only are there problems which arise on draftsmanship but, further, the following two Amendments would in our view be very much better withdrawn and dealt with in a similar manner when the time comes.


If the Committee is agreeable, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment and will bring it back at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 46DD not moved.]

[Amendment No. 46FF not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 43HH:

Page 43, line 42, after ("sections") insert ("1").

The noble Lord said: We now move to a totally different Act and to quite another aspect of the Bill. This concerns children and young persons and the Act which relates to that subject, the Children and Young Persons Act 1963. My Amendment refers to Section 1 of the Act. It is very surprising in our view that this section, a declaratory one, which lays the burden on the authorities set out in the section, should be a reserved function. I do not think that it is necessary to go into this at any great depth, but I should like to know the Government's reasons why they have taken the attitude that they have to date.


It is the Government's intent that the Assembly should have responsibilities after devolution in the field of social welfare. This is very much a local matter of day-to-day concern to the people living in Wales and, therefore, very suitable for devolution. In Schedule 2, Part VI, noble Lords will find references to several Acts dealing with various aspects of the care and welfare of children. Clearly, an elected Assembly will not be unresponsive to the wishes of the people of Wales about the care of the nation's children. On the face of it, devolution is the correct line here.

Turning to the subject of this Amendment before us, I find that Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 contains no ministerial powers. There was one in subsection (4) but that was repealed by Section 72(4) and Schedule 6 to the Children and Young Persons Act subsequently passed in 1969. The listing of the power in Schedule 2 would, therefore, have no effect save to cast doubt on the construction of that Schedule. I therefore suggest that the noble Lord may wish not to press his Amendment for it would have no effect.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord for giving the Government's reasons in this case. As this was a probing Amendment, I think it would be for the benefit of the Committee if I were to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 46FFA: Page 44, line 14, leave out ("The functions under section 9").

The noble Lord said: This, too, is by way of being a probing Amendment. As I understand it, the functions under Section 9 are part of an enactment which has been the subject of an inquiry which has been sitting for two years. The enactment is thought to be somewhat unsatisfactory in operation and a White Paper on it is to be published shortly. This probing Amendment might be seen as an occasion to ask the noble Lord whether—I do not suppose he will agree with my assessment of the Act—he might be able to give some indication of whether he agrees with my diagnosis about the White Paper. I beg to move.


This is a "reverse" Amendment. Most of our Amendments are directed towards not devolving things which the Bill wishes to devolve. This is in the reverse direction which, as I said last night on a similar occasion, makes a change.

The Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 is a reforming measure dealing with the provision by local authorities of social services. Hence, in the light of criteria which I have mentioned frequently in our debates, it is devolved to the Assembly. Section 9, however, deals with the protection of the interests of existing employees at the time the Act came into effect in regard to their conditions of service, including such matters as superannuating. Under the section, the Secretary of State was obliged to make regulations by order to deal with such cases as they arose.

As part of the Government's policy to ensure mobility of employment, the pensions and related conditions of service of local authority employees are to be reserved so as to maintain the present uniformity of treatment throughout England and Wales. This Amendment seeks to devolve these matters, which go beyond the interests of people living and working in Wales, and which accordingly, should be reserved. I hope that this explanation will satisfy the noble Lord. I think that it is quite clear that this is wider than just a Welsh question and that it is a proper case for reservation.


Leaving aside the interesting speculations about the noble Lord's statement that local government matters were involved and social services matters are dissolved—and most of us are now rather convolved—I would ask whether the noble Lord has any observations to make about the White Paper. I understand that the whole workings of this are under scrutiny. I suppose that the proper way to phrase the question under this Amendment is: how long are things that he is proposing should be devolved likely to remain the same? I am not seeking to criticized his decision either to involve or convolve what is going on; but I should like to know how long the situation is thought to be likely to continue as it now is before the publication of the Government's official view of what ought to replace it.


I have no information on this. I will see whether I can get some.


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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 46GG:

Page 44, line 24, column 2, at beginning insert— ("The power of consent under section 11.").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical Amendment. Section 11 of the Nursing Homes Act 1975 is concerned with proceedings in respect of offences concerning nursing homes or mental nursing homes which are not registered under the terms of Section 3(1) and (5) of the Act. Section 11 requires that proceedings cannot be taken other than by an aggrieved party or the Secretary of State without the written consent of the Attorney-General. Attorney-General powers are not to he devolved to the Assembly, but unfortunately the present entry for the 1975 Act in Part VI of Schedule 2 has the effect of devolving this one. The Amendment is designed to put this right and exclude the consent power from the competence of the Assembly. A small drafting mistake was made and is here being corrected. I hope that noble Lords will accept it. I beg to move.


There is an even smaller drafting fault. If I have the linage aright, the Amendment ought to begin with "and". If I have got it wrong, it ought to finish with "and". I should have thought this could be put right by the draftsman without debate; but, if not, it ought to be put right here.


I think that we can leave it to the Parliamentary draftsmen.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.39 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 46GGA:

Page 44, leave out lines 26 to 39.

The noble Lord said: I should like to elicit a small amount of information from the noble Lord on this Amendment which relates to the Children and Young Persons Act in which a number of us were involved for a great deal of time not long ago. I should like the noble Lord to tell us what is the connecting feature between the reservations in the right-hand column —and, in particular, whether he would tell us how many of these and how many of the other sections in the Act have not yet come into force—and whether there is a correlation between the two. Perhaps I ought to have given the noble Lord notice of this, but I should be obliged for the information.


I think that I have the information. I take it that this is a probing Amendment so I need not try to refute the suggestion in it. The Children Act 1975 covers a wide range of matters in relation to children. The main areas are adoption in Part I of the Act, custody of children in Part II and care in Part III. None of Part II of the Act is yet in force. Parts of both Parts I and III are. To illustrate, let me explain the difficulties the exclusion of these Parts from the Assembly's competence would create.

The Adoption Act 1958 is fully in force. Your Lordships will find powers and functions in that Act listed in Part VI of Schedule 2. Part I of the Children Act 1975 amends parts of that Act. Some of these amending provisions are in force, others are not. The Adoption Act 1967 consolidates the earlier Acts, including the 1975 Act. None of it is yet in force. To take the Children Act out of the package of adoption legislation and exclude it alone could lead to chaos in the administration of adoption in Wales.

Similarly Part III of the 1975 Act interacts with the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. Some amending enactments in Part III are in force, others are not. The 1969 Act is listed in Schedule 2. The exclusion of the powers in the 1975 Act would therefore again cause major difficulties. What it amounts to, really, is that so long as the 1958 Act is included, these other Acts which relate to it—some in force and others not in force—must also be included, otherwise there will be an entirely confused situation. As it is, I think it is reasonably clear and as the enactments come into operation they will be included.


My noble friends will want to pursue other matters, but the noble Lord has touched upon two important principles. First, he has described what sound like a hideous mess of interaction. I hope that legislation such as this can be consolidated as quickly as possible in order to make life tolerably easy for those having to read the Acts. At the time the Act was passed many of us said that the credit that the Government felt due to them was not yet due because so little of the legislation was going to come into force. The noble Lord has said this. I do not think that this is the right occasion or forum to make this point; but I have felt it so strongly for so long that I feel that I must unburden myself of it now. So much of the Children Act 1975—which was welcomed with great applause—is still pie in the sky. But I do not want to stand between my noble friends if they wish to pursue other matters and the debate.


In support of the Amendment, may I ask two questions? May I comment that the noble Lord did not refer to the Children Act 1948, Section 2 of which is to be amended by the 1975 Act. My second point concerns the question of implementation of the 1975 Act. Will this run concurrently in Wales and in England? There are certain time factors involved: for instance, if a child has been placed for adoption under the 1975 Act, if it has been with a foster parent for five years, the foster parent can, by notifying the court, adopt the child. If these Acts are not implemented concurrently and a child in England has been placed with a foster parent in Wales, with no thought or realization that it might lead to adoption, there may be very real difficulties. There are other points with which I will not weary the Committee regarding time factors concerning notification by foster parents and adopters. Will the 1975 Act be implemented concurrently by both the Assembly and England so that there are no differentiations between the two countries?


The answer is clear. The Children Act 1975 is in column 1 of Schedule 2, which means that it is devolved. Its implementation will be devolved, too. The Act is on the Schedule, and the fact that the operative date has not been named does not stop it being on the Schedule. The answer to the question is, Yes, subject to the exceptions in the second column of Schedule 2.


May I come to my noble friend's assistance and ask for help? At the outset, the noble Lord appeared to say that the Act was devolved and that the function of implementing parts of the Act was devolved with it. My noble friend asked whether she was right in saying that the parts of the Act would be implemented simultaneously in England and Wales. The noble Lord, following the statement he has made—as a deduction from it—said that they would be implemented simultaneously. I do not think that he meant that because that implementation would rest with two different decision-making bodies. One would be the Secretary of State in England, and the other would be the Welsh Assembly in Wales. Therefore, it is a matter of chance or co-ordination but not a matter of legislation that they are done simultaneously. Is that not right?


It is not quite right. One of the powers which is reserved is Section 108. The Act is passed and on the Statute Book. The day named for different parts of it to come into operation simply means that the law becomes effective. It will be effective on the Assembly in exactly the same way as it is effective on the Secretary of State.


I have not made myself clear. The question I was asking was whether the day will be named by the Secretary of State or by the Welsh Assembly? In other words, is the function of implementation reserved or devolved?


I speak subject to correction and without the book; but the implementation is central because it is part of the Act which was passed centrally.


The noble Lord speaks as I always speak in these debates, I fear, and I sympathies with him. But I take it that the implementation is reserved and that would relieve some of the doubts that we feel.


The implementation is not reserved; it is part of the function of the Government who put that Act in. The Government who put that Act in were the Government of the center. This Act is then put into column 1 of Schedule 2 as something which is devolved and becomes an Act which the Assembly is obliged to operate.


The noble Lord is possibly mistaken because one of the functions of the Secretary of State, as I recall the Act—which I do not have in front of me—is again and again repeated: that sections of the Act shall have effect on a day which is named by the Secretary of State. If the places where that is stated in the Act are covered only by column I of Schedule 2, then that function will be performed by the Welsh Assembly. If it is in column 2 of Schedule 2 it will be performed by the Secretary of State. What we want to know is in which column in each case does this occur?


I have already given the answer: Section 108 is the section which has that power—the power of implementation—and that is reserved.


I am sorry that it took the noble Lord so long to get the point across to me. I accept that this was my ignorance rather than his inability. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 44, leave out line 48.

The noble Lord said: We transfer to another Act of Parliament now. In this Amendment we are dealing with the National Health Service Act 1977, an Act which may be reasonably fresh in the minds of the Committee. The particular section is Section 23 which points out the relationship between voluntary organizations and other bodies and the Secretary of State. In this case the "Secretary of State" means the Secretary of State for Wales as opposed to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Services.

The problem here is one of function. As the Bill stands at the moment, we read that the power under Section 23(4) is an excluded function, and the purpose of my Amendment is to ask the Government how they see the relationship between the Secretary of State for Wales and voluntary bodies in the matter of vehicle licensing. At the present moment the Secretary of State can apply the Vehicles (Excise) Act of 1971 and Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1972 for this purpose. We assume it is in the Government's minds that, as they intend this to be a reserved function, the Secretary of State for Wales shall take no part in this particular procedure. I wonder whether the Government can inform us in that regard. I beg to move.


My Lords, I think this is reasonably simple and clear—at least, I hope it will be by the time I have finished. Section 23 of the National Health Service Act 1977, to which the noble Lord referred, enables the Secretary of State to enter into arrangements with individuals and voluntary organisations so that they may provide or assist in providing any services under the 1977 Act. The section allows the Secretary of State to make available to a body with whom he has entered into an arrangement facilities such as goods, materials or the use of any vehicle. For example, the Red Cross may obtain supplies at special rates. These powers are devolved to the Assembly under the terms of this Bill. Section 23(4), to which the Amendment relates, contains an order-making power to modify the terms of the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1971 and Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1972 in relation to vehicles made available by the Secretary of State under the terms of Section 23. So far, I think this is clear.

As its name suggests, the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1971 deals with the excise duty on, and the licensing of, vehicles. Such powers are not to be devolved to the Assembly because they form part of the reserved subject of national taxation. Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1972 is concerned with insurance requirements in relation to road vehicles. Again, the Assembly is to have no such powers under the terms of the Wales Bill since this is a matter in which the Government consider there should be uniformity throughout Great Britain. It would therefore be wrong that the Assembly should have the power in Section 23(4) to modify these provisions. That is why it is reserved, and I suggest that after this explanation the noble Lord will probably be satisfied to leave it so.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord for expressing the situation so clearly, because a large number of voluntary organizations will be concerned with vehicle licensing in the future, and they will be glad of a definite and affirmative statement. I shall be very willing to withdraw this Amendment, and I beg leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.53 p.m.

Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No 47A:

Page 45, line 9, column 2, at end insert— ("The functions under sections 29, 36, 39, 42 so far as relating to terms and conditions of service, rights and obligations of contractors, pensions, gratuities or allowances payable on death or retirement or compensation for loss of office or employment or loss or diminution of emoluments.").

The noble Lord said: We now enter into a much more interesting and difficult area: that is, in regard to the payments and emoluments which accrue to doctors. I should like at this stage to refer to particular difficulties which are quite clearly established, and I think the British Medical Association has already indicated concern to the Government over certain matters. In another place, the Minister, referring to this particular situation, repeatedly used the phrase: pay and directly related matters which would be reserved". I think the Government will agree here; but in regard to general medical practice, the conditions of service and the regulations which relate to them in 1974 are very closely intertwined with remuneration. Without going into great detail on the very bulky document which deals with that, I think the Government will be aware of paragraph 24 of those regulations, which set out the arrangements and regulations under which members of the medical profession are remunerated and receive their fees and allowances. We believe that these particular functions should be included and I should like to have the Government's reaction to that. I beg to move.


This is a very important question and I shall reply to it at rather greater length than I have done so far, because it is not entirely simple. The Government's scheme in the Bill for dealing with doctors' pay requires a Secretary-of-State power to direct the Assembly in the drawing up of their regulations. This power is in an Amendment to the National Health Service Act 1977 in Schedule 11 to the Wales Bill. It may be suggested that the effect of the Wales Bill will be to translate the reference to "the Secretary of State" into "the Welsh Assembly", thereby destroying the direction-giving power. This point in fact came up last night, and I told the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that references to the Secretary of State in Schedule 11 were not automatically converted by Clause 9(1) into references to the Assembly. A Secretary-of-State power in Schedule 11 will remain a Secretary-of-State power after devolution. It would take me a long time to describe fully the reason for this and I do not wish to detain the Committee now.


I quite agree with the noble Lord about not detaining the Committee now, but this is of great importance to Amendments that we have already taken and adopted and indeed to the drafting of the Bill itself; so at some stage I think we shall have to detain the House, shall we not?


The noble Lord will remember that I promised him an extensive letter about it, and that is being drafted. It is the policy of the Government that the Assembly should have powers in respect of the administration of the National Health Service in Wales and in respect of the private sector of medicine. This was laid down in the White Paper on devolution and there has been no change in the Government's intent on this since. There has, however, been a change of policy with regard to pay and pensions of Health Service staff.

The Government's original proposals in the Scotland and Wales Bills were to devolve pay and pensions of Health Service staff to the Assembly, but the exercise of the powers was to be subject to the consent of the Government. This is still the scheme adopted in the Scotland Bill; but on 26th July, the Lord President announced that the pay and pensions of Health Service employees in Wales would be reserved. The entries in Part II of Schedule 2 in the publication print of the Bill for the sections named in this Amendment were designed to fulfill this policy in relation to general medical practitioners, dentists, opticians and pharmacists. But it became apparent that these entries in Part VI did not fulfill the Government's intent. The phraseology concerned, could in certain contexts, carry a much wider meaning than matters affecting remuneration and it could be construed to incorporate functions unassociated with remuneration but which are intimately concerned with the day-to-day running of the Health Service. These are to be the responsibility of the Assembly and the exclusion of terms and conditions of service could affect the Assembly's ability to manage the Health Service in Wales in a coherent and sensible fashion. The Amendment before your Lordships, would exclude an even larger and less definite area reserved.

Perhaps it would help your Lordships if I described to you the scheme now adopted in this Bill to cope with the problem of ensuring that the Assembly has the powers it needs for administration of the Health Service, while reserving to the Government the power to determine the remuneration. The problem is particularly complicated in respect of medical practioners, dentists, opticians and pharmacists. Their remuneration—and terms and conditions of service—are determined by regulations made under Sections 29 and 34 to 43 of the 1977 Act, to which we have been referring. The regulations are very detailed and the inter-relationship between pay and other matters is close. For example, disciplinary action against a general practitioner is possible by way of withholding part of his remuneration. So it is not possible to draw a clear distinction between those matters concerned with remuneration and those which are not. Nor can the split be achieved by reference to existing regulations as they may change over the years, whereas the approach adopted in the Wales Bill must be such that it can withstand such changes.

To overcome these difficulties, the scheme adopted in the Bill achieves the Government's policy intentions which are, as mentioned, to reserve the essential matters concerned with remuneration and to devolve those concerned with the day-to-day running of the National Health Service in Wales. The arrangements are as follows. The functions in the relevant sections of the 1977 Act are devolved to the Assembly in Part VI of Schedule 2. But the amendment to the 1977 Act in Schedule 11 to the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to direct the Assembly about the exercise of these functions. The Secretary of State can therefore determine the aspects of any Assembly regulations which are concerned essentially with remuneration, and then direct the Assembly as to what the regulations should contain in this respect. A further complication is that the Statement of Fees and Allowances, which lays down the precise sums to be charged for medical services, is made under the terms of the regulations made under the terms of the relevant sections of the 1977 Act. The statement is closely concerned with remuneration, so it is essential that the Secretary of State should be able to fix the fees and allowances covered by the Assembly regulations. This is achieved by including in the Secretary of State's directing powers the power to direct the Assembly to confer functions on him.

I did not deny that the final scheme was complicated and I am sure that, having heard the explanation of its workings, your Lordships will agree that it is. But it does achieve a workable and sensible result. First, it places control for determining what functions are related to remuneration in the hands of the Secretary of State, and once he has decided that such is the case he determines the regulations. The Assembly cannot interfere with this. Secondly, it allows the Assembly to run the Health Service as a coherent whole in the areas not directly affecting pay. Thirdly, it provides flexibility for the future, with the initiative, I would remind your Lordships, remaining in the hands of the Secretary of State. Other schemes, such as that proposed in the Amendment which we are discussing, could create difficulties in the administration of the Health Service in Wales, and I am sure your Lordships would agree that this should be avoided if at all possible.

I hope that, after that rather long explanation, this Amendment, which I regard as a probing Amendment, will not be pressed. But I think I should add that Mr. Alec Jones, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales—my colleague and friend—recently held a meeting with the Welsh branch of the British Medical Association to explain, among other things, the way the Bill works with regard to terms and conditions of service. The BMA were assured that, on all matters relating essentially to remuneration, the Government's intention, as reflected in the Bill, was to maintain uniformity throughout England and Wales. The intention of the Government here is exactly the same as we discussed over teachers' pay yesterday, but this situation is so much more complicated that it has to be done in a much more complicated way. I hope that what I have said will clear noble Lords, minds, and that they will be happy to leave the Bill as it is.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for saying what he has in regard to the remuneration of doctors; and I should couple with that the remuneration of dentists and the interests of the British Dental Association, which I omitted to mention hitherto. We shall examine with care what the Government have said, and will naturally consult with those interests affected. I think that it will be for the benefit of the Committee if I take this opportunity of withdrawing the Amendment. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

6.5 p.m.

Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 47B:

Page 46, leave out lines 15 to 19.

The noble Lord said: We have just discussed terms and conditions of service of medical practitioners, dentists, opticians and pharmacists. I explained the complex scheme necessary to cope with the inter-relationship between remuneration and other terms and conditions of service, and your Lordships have accepted the Government's approach to the problem.

At the time that it was realized that the reservation of terms and conditions of service of "contract" staff (for example, medical practitioners) could cause difficulties in the day-to-day running of the Health Service, it was thought that the same problems would not occur in relation to Health Service employed staff (for example, hospital doctors). Consequently, the provisions in the National Health Service Act 1977, dealing with their terms and conditions of service, are shown in the Bill as excluded from the competence of the Assembly. It has since become apparent that this is not so. The present entry in Part VI of Schedule 2 for paragraphs 10(1) and 11(1) of Schedule 5 to the 1977 Act could hamper the Assembly's ability to manage the Health Service in Wales. It could, for example, prevent the Assembly from appointing hospital staff. In the Government's view, it is therefore necessary to adopt the same approach to those employees as that adopted for contract staff. The Amendment before your Lordships achieves the first leg of this by devolving the relevant sections of the 1977 Act to the Assembly. A later Amendment to Schedule 11 will give the power of direction over Assembly regulations to the Secretary of State. I beg to move.


May I thank the noble Lord for the very clear explanation which he has given of the reasons for a further part of the National Health Service being devolved in this way. As he knows there was some concern expressed by the British Medical Association particularly the Welsh branch, on this matter. So I am grateful to the Government for making this further part of the National Health Service devolved to the Assembly in Wales.


It is with some diffidence that I enter into the intricacies of Schedule 2, but I do not find the explanations that we are receiving highly enlightening, although I know that they are very erudite. The position, as I see it, is this. I want to take up what the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, said, because I also received a deputation last week from the medical fraternity in Wales. It was a very interesting one which I think will be of interest to your Lordships, both generally and, in particular, on this Amendment.

Three of them came; the Secretary of the British Medical Association himself, the Welsh Secretary of the British Medical Association and the Chairman of the Consultants' Committee in Wales—a fairly representative lot. But being inquisitive, I asked them to what extent they felt that they represented the medical profession in Wales, and said that once I knew that we could go on talking. They said that, without embarrassment, they represented 95 per cent. of the profession in Wales, and it is on that basis that I am mentioning these few facts. They then said that, of course, they would have preferred that nothing at all should be devolved medically, but having looked through what had been devolved there were only two items to which they really objected. The first was the four lines referred to in this Amendment, and the second was Amendment No. 112B, which will be dealt with later by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and which I do not intend to touch. However, they looked at these four lines and said that they did not wish this matter to be devolved.

As noble Lords will see, this refers to the National Health Service Act 1977. Thanks to the kindness of my noble friend Lord Hill of Luton, I discovered, in the intricacies of that Act, that Schedule 5 relates to the qualification of persons employed as officers of authority, to the requirement to employ persons of prescribed qualifications and experience and to the method of appointment. This is an entirely different matter from the last Amendment which dealt with mercenary matters, such as terms and conditions of service—in other words, with money. This Amendment deals with standards. Surely to Heaven we do not want to adopt standards in Wales for the appointment of consultants and doctors which are different from those which obtain in the rest of the country. Those representatives, representing 95 per cent. of the profession in Wales, felt very keenly that this would be the wrong thing to do, and were all in favour of what they called universality. They wanted much more of it, but they wanted it particularly in this respect.

I should like to quote what was said yesterday by the noble Baroness. I think I am right in saying that she said that the essence of this Bill is to devolve to the Assembly matters which are essentially Welsh. Nothing in the world can make these four lines essentially Welsh. If we are to have good medicine in this country, that applies to the whole country, without exception. And that includes Wales.

I hope that the Government will give very serious consideration to this Amendment. If the Amendment were passed, it would place responsibility for the consultants' advisory appointments machinery upon the Assembly instead of upon the Secretary of State. Noble Lords will or will not know, as the case may be, that that responsibility which is placed upon the Secretary of State means that he must consult the profession before he changes the routine for appointing consultants. There would be no such cover if this Amendment were to be adopted. Therefore, I very much hope that your Lordships will consider this matter very seriously. It is a point of prime importance. I am not particularly interested in the terms and conditions of appointment, but I am very interested that the standards of medicine should he kept at the top throughout the country.

6.13 p.m.


I should like to emphasise what has been said by both noble Lords, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Porritt, with regard to British medical standards. We have been concerned recently with the Medical Act, which passed through a metamorphosis in your Lordships' House. Great improvements were made to it during its passage through both Houses, to the great benefit of all branches of the medical and dental professions in the United Kingdom and to the great benefit also of doctors who practice in the EEC. I believe that the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Portrait, to the consultants'advisory appointments machinery is of special importance—so much so that we on these Benches adopt his point of view. This is a matter of the greatest concern.

The arguments have been put forward with care. It is a matter of great professional importance. The delegation which attended upon the noble Lord, Lord Portrait, put forward fairly and squarely the case to which noble Lords have listened. I am totally convinced that the professions are right and that the Government are wrong.


Having heard the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, I am bound to say that in expounding his position he seemed to fall below his usual level of clarity. As I understand it, this Amendment ends the position under which standards and modes of appointment of consultants are excluded and devolves them to the Assembly. However, a subsequent Amendment, Amendment No. 112A, which is crucial, makes it clear that this area is added to that in respect of which the Secretary of State may make regulations. Therefore, the net effect is, first, to pass to the Assembly the responsibility for ensuring that consultants are of a proper standard and, having done that, to say that the Secretary of State, by regulation, may control what the Assembly does in this arena.

I am bound to ask: why go through this process? If, as I understand it, the Government accept, and I warmly agree with them, that there should be a common high standard for the whole Island, in seeking to achieve that high standard—dare I say this as a former Minister for Welsh Affairs? but I think that it is particularly important in the case of Wales because of the nature of the area and the tendency in the past for its more brilliant people, such as Dan Davies and Horace Evans (we can all think of names) to migrate to London—it is particularly important that the standards for consultants in Wales should be no less high than they are for the rest of the Island.

Why say, first, that this shall go from Regional and Area Health Authorities to the Assembly and that then the Secretary of State will tell the Assembly what to do? Why not leave the position as it is? If, in fact, the Secretary of State acts, this devolution is bogus. It is stated here that the Secretary of State may make regulations. He may have a recalcitrant Assembly—which, after all, will be a politically composed body, the last body in the world to which to delegate professional standards. The Secretary of State may act. Let us assume that he does.

What is the purpose of it all? Is it to convince the Welsh that the Assembly is acquiring powers and responsibilities of importance? And are the Government hoping that they will not read the clause which states that the Secretary of State shall tell them what to do under this heading? If that is the effect of it all, it involves no change. It is of no significance. It is merely bogus—to blind those who are praying for more and more devolution. What we are doing is giving them the semblance of devolution while denying them any possibility of acting in this field. I put it rather strongly because I want to put it clearly. I hope that the Minister will state, without any qualification, the intention to maintain the same standards for consultants and specialists in Wales as for the rest of the Island. If he accepts that, why not leave the position where it is?

May I make just one more point. At the moment, the responsibility for the appointment of consultants rests with those regional and area bodies that are running the National Health Service. That is the place where responsibility should reside. Appointments should be made by those who know the circumstances and the needs of their particular hospitals. One ought not to remove that responsibility to any body that is distant from the body that is running the National Health Service.

Therefore, I am bound to ask: if the assurance is given that the intention is to sustain the standards that obtain today, why not leave the responsibility where it now is rather than engage in this transparently bogus effort of transferring the responsibility to the Assembly and then, by means of a second Amendment, nipping in with the authority of the Secretary of State who will tell it what to do? It does not make sense. May I ask the noble Lord to look at this point. We do not want unreality. We want the standards of consultants and specialists in Wales to be maintained, in the interests of the Welsh people, at the level which obtains in the Island as a whole.


The noble Lord has made a very strong speech. He began by saying that I had not achieved my usual level of clarity. I am glad that there was a usual level of clarity; I take that as a compliment. I do not think that the noble Lord listened very carefully to the long statement which I made on the previous Amendment which explains exactly what this is about, and I cannot justify the Government adopting this admittedly elaborate system except by going through the argument again. I would ask the noble Lord to read it tomorrow in Hansard, and he will find that we are trying to do exactly what he has asked us to do. But we are also trying to give the Assembly the necessary powers to run the National Health Service properly, and these two issues, the settling of pay limits, first, for consultants and, secondly, for hospital doctors, run counter to the desire to devolve those things which are associated with pay. I went into this in great detail. We take the view that we have to find a way of reconciling these two things. I do not pretend that this is simple; I said from the beginning that it is complicated.

I resent the suggestion that it is bogus—which it certainly is not—and I hope that the Committee will give the Government credit for having adopted an elaborate system to do something which they did not see how they could do in any other way. To leave the matter as it is will not do. I explained why it will not do—because there are a number of functions connected with remuneration which must be in the hands of the Assembly who are responsible for running the National Health Service as a whole. The noble Lord will find all this carefully written out in tomorrow's Hansard. I hope that the Committee will accept my Amendment, and after it has had the opportunity to study it it can always come back on Report and do more if it wants to.

I think I should emphasis again the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, which the noble Lord, Lord Portrait, did not make, that this is the first leg of two Amendments. Consultants' pay will be subject to direction by the DHSS as for other doctors. The GMC and the regulation of the profession are not devolved. Without going through my original arguments in detail again I do not think I can take this any further.


The noble Lord has invited the Committee to accept this Amendment on the basis that he has proposed, and of course it is up to your Lordships to take the course you will. But the advice from this side of the Committee would be that it would be very much better if the Government were to think fit to withdraw the Amendment at this stage so that we can all have the advantage of reading the statement, and, further, the very interesting speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Hill of Luton, Lord Portrait, and other contributors. If the Government were so minded to press this Amendment this evening we would feel constrained to vote against it.


I accept that position. A strong case has been put, with which I do not agree, but that does not make it any the less strong. I think when noble Lords read the case they will agree with me. I do not want to force a Division at this stage. I will take the thing away and look at it again and bring it forward, I should think in almost exactly the same form, at a later stage.


I listened with great care to the statement made by the noble Lord in relation to a previous Amendment, but it had no bearing on the points I raised. I really want to know what is the advantage to Wales in this system. What is the Assembly going to do? It is directed by the Secretary of State to apply standards; it has to set up an apparatus, an interviewing body, a selecting body. That already exists with the Regional and Area Health Authorities. Why duplicate it? It might quarrel with the Secretary of State. Secretaries of State might give way—they have been known to do so. What is the advantage to Wales in going through this exercise of apparently devolving the responsibility in this area, moving it from area and regional bodies to the Assembly and then enabling, empowering, the Secretary of State to tell the Assembly what it can do? It seems to me to have no advantage except to create an appointing structure which is parallel to the existing structure and which is removed and unrelated to the Hospital Service itself.

With the greatest—I will not say humility for I find that very difficult —but with the greatest interest, may I say that the noble Lord's statement was beautifully obscure and, if I may respectfully submit, has no bearing on the points which my noble friend and I have made; and I doubt whether my careful reading of it in Hansard tomorrow will add to the illumination, modest as it is, that he has provided on this topic.


Modest illumination is better than none and I hope that this modest illumination will illumine the noble Lord's study. I shall not use the same arguments but will just repeat that the objective of the devolution Bill is that certain things which concern Wales shall be given to the Welsh Assembly to do. Running the National Health Service is one of them. I have explained—in a way which some people have found obscure; and I apologies for that—why it is impossible to do this without interfering in some way with the remuneration of doctors, dentists, pharmacists, et cetera, and we do not want to do that. We have therefore designed a way round it. I shall not go further into it—we can discuss it again—but, with the leave of the House, I will withdraw this Amendment and re-submit it later.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.28 p.m.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 46, leave out lines 34 and 35.

The noble Lord said: We now move from the, I am sure, engrossing matters of medicine into the not quite unrelated matters of pollution—and I see the noble Baroness in her place so we can start off. I think we can start by getting some measure of agreement between all sides of the Committee that Amendment No. 48 in fact refers to the cornerstone of all our modern laws on pollution. This is the Alkali Works Regulation Act which, among other things, set up the Alkali Inspectorate. I should like to ask the Government several questions on this point. Seeing that it is the cornerstone of pollution I should have thought that this was the opportunity to get the Government to justify devolving the whole section of pollution to the Welsh Assembly. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to do this.

So far as the Act itself goes, the Alkali Inspectorate which it sets up is the hardest working body of men I have ever encountered. It has an inspectorate of 11 men whose job it is to regulate the emissions into the atmosphere, and the workings of certain chemical works; to advise them on the best way of keeping pollution to a minimum, and, if necessary, to enforce their advice by statute. It would seem to me that if this matter is devolved we are likely to have two inspectorates, one for Wales and one for the United Kingdom. I rather wonder, in spite of the fact that many parts of Wales are fairly heavily industrialised, whether, with a population of only 2½ million, it is necessary to go to all this trouble and expense to set up a completely different inspectorate for Wales. Again I could well be wrong, as I have been on previous occasions on this Bill, but I do not regard that as any excuse for begging the question.

Emissions to the atmosphere know absolutely no boundaries at all. As many noble Lords will know, this has been brought out recently in the complaint by the Scandinavian countries that our sulphur dioxide was in great part wafting over the sea to them. That has been borne out in practice and we know about the chemical tests that have been made. If it can go that long way to Scandinavia, surely to goodness it can cross a border which is less than a mile wide in many places and sometimes only yards wide—from Wales into England. I should like the Government to justify their position on this particular part of the pollution Acts. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

This is the first of a series of Amendments on pollution and it might be helpful if I were to take a rather wide-ranging view to start with and to say what we had in our minds when this part of the Schedule was prepared, and then come to the individual Amendments as we go through them. We have transferred to the Assembly a very wide range of ministerial functions which relate to pollution. Principally these relate to sewerage, sewage treatment and disposal—and some of those functions we shall also be dealing with in Part XI of Schedule 2—the pollution of water, the collection and disposal of waste and the disposal of abandoned vehicles; the control of public health nuisances, including offensive trades; environmental noise, air pollution and the work of the Health and Safety Executive Commission in Wales so far as it relates to air pollution. On all the other matters except air pollution the Commission will remain responsible to the Government. The entries in the second column of Part VII exclude ministerial functions relating to the following: the control of pollution from motor vehicles, aircraft and hovercraft, because this type of control has implications for vehicle or craft design and therefore for trade requirements and for safety. International conventions are usually in the background of these particular items and it is not intended to transfer powers, such as the powers for setting the maximum noise on emission limits and so to proliferate the number of standards that are applicable even within the United Kingdom.

They are also excluding from being devolved to the Assembly pollution from ships, except that it is reasonable to give the Assembly functions in respect of pollution of inland waters and those aspects of pollution from ships which by existing legislation are regarded as suitable for local control, and these will be transferred. We are also not devolving the design, production and use standards in relation to pollution for goods and substances which are widely traded. They require uniform treatment for safety purposes, and again they also involve international conventions. Exclusions under the entry of the Control of Pollution Act of 1974 relating to sulphur in fuel oil and lead in petrol in Sections 75 and 76 are two instances of what falls into this category.

We are also not devolving the dumping of waste or sewage sludge or the discharging of oil at sea. These matters are closely connected with sea fisheries and the oil development policy, which are not devolved and again are also concerned with the implementation of international conventions.

We are also not devolving certain aspects of waste disposal which relate very closely to the production of energy and therefore to the overall energy policy, for which the Government remain responsible. For example, production by local authorities of heat or electricity from waste under Section 21 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, and the control of waste storage and disposal from the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority sites and sites licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act of 1965—that is nuclear processing plants and electricity generating stations. The standards set for waste disposal for major nuclear installations affect the economic and the technical feasibility of nuclear energy production. However, the Assembly will be responsible for control of storage and for the use of radioactive substances for all other purposes, as for the control of other kinds of waste. There are also certain consequential Amendments to the Health and Safety at Work Act, which we shall come to later.

So far as this particular Amendment is concerned, pollution is of course primarily a local matter. It is true that some aspects of pollution, like those that I have referred to with radioactive waste, have wider United Kingdom implications. Most forms of pollution are of very real concern to those who live near the source but are of relatively little significance to those who live a long way away. So the approach of the Bill is to transfer to the Assembly the great majority of ministerial functions in respect of pollution and generally the functions to be transferred are those that are currently exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales. So they have already been recognised as being suitable for a decentralized Administration to cope with, and the effect of the Bill is to add political devolution to the existing administrative devolution.

The matters in respect of which functions are to be transferred include, as I have said, sewerage, waste disposal, clean air and water purity and the Assembly's powers to control pollution will form a very important part of a wider coherent group which also includes land use planning and water and land drainage, to which we shall come later on this evening. Therefore the Assembly will be well placed to pursue a comprehensive environmental policy tailored to the needs of Wales.

The approach of the Bill to pollution is necessarily different from that in the Scotland Bill. That Bill devolved a general competence over pollution matters covering both the existing ministerial functions and legislative powers, but the Wales Bill is concerned only with the existing ministerial functions and these can only be transferred to the Assembly if we list all the enactments concerned. The sum of the provisions which are devolved or reserved by silence in the Scotland Bill must be itemized in the Wales Bill, but there are some aspects of pollution for which the Scotland Bill only devolves executive powers and in those instances we are treating the two Bills the same.

As the noble Lord has said, this particular Amendment is concerned with the Alkali et cetera, Works Regulation Act of 1906. Much of that Act has already been repealed or amended and, of what remains, only Sections 9 and 22 contain any ministerial functions. Section 9 is concerned with the registration of alkali works, cement works, smelting works and the other works listed in the Schedule to the Act. It is an offence for such works to be carried out without a certificate of registration and a certificate may only be issued for new works if the requirements of the Act have been met.

The ministerial functions are those of prescribing the particulars to be registered, the manner in which the register shall be conducted and the manner of application for, and the issuing of, the certificates. Section 22 provides that the Minister must hold an inquiry when complaints have been made by the local authority or the local inhabitants about pollution in contravention of the Act. He may then direct that any necessary action should be taken. The functions in both of these sections which are now to be devolved were originally exercised by the Local Government Board and they now lie with the Secretary of State for Wales. The other functions in the Act which were originally those of the Local Government Board have now passed to the Health and Safety Executive. So the effect of the Amendment as we have it before us today would be to reserve these functions, and the Government think they are essentially of a local nature and therefore stand to be much more suitably devolved.

So far as the Alkali Inspectorate is concerned, those functions are now carried out by the Health and Safety Executive. Although the Assembly will have some responsibility for the Health and Safety Executive's pollution activities, the Executive will remain a single and undivided body. There will be no splitting up into two inspectorates.


In view of the fact that the Minister went a little wide and was kind enough to go a little deeper than the Committee point that was mentioned, in the course of perhaps two minutes I should like to refer, in passing, to the new White Paper on the water industry in England and Wales. I am pleased to see on page 7 of that White Paper that, when discussing the position of Wales, in their devolution proposals the Government have sought to provide for a genuine measure of devolution and for reserved powers. The Welsh National Water Development Authority and the Severn Trent Authority would be answerable within Wales to the Welsh Assembly rather than to the Government. Here is the 64,000 dollar point. Nothing in the proposals would change the settled principle that river basins should be managed as complete units.

The areas of both authorities would, therefore, remain unchanged. The geological facts of nature exist. The River Severn can be polluted by farmers or other people higher up in the English part of it, or by the riparian authorities on that part of it, and affect Wales. Unless we have a universal policy for the whole of the river area, despite the human artificial boundaries that are made, nature's boundaries are much more important. Consequently, we must not, in our attempt to please my own people, the Welsh, evolve a devolution policy that will be a patchwork quilt that will be little better than nothing so far as the river basins are concerned, and the control of pollution in those areas. With that, I think I have said enough.


The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, has pre-empted me on at least four Amendments which I was hoping to be able to speak to tonight. I am grateful because this means that the proceedings of the Committee will be considerably speeded up. He was in fact referring, in that particular intervention, to my Amendment No. 51, which we come to a little later on. I must thank the noble Baroness for being so very explicit at the outset, and even going further than my exploratory remarks would have indicated.

However, she is of the opinion that the pollution measures referred to in this Bill are of two kinds. One consists of the purely local pollution aspects, and the other consists of the EEC and international treaty obligations. With regard to the local pollution, I do not think anybody who has the heart of the matter of devolution in hand, whether in Wales, or Scotland or Yorkshire or Kent, or wherever else it may happen to be, would argue that it is wrong for local people to have as close an involvement with their local affairs as is possible. I am convinced in my own mind that this is absolutely right. And they would equally not argue, I think, that the EEC and international obligations are the responsibility, and should forever be the responsibility, of the United Kingdom Government. However, where we are talking about emissions into the atmosphere, the noble Baroness said that the closer you are to the source the more likely you are to suffer from pollution. Am I paraphrasing her words correctly?

Baroness STEDMAN

I said that those people who were nearest to the pollution were the ones who were most concerned about it. It was of more concern to the people in the immediate locality than to someone 100 miles away. I accept that there are instances where pollution can go downstream and affect people some way away. But, basically, the source of the pollution, with smoke emission and things like that, is where people are most affected by it and likely to get most worked up about it.


The people who get worked up, I would say, are not so much the people who live in the immediate area where the pollution is produced, but the people who are affected by it, who are not necessarily the people who live in the immediate area. Where we are talking about air pollution, for example, lead pollution from Avon mouth —I agree that it is not in Wales, but the same principle would apply in Wales—because of the tall chimneys that are needed, we do not have pollution affecting people in the immediate vicinity but we have pollution affecting people some distance away. Where we are talking about air pollution, I would wonder whether there was not a very good reason for keeping this matter in the hands of the Central Government.


I think there is a general principle which the noble Lord is adducing by implication; that is, that England is almost always downwind and downstream of Wales. It is very rarely downwind of Scotland and almost never downstream of it. I do not know whether the noble Baroness is familiar with Oxford. If she has ever picked blackberries on Boar's Hill in the days before they put filters on the chimneys at Pressed Steel—I do not know whether or not they have put them on—she will remember that the blackberries were inedible from the side of the hedge that faced the factory, but not on the other. If she has ever walked in the Norwegian uplands, she would have discovered that certain flora, and even fauna, are being killed off by increasing acidity of what we would call the towns up in the uplands, and that acidity is blown there from places like the Pressed Steel factory. So there is considerable force in what my noble friend is saying; that is, that certain forms of pollution are of much greater concern to those at a distance from its source than to those who live immediately beneath it.

Baroness STEDMAN

The basic pollution from chimneys in one area coming to another will still be covered by whichever part of the country they are in, either by the English Secretary of State, or, if it is being devolved, by the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Assembly. The things we have given to them are the things which the present Welsh Office are responsible for, no more no less. The things which they are handling at the moment they will handle through the Welsh Assembly instead of through the Secretary of State and the United Kingdom Government in the future. My noble friend Lord Davies brought in the water situation rather early, and I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, that he has rather pre-empted some Amendments that are coming later, and we might discuss them when we get to them.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. She has certainly set my mind at rest that in fact the ministerial responsibilities only are going to be devolved to the Assembly. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 46, leave out line 37 and insert ("61, 62, 64, 67, 69 and 70(2)").

The noble Lord said: I hope I am not going to be accused in your Lordships' House of being a hybrid, in this case between my two noble friends, Lord Elton, who had a whole string of Amendments last night of specific detail, and my noble friend Lord O'Hagan this afternoon, who is very much a "lumper" rather than a "splitter" by nature. However, if I am so classed, perhaps it could be as an F1 hybrid and not any other sort. We now come to Amendment No. 49, which concerns the Public Health Act 1936. All the sections which are to be reserved relate to by-laws. Since the noble Baroness and I have, I think, come to the understanding that local affairs are quite rightly to be devolved, I wanted to know on this occasion why in fact by-laws should be reserved to the Secretary of State and not devolved to the Assembly. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

Let me first explain the subject matter. Sections 53 and 61 to 71 of the Public Health Act 1936 are concerned with building regulations. Building regulations are currently administered on an England and Wales basis, and, although provision was made in the Scotland and Wales Bill for their devolution, the Government had second thoughts about it and on reflection decided that they were more suitably reserved so that the same regulations would continue to operate throughout the whole of the country. The Wales Bill accordingly excludes from the functions of the Assembly all those provisions in the Public Health Act, which deal with building regulations. Similar exclusions are made for building regulations provisions in the Public Health Act 1961; and the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 dealing with the matter are not devolved.

The entry in the Bill for the Public Health Act excludes from devolution, the functions under sections 53 and 61 to 71". This Amendment proposes an alternative way of expressing this exclusion, and its sponsors have clearly done some considerable research into what has gone into the Bill. They have discovered that some of these sections have been repealed— for example, Section 63—and that others contain no ministerial functions—for example, Section 65. Accordingly they offer a proposed Amendment which tries to itemise the sections which need to be reserved rather than dealing with them in a block.

The Government's general approach is that, where they are devolving any block of powers, they try to do so in general terms and without itemising. This makes it easier for the reader, who can see that all ministerial functions within that block are being dealt with as a block. He does not have to contemplate the awesome task of making sense of an Act where one power is devolved, the next reserved, and so on. When reserving functions, the same technique can be used—although it is in fact used a little more sparingly for the sake of absolute precision. The risks of trying to itemise within a block are shown by this Amendment. Three words expand into seven—and there is a mistake, because Section 69 was repealed by the Public Health Act 1961.

If we apply the technique of this Amendment throughout Schedule 2, we may help the reader in places; but we should certainly extend the length of the Bill and I cannot think that overall it would be a success. However, I should tell the Committee, and the noble Lord, that as a result of his Amendment we have had a look at the matter and we have formed a doubt over one of the functions that we have put into this block. Therefore, with the permission of the noble Lord, if he would like to withdraw his Amendment now, we shall come back on Report and redefine the block.


I am astounded. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness that at least my homework has, in fact, prompted some equally assiduous homework by somebody else. I most certainly seek leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.54 p.m.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 47, leave out lines 2 to 11.

The noble Lord said: I do not think that I shall be quite so successful with this Amendment, but we shall see. With the permission of the Committee I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 53, 54A and parts of 55. They are all concerned with the Radioactive Substances Acts 1948 and 1960. The problems which occurred to me—in spite of what the noble Baroness said when she introduced the series of Amendments on pollution—were, as I understood her, that the control of radioactive substances in nuclear power stations and major Government or pseudo-Government works were to be reserved and everything else such as hospitals, perhaps garages and spas (which I understand also occasionally give radioactive readings) were to be the prerogative of the Welsh Assembly. It strikes me that these minor outpourings of radioactivity should be correctly devolved to the Assembly. However, I wonder whether hospitals are such a minor outpouring. Perhaps the noble Baroness would care to enlighten me. I beg to move.


I rise to support the Amendment so ably proposed by my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale. Radioactive substances must be a matter of considerable public importance following in the wake of the Wind scale Inquiry presided over by Mr. Justice Parker. If it is proposed at some future date to run and manage a nuclear laundry in some part of the United Kingdom it gives very considerable rise to public concern and, indeed, the whole question of radioactive substances to which my noble friend referred.

I should particularly like to stress the situation that existed when we last discussed the Medicines (Radioactive Substances) Order 1978 on 3rd May. The noble Baroness may or may not have been present at that time, but the order was laid in regard to Directive 76/579 of Euratom. We are involved in treaty obligations which relate to the meeting of the Council of the European Communities on 1st June 1976 and our specific obligations may, in this particular regard, conflict. I have not had the time or the opportunity to investigate it in the fullest detail, but I should like at this stage—because this is in the nature of a probing Amendment—to draw the attention of the noble Baroness to this particular aspect of the situation which does perhaps merit some further investigation.

The Department of Health and Social Security has as regards this particular area, a special body known as the Isotope Advisory Panel. Its work naturally relates to such bodies and hospitals in the United Kingdom as the Hammersmith Hospital. But, of course, from hospitals which are concerned with material which combines radioactivity with treatment there will inevitably be waste material for disposal. In that particular regard the noble Baroness has clearly indicated that it is a reserved power. However, there are situations in which an accident occurs. It would be for the benefit of allaying public anxiety in this particular area if we could probe and investigate the situation in a little more depth at this stage.

We have tabled a number of further Amendments in this particular area to which my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale has already referred. He referred to one particular aspect; namely, natural sources of nuclear radiation. I mention, more for humorous participation at this point than anything else, that if we took a Geiger counter into the pump room at Bath we would get a very small positive radiation reading.

It may well be that one of the functions of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority is to carry out suitable monitoring of sites around the United Kingdom. It may be that the public are unaware of all its activities in regard to the monitoring of the disposal sites of nuclear waste from power stations. However, I think we should investigate this subject in the fullest detail when it comes to a matter of devolution.


I may have misunderstood the admirable general introduction given by the noble Baroness in dealing with this part of the Bill. I should like to ask her whether, since the excluded functions have been drafted, full consideration has been given to Mr. Justice Parker's report on the Wind scale Inquiry and also whether the EEC Directives in relation to radioactive substances have also been considered in reaching the conclusions that the Government have so far come to in regard to excluded functions.

Baroness STEDMAN

Yes; we appreciate that this is a very sensitive subject. When we talk about nuclear energy, nuclear waste and so on, it arouses very deep emotions in people. We are aware of what is contained in the Wind scale Report; we have taken note of that and we have considered the EEC Regulations.

As regards the general Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, the Radioactive Substances Act 1948 contains certain powers which, we think, fall naturally to the Assembly as part of its wider responsibilities for pollution and health. There are also other parts of it and other powers which have a much wider implication for energy policy and for national safety, such as the dangerous loads and how we deal with them and escapes from accidents and so on; powers for controlling those are wholly reserved. The Wales Bill has been selective in the functions under the Act to be transferred to the Assembly.

For example, we provide for the transfer to the Assembly of the function under Section 3 of the Act of licensing medical and dental practitioners who may supply radioactive substances to be injected or taken internally. But Section 2, which concerns the import and the export of the radioactive substances, is reserved because it has international implications. Section 5(2), which concerns the transport of radioactive substances and the possibility of accidents and leaks, is reserved because of its safety implications. Ancillary enforcement and regulation-making powers in Sections 7 and 9 are also reserved in respect of these two provisions.

Hospitals will be dealt with by regulations which will be made by the Assembly, but they will be covered by regulations. Section 5(1)(6) requires special treatment because this is the provision under which regulations can be made for the disposal of radioactive waste. This is reserved so far as the waste is from sites of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority or sites which have been licensed under the Nuclear Installations (Licensing and Insurance) Act 1965. This Act is itself not listed in Schedule 2 and therefore is reserved. So the disposal of radioactive waste is effectively reserved for all significant producers of that type of waste. For example, it would be reserved for nuclear power stations, reprocessing plants and research establishments. It would be devolved only for minor users of radioactive material, such as hospitals or even the spa in Bath referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys.

We believe that the Bill's treatment of the 1948 Act strikes the right balance between the Assembly's health and pollution responsibilities and the much wider Government responsibility for national safety and energy policy.


Once again, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, but I am afraid that on this occasion I have simply been unable to follow her particularly closely. Perhaps the imminent arrival of dinner has something to do with it. However, I seek your Lordships' leave to withdraw this Amendment on the understanding that I can read the remarks made by the noble Baroness much more thoroughly and perhaps return to this matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.