HL Deb 15 June 1978 vol 393 cc594-670

House again in Committee on Schedule 2.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 47, leave out lines 12 and 13.

The noble Lord said: I had understood that we were having a change of voice and that my noble friend Lord Tweeddale was to move the Amendment, but it seems that I have got my wires crossed. The Amendment relates to the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts 1951 to 1961. We have already had a rapid intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and I am sorry that he is not at present in his place and so will not be able to give us the benefit of his advice on this occasion. This question raises the whole subject of devolution of matters relating to water, but I wish to remind your Lordships that we are dealing with pollution at this stage, and I should he happy to leave the matter at pollution for the moment—I see the noble Baroness nodding —and not get involved with the wider aspects, which we shall reach later.

My question here relates particularly to the downstream concept, which my noble friend Lord Sandys mentioned in connection with another Amendment. We are concerned with the fact that rivers are no respecters of boundaries, and pollution in one country can very quickly, and even more definitely, affect the populace on the other bank of the river, which in the case of the Severn is bound to be in a different country. I am interested to note that the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts do not appear at all in the Scotland Bill. The second prong of my question is concerned with knowing exactly why this is so, and whether there is any relevance that I should adduce from this fact. I beg to move.

8.10 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

The Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts 1951 to 1961 are primarily concerned with the control of the discharge of effluent into rivers. The powers of control are largely exercised by water authorities, but the Acts also contain a number of ministerial functions. For instance, Section 6 of the 1961 Act contains a power of appeal to the Minister against unreasonable action by a water authority under either of the two Acts. The ministerial powers under these Acts, which are currently exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales, are essentially local powers which cohere with the other water and pollution matters for which the Assembly will be responsible. So the Government's view is that the powers under these Acts are suitable for transfer to the Assembly, and that the entry for them in the Bill should be allowed to stand. So far as Scotland is concerned, this is devolved in the Scotland Bill.


Once again I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply and for putting me right on the Scotland Bill. However, she said that ministerial powers are to be devolved, and from that I assume ministerial powers only; but I see no excluded functions in column 2 of this part of the Schedule. Does that mean that the Acts are concerned only with ministerial functions, or are there others which we should know about?

Baroness STEDMAN

There are only ministerial Acts which are concerned with this, and at the moment we are in the process of some change so far as the Acts are concerned. The 1951 Act and the 1961 Act are both to be repealed by order under the Control of Pollution Act 1974. These repeals have yet to be completed; they have not been finished. At the moment all we are concerned with is the ministerial functions, and they will be sorted out when all these repeals and orders have gone through.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Marquess of TWEEDDALE had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 52:

Page 47, leave out line 20.

The noble Marquess said: This Amendment was put down because it appeared that the matter was devolved in Scotland but not in Wales. It has already been explained by the noble Baroness, so I do not propose to move it.

[Amendment No. 53 not moved.]

8.13 p.m.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 54:

Page 47, leave out lines 31 to 36.

The noble Lord said: I warned your Lordships before dinner that we would be verging on health yet again in this section, and indeed we are. We now turn to the Health and Safety at Work Act, which is not quite as clear-cut as one might think from the Title, because not only does it involve health and safety at work but it also involves the control of certain emissions into the atmosphere. I have gone into various sections fairly thoroughly, but the one which particularly concerns me at the moment is Section 20(3), which, by extension, now provides that the Assembly may direct the procedures for taking samples. To me, this means that the advice of the Assembly in the shape of civil servants (if that amorphous mass actually has a shape) will be quite definitely needed by the Assembly. This Amendment really is to probe what civil servants the Assembly will be able to draw on: whether they will be taken from the existing Civil Service in London or whether in fact new civil servants with specialized knowledge will have to be created. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

Perhaps it might be helpful, now that we have reached this stage of the health and safety matters, if I talked widely for a moment about the Amendments concerned with the Health and Safety at Work Act. When we come to Schedule 11, in paragraphs 80 to 83, there will be various consequential Amendments to the Health and Safety at Work Act, for various purposes. They are, first, to ensure that, despite the transfer of the powers under Section 14 relating to the holding of public inquiries, such inquiries held in Wales can be held in private at the instance of either the Assembly or the Secretary of State for purposes such as national defence reasons, and things like that; also, to ensure that appeals against licensing requirements for industrial emission control purposes under Section 44 can go to the Assembly instead of the Secretary of State; and to enable the Secretary of State to continue to secure Crown exemption from regulations which are made by the Assembly in the interests of the State or the safe custody of prisoners. Then, the powers under Section 48(4) otherwise pass to the Assembly, which is in paragraph 87. The power to make the orders under Section 84(3) extends to the provisions of Parts I and II of the Act to apply outside Great Britain; that is, in territorial waters. That is not transferred, but paragraph 83 will enable the Government, in extending the remit of the Act, to extend the power of the Assembly to apply to new areas. That is covering the whole field of health and safety at work.

The Assembly will be advised by the Health and Safety Executive on all these matters. At the moment the Health and Safety at Work Act contains a miscellany of matters, and the functions in relation to most of them will be reserved. For example, there is no devolution in relation to the safety of factory machinery. But the Act also deals with the pollution of the atmosphere. Most importantly, Section 5 places a duty on employers to prevent harmful emissions into the atmosphere. This aspect of the Act is the one which coheres with the other pollution functions which have been transferred, like those under the Clean Air Acts. The entry for the Health and Safety at Work Act therefore transfers to the Assembly those functions which may he exercised in relation to pollution from the atmosphere. These include the power to prescribe premises, to make regulations and to provide for enforcement. But all these powers are reserved so far as they apply to every other aspect of the Act. Similarly, the Health and Safety Commission and Executive will be responsible to the Assembly for aspects of its work dealing with pollution of the atmosphere, but otherwise will be responsible to the Government.

We think it is right that responsibility for the atmospheric pollution aspects ought to be transferred to the Assembly. These raise local considerations which we think are perhaps better dealt with at local level. If they were to be reserved, as the Amendment as it stands proposes, then the Assembly's ability to do anything to combat pollution would be weakened to some extent. So for the most part the Assembly will be advised by the Health and Safety Executive, and will have the right to call on their advisers, their civil servants, or whatever one may call them, in order to give them the advice to enable them to carry out those parts of the Act which are transferred to the Assembly.


I should like to intervene here for one second. I think this is a bit of mongrel, but the particular point I have to raise, which is perhaps a slightly naughty one, is that it appears here that the Secretary of State is going to act rather as a big brother to the Welsh Assembly. In fact, under Section 96, which is kept—that is, not devolved—he has the right to hold inquiries. I am sorry, but this seems to me very strange.


If my noble friend would be good enough to give way, I think he has got himself into a slight muddle. He is mixing up two Amendments. What he is in fact referring to is the next Amendment, on the Control of Pollution Acts.


I apologies to the Committee.


However, to return to health and safety at work, perhaps I may again thank the noble Baroness for her very full reply but ask another question under Section 15 of this Act. From my reading of the Bill, I understand that the health and safety regulations are to be made by the Assembly instead of the Secretary of State, and I think the noble Baroness referred to this point in her speech.

Baroness STEDMAN



We know, because we have been told many times during the course of this Bill so far, that the Assembly is not a legislative body. I wonder whether perhaps the noble Baroness would like to clarify this point for me.

Baroness STEDMAN

That is a good question. Those things which have been transferred to the Assembly will be the things which the Assembly can do and for which they can seek advice. In all other instances—and you can call him "Big Brother" if you like—lall the other powers are reserved to the Secretary of State. Therefore, those things which are a local pollution issue will be dealt with by the Assembly and anything outside that will still remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State. I do not think that the Secretary of State is going to act as a "Big Brother". What we are saying is that those things which are local to Wales itself and to your area, the Welsh Assembly will be responsible for; and those things which have wider national implications will still remain reserved and will be within the province of the Secretary of State. The noble Lord is looking puzzled. I am feeling equally so, for he is now making me worry about it. If he likes to leave it and let me have another look at it so that, if I can, I may clarify it more for him, I will do so between now and the next stage. I hope that we have got it right between us.


The noble Baroness expresses a hope. I, too, have great hopes but I shall have to reserve judgment until I read her reply in Hansard. It was a bit of a mouthful and on this occasion I do not feel that she was speaking from a position of particular strength. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.22 p.m.

Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 54A:

Page 47, leave out lines 37 to 52.

The noble Lord said: We return to the matter of radioactive substances, and I am sure that the Committee are very much obliged to the noble Baroness for what she said under our Amendment No. 50 in respect to the particular powers which were reserved. In this particular case, however, we are concerned with the Control of Pollution Act 1974, and once again I wish to refer the Committee to the problems which arise under the Euratom Directive. That is Directive 76/579, which was adopted in 1976.

Are we quite sure from the Government point of view that, where there is an articulation between the provisions of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 and the Control of Pollution Act 1974 when it comes to the situation as it stands today, the position is entirely in accordance with our Treaty obligations? I think it is important, particularly when we are concerned here with the dangers of ionizing radiation and the basic safety standards, that there is total satisfaction. If the Government could give that assurance it would be helpful.

Baroness STEDMAN

It seems to me that perhaps it might be helpful if we had now a speech to Amendment No. 55 which deals with the same point. It might be helpful if we were to hear now from the noble Lords responsible for Amendment No. 55. Perhaps I could then reply in a general debate, and we could decide how we go from there.


Far be it from me to disagree violently with the noble Baroness. I shall certainly say what I had to say on Amendment No. 55, but I do not think she will find it helpful. I have already spoken to the radioactive substances part of the Control of Pollution Act under Amendment No. 50. I was not proposing to go through it again, but if she would like me to carry on I will certainly do so.

Baroness STEDMAN

I thought it might be helpful if the other noble Lords associated with the Amendment wished to add to what the noble Lord said. If not, I will carry on. So far as concerns Amendment No. 54A and, to the same extent, Amendment No. 55, which the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, talked about, the purpose of both these Amendments is to probe the reasoning behind the entry in the Bill for the 1974 Act. Perhaps these are the last of the series of Amendments on pollution that we have before us tonight.

The Control of Pollution Act 1974 primarily concerns waste disposal, street cleaning and litter, water pollution, noise and atmospheric pollution. Many of its provisions replace provisions under earlier legislation which we have already discussed—notably the Alkali, etc Works Regulation Act and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts. But the process of commencement is not yet complete so the Bill must refer to both sets of legislation. Generally the existing ministerial functions under the 1974 Act concern essentially local matters which the Bill transfers to the Assembly as an important part of their wider pollution powers. For example, the Bill refers to the Assembly powers to determine appeals in respect of waste disposal licenses and in respect of water pollution measures, powers to confirm noise abatement orders, and powers to make regulations about the atmospheric pollution responsibilities of local authorities. However, the 1974 Act also concerns matters of wider United Kingdom significance and these are reserved by the entry in the Bill. For example, the power to apply the waste disposal provisions of the Act to radioactive waste which we discussed earlier, is reserved in respect of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and licensed nuclear sites. And powers in relation to fuel oil standards are reserved because of their implications for the oil industry and our energy policy.

The Bill, therefore, has been selective in the extent to which powers under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 are transferred to the Assembly, and the Government believe that we have struck the right balance between devolved and reserved interests. The Assembly must always conform with any requirements of the European Community and must exercise what functions are being given to them in accordance with those regulations from the European Community.


I am sorry to come in early on this Amendment, but I am still in a muddle over this. Am I right in assuming that, if there is any appeal or inquiry, it will be the Welsh Assembly who deals with it so far as the matters concerned are those that they hold, and that it will be the Secretary of State who will hold the inquiry on the matters that he retains? Is that correct? And will there be no power of the Secretary of State to judge on those matters or to hold an inquiry into those matters which relate to the Welsh Assembly?

Baroness STEDMAN

No. The Assembly is responsible for those things devolved to them and the Secretary of State for all other matters.


I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. This is an area of some complexity. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley brought out the matter of the initiators of inquiries. This, in itself, is a subject of considerable public concern and anxiety. I think that we have examined this to the extent that we wish for the time being and, reserving the position as it will be, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.29 p.m.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 47, leave out from beginning of line 37 to end of line 29 on page 48.

The noble Lord said: Notwithstanding the remarks we have all made on radioactive substances now and on several occasions, the number of exclusions from the Assembly in the Control of Pollution Act are so numerous as to make it almost a case of reverse listing. The noble Baroness, very generously, on the last Amendment has given the whole gamut of reasons for putting this particular Act within the remit of the Bill, and I am grateful. However, there is one particular query that I have in that the Secretary of State, if he is a polluter—and I would not necessarily say that he is likely to be a polluter, but he may be—has only himself to be answerable to; whereas under Section 80 (which is a reserved matter) the local authorities may by notice require the occupier of any premises to furnish such estimates of air pollution as may be required by them. That sounds a bit of a mouthful. I hope that it is clear.

By extension through this Bill, the Assembly may require the same of the local authorities. But—and this is my point—the Secretary of State will require the same as the Assembly. In other words, the Secretary of State is answerable to himself, the Assembly is answerable to the Secretary of State; the local authorities are answerable to the Assembly and the individual factory in the street is answerable to the local authorities. Am I muddled? Have I confused the Committee? I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

What we have attempted, and what we think we have done, is to strike the right balance between the devolved and the reserved interests. In those parts in which the Assembly has the powers to deal, it will act or take note or heed, or reprimand the authorities and will hold inquiries where there are any problems about pollution and where they have to be sorted out. The Assembly has the power in so far as its own functions which have been devolved to it are concerned. All other functions are left to the Secretary of State. It is only if there is something happening in the way of pollution within the area of Wales, which is still the responsibility of the Secretary of State, that they will he answerable to the Secretary of State and not to the Welsh Assembly; otherwise, they are answerable to the Welsh Assembly, not to both of them.


The penny has dropped! May I now return to Section 108 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. I am returning to an earlier point about legislation of the Assembly. I agree that it is subordinate legislation, but none the less it is legislation. Section 108 talks about the repeals of Acts and orders which have been made previously by Parliament. I understand that the Assembly will be able to repeal Acts and orders where they have become the responsibility of the Assembly and the Assembly does not like them. Otherwise, the noble Baroness has covered the points very well indeed.

Baroness STEDMAN

Any regulations which are going to be made by the Assembly are not primary legislation; they are made by Ministers, not Parliament. The Assembly will take over the Ministerial functions for those matters which are devolved to them.


I am very grateful once again to the noble Baroness. We seem to have completed this rapid marathon on pollution. We are all extremely grateful for the very full answers she has given us. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.33 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 48, line 29, at end insert—

("The Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978(c. 3). The power under section 13 so far as exercisable in relation to section 4(2)").

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment is required to take account of the fact that the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 has now received Royal Assent. It consolidated earlier legislation but involves no change of policy.

The Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act consolidates earlier provisions dealing with refuse disposal and the disposal of abandoned vehicles. Its sources are primarily the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and the Civic Amenities Act 1967, and the ministerial powers which are derived from these two Acts would have been transferred to the Assembly by virtue of existing entries for them in Parts VII and VIII of Schedule 2 to the Bill. The proposed new entry for the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act similarly transfers these same powers to the Assembly.

However, the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act also contains a power derived from the Vehicle and Driving Licenses Act 1969 to alter the basis on which a driving licenses is considered to be current. This is on a car found abandoned and which they have to dispose of. This power would have been reserved by the Bill as it stands, as part of the reservation of all matters relating to vehicle licenses and the column 2 exclusion in the new entry for the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act ensures that it remains reserved.

The Marquess of TWEEDDALE

I feel that this Amendment can do nothing but good. Wherever one goes in the country one sees vehicles parked by hedgerows, down lanes, by-ways and so on. Having read through the Bill, I find something missing. I find this rather worrying. The authorities have power to remove the vehicles for disposal. Nowhere in the Bill does it mention for how long the vehicle has to be abandoned. If somebody's car breaks down in the evening and the vehicle cannot be repaired until the following day or a couple of days later, it might be removed.


Has not the noble Baroness now solved the parking problem in Cardiff?

Baroness STEDMAN

I am sure what the noble Marquess fears is not likely to happen, so long as it is a car which has obviously broken down and looks in reasonable condition. Inquiries would be made regarding ownership and why the vehicle had been left. This provision concerns vehicles which have been abandoned in ditches but which still have driving licenses on them. I will certainly look at the point to see whether we can do anything to help the noble Marquess.

The Marquess of TWEEDDALE

I understand that, but the noble Baroness can never have lived on Mull, otherwise she would not have made that remark about the condition of the cars!

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

8.38 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 56A:

Page 49, leave out lines 29 to 32.

The noble Baroness said: This is a probing Amendment wanting some explanation. It is a rather esoteric point, so I shall understand if an answer is not available immediately. Perhaps I could have one in writing or at the next stage of the Bill. The Opencast Coal Act, to which this Amendment refers, provides for the compulsory acquisition by the National Coal Board of rights over land and payment of compensation. Section 39(6), which has been devolved, gives the Welsh Assembly certain powers which relate to the rights of the National Coal Board to enter any land and make bore-holes—that is in effect to drill—and to find or evaluate coal resources. In this section if the land is held by a statutory undertaking, river board or other drainage authority and entry is objected to on the ground that such drilling would harm their undertaking, then the National Coal Board has to have the consent of a Minister—and now, under the devolved function, will have to have the consent of the Welsh Assembly—before being allowed to enter. The National Coal Board will need the rubber stamp of approval of the Welsh Assembly where a statutory undertaking is concerned.

The point on which I should like some help from the Government concerns the definition of the statutory undertaking. The Opencast Coal Act gives a statutory undertaking the same meaning as in the Act of 1947 and it is the same, as I understand it, as Section 291 of the Town and Country Planning Act. I will read very quickly what this says: 'Statutory undertakers' means persons authorized by any enactment to carry on any railway, light railway, tramway, road transport, water transport, canal, inland navigation, dock, harbour, pier, or lighthouse undertaking or any undertaking for the supply of electricity, gas, hydraulic power or water; and statutory undertaking' shall be construed accordingly.". It will be seen if we turn to Clause 79 of the Bill that a few of these undertakings are omitted from the list and, in particular, water-based authorities. I will not take up your Lordships' time by reading out Clause 79, but it does not correspond with Section 291 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, and it would exclude not only the water-based authorities but, for instance, the Welsh National Water Development and the Severn and Trent Water Authorities.

I should be grateful for a reply, either now or later, as to whom would a statutory undertaking object and from whom should prior consent be obtained if the National Coal Board were to seek to enter either the land held by an electricity authority, which is an excepted statutory undertaking under the Bill, or, secondly, the land of a water authority, which is not an excepted statutory undertaking under the Bill. Is the power of consent in fact reserved to the Minister in a case of the statutory undertaking which is excepted under Clause 79 of the Bill and devolved to the Welsh Assembly in the case of the other non-excepted statutory undertakings? I should be very grateful for clarification about that; and I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

After devolution, the Government will continue to be responsible throughout Great Britain for industrial and energy policy. Accordingly, the Wales Bill reserves all ministerial powers in relation to the National Coal Board. The only function under the Opencast Coal Act 1958 to be transferred to the Assembly is that of the "appropriate Minister" under Section 39(6). Section 39 of the 1958 Act provides powers whereby the National Coal Board may enter land not owned by them for the purpose of establishing whether the land would be suitable for the excavation of coal or related operations. Subsection (6) provides that, where the land is held by a statutory undertaker or an authority responsible for sewerage, rivers or drainage, the consent of the appropriate Minister is required.

The ministerial power in Section 39(6), unlike other powers in the Act, relates not to the National Coal Board but to the body on whose land the Board wish to enter. These bodies might be excepted statutory undertakers as the noble Baroness said, defined in Clause 79(1), for whom Ministers will continue to be responsible—for example, British Rail. In such cases the column two qualification in the entry for the Act on page 49 ensures that the function of giving consent will continue to be exercised by the appropriate Minister.

But where the body is a statutory undertaker or other body for which the Assembly will be responsible, the function of giving consent will rightly pass to the Assembly. If, for example, the land controlled is held by the Welsh Water Authority it is entirely reasonable that the Assembly should be able to prevent any prospecting on it by the National Coal Board if—as the Act requires—this would be seriously detrimental to the Authority's operations. In the particular instance of water, to which the noble Baroness referred, the Assembly is under a statutory duty to ensure that certain policies are carried out. Statutory undertakers, by definition, are also under statutory duties. There must be ministerial protection to ensure that these duties are not rendered incapable of execution. In the last resort, although it may be detrimental to a statutory undertaker or other body for which the Assembly is responsible—if the National Coal Board prospected for coal, there may be overriding national reasons which made it essential. In that case the Government would come in and use their reserve powers.

Baroness ELLES

I am very grateful for the explanation given by the noble Baroness. I shall study it carefully tomorrow: I think I have got it right but I should like to have another look at it tomorrow. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 56B:

Page 49, leave out lines 33 to 37.

The noble Baroness said: This is really a very minor point, but one which nevertheless perhaps needs spelling out. The Schedule is done in such a way that silence is taken to be on the side of the Welsh Assembly very often, and I think this is a rather tricky, if relatively small, point. Under the Schedule, Sections 23(2)(b) and 26(2)(b), and 26(3)(b) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1959 are devolved to the Welsh Assembly. Certain functions, which are excluded functions, are exercisable in relation to land acquired for purposes relating to matters listed in Schedule 5 to this Act. Those matters in Schedule 5 are reserved local matters. As I understand it—and I should be grateful for confirmation that my interpretation is correct—consent would be given by the Assembly for the appropriation or disposal of land which is covered by the Sections 23 and 26, which has been acquired in certain circumstances by a local authority. But the land had been originally acquired for any purposes listed in Schedule 5 to the Bill, these being reserved local matters under Clause 36(2). So what cannot be done, as I understand it, is for the Assembly to consent, first, without the Minister's consent to a compulsory purchase order, which may he made by some person or undertaking in relation to land which was at that time held by a local authority and which had been originally bought for a Schedule 5 purpose.

I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could tell me whether my interpretation is correct, the point being that this concerns land which was originally acquired for purposes under Schedule 5, and, of course, in the excluded functions that is not explicitly spelt out. I realise that things cannot always be spelt out explicitly, but I should like to have confirmation that what I have said is a correct interpretation of this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

The Government's approach to this is that there should be a common procedural code for compulsory purchase throughout Great Britain. For this reason the entry for the Acquisition of Land (Authorizations Procedure) Act 1946 on pages 48 and 49 of the Bill does not transfer to the Assembly any powers to alter compulsory purchase procedures. Similarly the entry for the Town and Country Planning Act 1959 is in no way concerned with giving the Assembly any powers over procedure. All it does is to provide that, where a local authority presently requires ministerial consent for a compulsory purchase order, the function of giving consent should pass to the Assembly if the land is being acquired for a "devolved" purpose. If the acquisition is for a reserved purpose, that is for a purpose listed in Schedule 5, then the consent will continue to be given by the Minister concerned.

We think that this approach is a sensible one. The 1959 Act is so framed that local authority compulsory purchase orders are confirmed by the Minister who is concerned with the particular function for which the acquisition is being made. The Wales Bill does no more than follow this through by providing for confirmation by the Assembly where appropriate. Because the Assembly will have closer knowledge of the matter in question, it is right that they, rather than a Minister, should give the requisite consent when the land is being acquired for a devolved purpose. The entry in the second column on page 49 ensures that the function of confirming an order will be exercised still by the appropriate Minister if the land is being acquired for a reserved purpose.

Baroness ELLES

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation. I now beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.50 p.m.

Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY moved Amendment No. 56C: Page 50, column 2, line 28, leave out ("section 17") and insert ("sections 17 and 19 ).

The noble Lord said: As I understand it, the whole of the Commons Registration Act 1965 is being devolved, except for Section 17. That section, which is retained, contains the power to appoint assessors and Commons Commissioners, which power is held by the Lord Chancellor. I understand that the Commissioners and assessors have to decide on certain matters which are contained in Section 19 of the Commons Registration Act 1965. But the point is that Section 19 is being devolved, and there could be some muddle here. The muddle which I see occurring is that the Welsh Assembly may decide to have different regulations under Section 19 from those in, say, England. The Government may say that this can be avoided, because under Section 17 the Lord Chancellor will appoint the assessors. But I do not see how the assessors will judge, as they will have to judge, under Section 19 which is being devolved. Anyway, these assessors will presumably be Welsh in Wales and English in England. I may have made a mistake there, but let me assume that. Some clarification is needed, and my suggestion is that we retain both Section 17 and Section 19. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

Commons are essentially a matter of local concern, and are closely linked with land use, countryside and recreation, in respect of all of which powers are being transferred to the Assembly. The Government therefore consider it consistent with our approach to devolution that most ministerial powers in respect of commons should be transferred to the Assembly. This Amendment is concerned with the Commons Registration Act 1965, which, as its name implies, provides for the registration of commons. The registers are kept by local authorities, but Section 17 of the Act provides for the establishment of Commons Commissioners to resolve disputes. As the noble Lord said, the Commissioners are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and the Government accept that the function of appointment and related functions under Section 17 should be reserved.

The noble Lord seeks additionally to reserve Section 19 of the Act. This provision enables the Secretary of State to make regulations over a wide variety of matters—mostly procedural. For example, he may make regulations under subsection (1)(j), for the correction of errors and omissions in the registers". In the Government's view, such regulations should be made by the Assembly. It will be the Assembly who will exercise most functions in relation to commons, and who will also have general responsibility for local authority matters. It seems unlikely that it would wish to make regulations differing greatly from those applying in England, but circumstances are, of course, not always the same in Wales and it should have the opportunity to take account of this.

The Government, however, would accept that Section 19 includes two matters in respect of which the making of regulations should be reserved. First, there is the making of regulations under subsection 1(e) in respect of the procedure of the Commons Commissioners. As the provisions in respect of the Commissioners in Section 17 are reserved, so also should these related powers in Section 19. Secondly, there is the making of regulations under subsection 1(g) to enable the Church Commissioners to act in respect of vacant Church of England benefices. I believe that no such regulations have been made. But if they were to be made, that would be a matter more appropriate for the Government than for the Assembly.

We are therefore grateful to the sponsors of this Amendment for bringing all this to light, and I undertake to ensure that, whatever Amendments are necessary to achieve reservation of the two matters which I have mentioned, will be tabled for your Lordships to consider on Report.


May I ask the noble Baroness why it is necessary to exclude these functions under Section 17? With the present noble and learned Lord as Lord Chancellor, there is no problem. But why should Commissioners for matters relating to commons be appointed by the Lord Chancellor? Is it not more appropriate that the Secretary of State should appoint them, or could this not even be left to the Welsh Assembly? I am only wondering why it is necessary to exclude functions of this kind to the Lord Chancellor.

Baroness STEDMAN

I think because it has always been that way. It has always been the Lord Chancellor, and we see no reason to change it so far as this Bill is concerned.


That seems to be a very good reason for making a change. Because we are instituting a Welsh Assembly, a unique elected Assembly for Wales, I should have thought that this was an appropriate time to have a change. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has reminded me, as I indicated, that we have a Welsh Lord Chancellor, but we do not know for how long we shall have him. While in his hands, I am perfectly happy.

Baroness ELLES

At the moment, we are very happy to have a Welsh Lord Chancellor who appoints English Commons Commissioners, so I suppose that it works both ways. I should like to say that I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she has answered the Amendment put down by my noble friends and myself. There was no question of trying to change the situation with regard to devolved powers over commons. There are several Commons Acts which are listed earlier on at page 48 of the Bill although I think that the subsections which the noble Baroness has mentioned cover only two of them. I wonder whether it is wise to allow powers for the summoning of persons to attend meetings, to give evidence to produce documents and to authorize the administration of oaths. These are legal proceedings which I should have thought should be kept common to England and Wales.

I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could have another look to see whether she could put the whole of Section 19 back into the column under "Excluded functions". It would be more satisfactory to have a standard way of going about matters of this kind. It will be a great mistake if we are to have different legal procedures. I am not discussing registration and who should be ultimately responsible, but I think that the legal procedures should be kept the same in England and Wales. So I shall be grateful if the noble Baroness could look at this again.

Baroness STEDMAN

I can certainly give an assurance that we will raise the necessary Amendments in regard to the two points which I have made and will certainly look at the rest of it while we are doing that. I have been advised, while the noble Baroness was speaking, that the reason why we have the Lord Chancellor and keep the Lord Chancellor is that these are judicial appointments and those concerned are mostly barristers.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. She always takes me by surprise with her replies. I did not think that she would give way at all on this Amendment, so I am rather caught out about summing-up. There is just one point to make about the assessors. I shall have to read the report of what the noble Baroness said about the alterations which she intends to make. But of course the assessors are not barristers. They are more likely to be land agents on the ground assessing how many sheep should be on a hill et cetera. I am still a little worried in the back of my mind about what will happen in such border areas as Brecon and Herefordshire. But I am most happy to withdraw this Amendment and let the noble Baroness and not me, worry about it before Report. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness STEDMAN moved Amendment No. 57:

Page 50, leave out lines 30 and 31.

The noble Baroness said: This is an Amendment to delete the existing entry in the Bill for the Civil Amenities Act 1967. It is merely a paving Amendment for Amendment No. 60, which creates a new entry for that Act. It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we were to accept this paving Amendment now, and to withhold detailed discussion until we reach the substantive Amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

9 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No.57A:

Page 50, leave out from beginning of line 36 to end of line 10 on page 52.

The noble Baroness said: We now come on to a rather large chunk of legislation; that is, the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. I am happy to see the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, sitting opposite, since I wish to explain why at this time I have moved to leave out the whole Act, rather than try to move several Amendments, either separately or jointly. I hope that noble Lords will accept this method of dealing with the Amendment. As my noble friend said earlier, one can either split things or lump them together. This is an attempt to do neither, but rather to deal with a major matter which should be raised in your Lordships' Committee. I should advise the noble Baroness that this is a probing Amendment which is designed to discuss certain matters relevant to planning. Perhaps we could have some answers, either now or later. So far, the noble Baroness has done her homework extremely well, or has had it done for her, and we have received very prompt answers. However, there will be one or two rather complicated matters in relation to the Town and Country Planning Act.

To help to speed up the passage of the Bill, I should like to touch on some of the powers that will be devolved to the Welsh Assembly so that people—and, of course, your Lordships in particular—will be aware of the kind of powers and functions which will be devolved to the Welsh Assembly. First, there will be a general planning control. Applications for planning permission, and restrictions, or the revocation or modification of appeals, will now go to the Welsh Assembly. There will also be planning controls in special cases: The Welsh Assembly will have the power to vary or alter the requirements concerning historic buildings, trees, advertisements, waste land and office development. The Welsh Assembly will decide appeals against enforcement notices—that is, the enforcement of control over the planning requirements imposed by Parts III and IV of the Town and Country Planning Act.

We discussed earlier in relation to Clause 9(2) and Schedule 3 the acquisition and appropriation of land—and related provisions. This was with regard to Sections 112 and 113. The Welsh Assembly will also be responsible for making decisions relating to compensation for planning decisions which will restrict new development. It will have to take decisions concerning compensation for other planning restrictions, such as the revocation and modification of planning permission, tree preservation orders, loss due to stop notices, et cetera. The Welsh Assembly will also have the duty to hold inquiries concerning disputes between individuals and public authorities over the acquisition of an interest in land, though, interestingly enough, not where it is a statutory undertaker within the definition of the Bill. That duty will be reserved to the Secretary of State.

Considerable powers will be devolved to the Welsh Assembly under the Town and Country Planning Act concerning authorization to stop up or divert a highway so as to extinguish the right to use vehicles on that highway and so convert it into a bridleway or a footpath. It will also have the right to extinguish public rights of way. These are just some of the powers which will be devolved to the Welsh Assembly, and one can see that they are considerable powers.

I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether she can say how these problems and matters will be dealt with so far as the Civil Service is concerned. Are the existing staff in the Welsh Office who now deal with these matters to be transferred to the Welsh Assembly, and will they be sufficient in number to deal with them? It will no longer be a question of merely advising the Secretary of State about what to do. Presumably their task will be to advise officials of the Assembly who, in their turn, will have to advise the Welsh Assembly. That is a body of 100 or so people, plus the committees upon which the Members will serve. Presumably, therefore, a considerable number of officials will be involved. The first question that I should like to ask concerning the administrative side is how one will deal with this very considerable bundle of powers which are to be devolved under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.

There are certain other specific matters in relation to the Act itself and how they will be dealt with. I should like to turn, first, to Section 7 of the Act which is a devolved section. Under Section 7, the Welsh Assembly will now be responsible for considering structure plans which have been submitted in writing by local planning authorities. Under Section 7(4) the local planning authority: …shall secure that the policy and proposals are justified by the results of their survey under section 6 of this Act…and by any other information which they may obtain and shall have regard— (a) to current policies with respect to the economic planning and development of the region as a whole".

I should like to ask the noble Baroness under what authority and under what clause of the Bill and by what means the Welsh Assembly will he authorized to take account of the economic planning of the region? Will the Assembly decide the economic policies for Wales? Will it be directed by the Secretary of State under a certain clause of the Bill, or will it be able to take its own view of the economic situation in any particular area when it is considering a structure plan which is submitted to it by a local planning authority?

The second point that I should like to put to the noble Baroness is in connection with Section 24 of the Town and Country Planning Act, which relates to development orders. The Welsh Assembly, in lieu of the Secretary of State, will be able to grant planning permission. It will grant what are called general development orders. That is, either the Assembly will be directly granting planning permission itself or it will be providing for the granting of planning permission by a local planning authority.

Under Section 24(2)(a), a development order may either itself grant planning permission for development specified in the order, or for development of any class so specified. As I understand this subsection of Section 24, it means that the Welsh Assembly can allow for different planning procedures all over the country. I am not an authority on planning, and do not pretend to be, but I am told that when you want to develop a property you are allowed, without getting planning permission, to develop up to one-tenth of the size of your dwelling-house—I am subject to correction on this.

As I understand it, as the Bill now stands, the Welsh Assembly could make orders for different standards, for instance in relation to the development of a dwelling-house in one direction or another and have different standards throughout Wales, with the result that there would be differences between Wales and England. There are certain matters about which I would have thought it was undesirable, for no given reason, to have different standards being applied by the Welsh Assembly. There may be specific circumstances, but I should have thought it would create a great administrative muddle if different decisions were made for different aspects of a general development order.

The third matter, which we touched on when we were dealing with the quasijudicial functions of the Welsh Assembly, comes under Section 36(3). This is where the Welsh Assembly will have the right to hear an appeal from the decision of a local planning authority. We discussed this at some length yesterday and I am hoping for a reply from the noble Baroness as to how these inquiries will be held: whether it will be a committee of the Assembly or the leader of the Assembly, and how the organization of these appeals will be done.

I wonder whether the noble Baroness is aware, as I am informed, that the number of development applications throughout the country is something like 26,000, and the number of appeals in the Welsh counties alone amounts to about 460 in one year. Of course I am quoting only an approximate figure. I am wondering how all these appeals could be heard by a committee in a way that would ensure that justice was done. In this House I know we have to go through things rather quickly at times and work under pressure—and this is one of the reasons why I have outlined the matter as quickly as I could in order not to take up the time of your Lordships' House. But if one is thinking of a committee concerned with planning matters the time taken to hear 460 appeals, and to give them proper judicial consideration, would occupy a considerable part of the year.

This is a practical, not a legal question. How is a committee or a leader or this elected body to deal with these matters? If this matter has been devolved to an elected body because it is considered that an elected body should deal with it, I want to hear that it will be the elected body which will deal with the matter and not another batch of civil servants dealing with these papers and shoving them in front of some wretched chap who is called the leader of the planning committee, just for him to put his signature at the bottom of the page. As I understand it, this is the point of devolving to an elected body. There must be some justifiable way of explaining how these matters are going to be dealt with.

There is another point which I should like to raise, and I think it is an important one. I do not see how this can be devolved to a body like the Welsh Assembly; and I do not say, because it has worked, that the argument could apply equally to Scotland or, if we were to have devolution in England, to England. If one looks at Section 74(3) the Welsh Assembly is now to be given discretion to grant or withhold office development permits. I am not going into a long discussion about office development permits because we all know the difficulty in making decisions as to whether or not they should be granted. Section 74(3) reads: In exercising his discretion to issue or withhold office development permits the Secretary of State shall have particular regard to the need for promoting the better distribution of employment in Great Britain.".

When making these decisions with regard to office development permits can the Welsh Assembly in all honesty be expected to take into account the overall needs of Great Britain? Who will tell them what the overall needs of Great Britain are? Their duty is to look after the local needs of Wales. They have no duty to anybody but themselves. They do not have an oath of allegiance to the Crown; they have a duty to look after the people of Wales. I would say that it is quite impossible to expect them to take into account a duty which is laid upon the Secretary of State in Section 74(3). So I should like to know how this matter will be dealt with and whether possibly some exception should be made—for instance, perhaps Section 74 should be an excluded function for the Minister. This is the kind of consideration that has to be taken into account.

Finally, there is the question of special provision for excepted statutory undertakers. I should like to ask the noble Baroness why these excepted statutory undertakers should be in a better position than any individual. Why should they have special treatment from the Secretary of State? Why should their rights and their material interests and commercial interests not be considered by the Welsh Assembly? Whereas some individual now will have his rights and pecuniary interests considered by the Welsh Assembly, these people will have their matters considered by a Secretary of State. I can see no justifiable reason for giving one the imagined privilege of having a higher consideration than any other individual in Wales.

I think I have touched on the major issues that I wish to raise with the noble Baroness. I apologise for putting so many points to her, but I thought it would be easier to do it this way rather than to take up too much time of the Committee by constantly getting up and down. I beg to move.


I did not want to be discourteous to the noble Baroness, who showed a brilliant aptitude to follow closely a brief, and I am grateful to her for all the questions that she has asked. But I should like to ask one question with regard to the number of planning permissions. I am wondering whether her brief divided that figure up, because in rural areas in Wales one must be careful about planning permissions. Lord Davies of Leek may acquire a couple of lovely old thatched Welsh cottages and decide that he is going to expand them. There is quite a lot of that going on, which has nothing to do with the relative economic prosperity of Wales. It is only a small question and I did not want to interrupt the noble Baroness in the full swing of her speech, but I should like to know whether she had an analysis of those appeals.

Baroness ELLES

I did not have an analysis, but I was given the figures by an authorized body concerned with county councils in Wales and I was given the notice verbally. But if the noble Lord would like me to, I will certainly find out and let him know in writing. However, I was definitely given the figure of 460, and I suppose in my innocence I believe what I am told by a recognised official body.


Like the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, I did not wish to interrupt the noble Baroness when she was expressing so clearly aspects of the Town and Country Planning Act, and I hesitate to say anything about town and country planning in the presence of one of the greatest experts in town and country planning; that is, the noble Viscount who is sitting behind the noble Baroness at the present time.

I rather gained the impression from the noble Baroness that she had overlooked the fact that a vast amount of the planning activity was done at county or district levels in Wales. I assume that the noble Baroness is not suggesting that the authority of the local authority should be displaced in any way at the present time. In Wales one of the great problems in regard to town and country planning is the overlap of authority between the district councils and the county councils. I may be misinterpreting the noble Baroness, but she gave me the impression that all these planning matters were going to be dealt with at Assembly level, whereas in my view only a very small percentage of planning matters would go to the Assembly and most of them would still be dealt with at the district or county level.

Baroness ELLES

I must reply to the comments made by the noble Lord. If he reads the Town and Country Planning Act, he will see that whatever is done by a local planning authority nevertheless has to have the consent of the Secretary of State, and a good many of these matters require variation or confirmation of orders, for which the responsibility lies on the Secretary of State. A great deal of it is done by local authorities, but on the other hand much of it is checked by civil servants who work for the Secretary of State for Wales, otherwise they are not doing their job as civil servants giving advice to the Secretary of State. I totally disagree with what the noble Lord has said, except in so far as a great deal is done by the local authority. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of discretion and a great deal of deliberation has to be given by the Secretary of State in his function as Minister for Wales.

Baroness STEDMAN

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the very wide range that she has covered on this subject so that we can get the planning side of the situation clear in our minds. The entries in Part VIII of Schedule 2 transfer to the Assembly most of the existing ministerial functions in relation to quite a lot of planning matters: the planning applications and enforcement, the call-ins and appeals, the structure and local plans, the listed buildings, urban conservation, caravan control, waste land, office development control, compulsory purchase, new towns, commons, coast protection, except in relation to navigational matters, and references to a planning inquiry commission in respect of functions which have been transferred to the Assembly. So there is a very wide range of functions which are being transferred to the Assembly.

The most important exclusions that are achieved by the entries in the second part of Part VIII are the industrial development controls which are used as an instrument of regional industrial develop- ment policy and for which the Government retain responsibility throughout the United Kingdom, and certain interests of excepted statutory undertakers; for instance, relief from obligations rendered impracticable. The purposes for which these undertakers operate remains the responsibility of Government and the powers reserved are those now exercised by the responsible Minister. The guarantee of loans made to development corporations and the power to guarantee loans made to all public bodies remain a matter for the Treasury.

Then there are the general framework of codes for compulsory acquisition of land and the compensation for such acquisition and other matters, because we think it is important that these should be uniform throughout the United Kingdom. The functions relating to compulsory acquisition are also not transferred where the acquisition relates to bodies or purposes for which responsibility it not devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

The noble Baroness asked a very wide range of questions, and I appreciate the fact that she said that we shall have to have some correspondence about some of them before Report stage. Certain planning functions are reserved, either because they impinge on matters which are not devolved in any context, or because it is important to preserve a common approach throughout Great Britain. An example of the former is the granting of industrial development certificates, which are part of the reserved machinery because they are concerned with the regional economic policy. An example of these are the codes for compulsory purchase and land compensation which concern basic property rights, and should be the same in Wales as anywhere else in Great Britain.

The entry in the 1971 Act also makes specific provision for the treatment of the statutory undertakers. After devolution some of the statutory undertakers, such as the Welsh Water Authority, will be responsible principally to the Assembly. But others will remain the responsibility of the Government—such as the National Coal Board and the Post Office. These are described in the Bill as excepted statutory undertakers and a definition of this can be found in Clause 79(1). They enjoy a number of special ministerial protections under the 1971 Act so that planning decisions do not prejudice their ability to carry out their statutory duties. The entry in the Bill for the 1971 Act seeks to ensure that excepted statutory undertakers continue to benefit from these existing ministerial safeguards, though the Assembly will generally be responsible for planning matters. Some technical changes are required in respect of these safeguards, and the Government propose to table Amendments on Report for your Lordships' consideration to cover these points.

It is also necessary to take account of the fact that certain planning functions which are transferred to the Assembly could be exercised in a way which would prejudice particular matters which are reserved elsewhere in the Bill. For example, the Assembly might call in, or determine an appeal on, a planning application for housing adjacent to a defence base, which might pose security problems. Clearly some intervention power is required to safeguard the Government's interests. The Assembly might not even be aware of the security implications. But equally it would be wrong to make use of the general intervention powers under Clause 34, because the procedures under that clause would effectively remove established planning procedures under which interested parties have certain rights to be heard. So, for that reason. Schedule 9 contains special intervention powers by which the Secretary of State will be able to protect the Government's interests in certain planning matters without reducing the existing rights of the parties to the case. The Government consider that the entries in Schedule 2 for the 1971 and 1972 Acts, together with the Schedule 9 procedures, provide the right balance.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, asked a number of specific questions, the first of which was as regards the civil service about which we had long discussions during the proceedings on the Scotland Bill. The Assembly will be staffed from the Home Civil Service. We anticipate that many of the staff in the Welsh Office will transfer with their present workload to the Assembly's service. The exact working arrangements for the Assembly staff, and the procedures by which advice will be rendered to the Assembly's committees or sub-committees or laid before the Assembly as a whole, are domestic matters for the Assembly to work out. I do not think that at this stage I could usefully attempt to speculate about what they would be.

Baroness ELLES

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Is she able to say whether the number will remain the same? If it is a domestic matter, who will pay these civil servants? Indeed, if they come under the Home Civil Service, it is not just a domestic matter but one for the Government, because those civil servants will come within the mandate of the Home Civil Service and not just the Welsh Assembly.

Baroness STEDMAN

They will all be members of the Home Civil Service. At this stage it is not possible to say what the numbers will be, whether there will be an increase and so forth. However, I draw the attention of the noble Baroness to the fact that we are suggesting, on the basis of the effects of the Bill on the public service manpower, that the number of civil servants in Wales is likely to increase by about 1,150 over forecast levels. But how many of those will be concerned with the planning side of it and how many will be concerned with the other sides, I am not in a position at this time to say.

On the question of planning appeals, there is no reason to suppose that there will be more appeals to the Assembly than there are at present to the Secretary of State. It will be for the Assembly to determine how it will deal with these appeals. However, I shall certainly have a look at the matter, and if we can offer any fuller information or guidance, we shall let the noble Baroness have it.

As regards office development permits, there has never been a requirement for office development permits in Wales. The requirement has only ever applied to London and the South-East. However, I shall look at the matter and see whether there is a point which we can take up in correspondence later. On the economic considerations, under Section 7(4) of the 1971 Act there is a duty to take account of the economic planning policies and that is a duty on the local authorities and not on the Assembly. It is the local authorities that must have regard to Government economic policies.

So far as general development orders are concerned within Section 24, Yes, the Assembly could if it wished make provisions different from those in England. However, that possibility already exists under Section 24 whereby special development orders may make different provision for different parts of the country. So it is something that we are having to live with at present. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the very wide range which she has covered. I shall read Hansard very carefully and shall certainly write to her again in greater detail and hope that we can iron some of these matters out before the Report stage.


I should like to ask a further question about Section 7(4) and the structure plans. The noble Baroness need not answer the question tonight, but if she is going to correspond with my noble friend she might care to include some remarks as regards this matter.

It is perfectly right that in formulating the structure plan it is for the local planning authority to try to fit in, so far as it can, with local and national economic provisions and schemes. But it is in the end for some superior authority to confirm that structure plan. If I have understood it correctly, it w ill be the job of the Welsh Assembly to decide whether or not the structure plan produced by the Dyfed County Council or whatever it is, does, indeed, fit in nationally or, I suppose, simply in terms of Wales.

If the provisions for industrial development certificates are to be retained by Whitehall one of the most important things is the employment element in a structure plan and how it will be spread out not only in a particular county but throughout the Principality of Wales. If the Welsh Assembly is to decide those structure plan provisions without looking and without being required to look to the economy of the rest of the country on the other side of the Welsh Marches, and if at the same time Whitehall is going to deal with the industrial development certificate, in so far as it applies to Wales —which it does at the moment in Gwent—then there is the possibility of a conflict and one which the Welsh Assembly by itself will not be able to resolve. At the moment I think that there is a gap here which the Government so far have not entirely succeeded in persuading me that they have resolved.

Baroness STEDMAN

The noble Viscount has succeeded in persuading me that there is a gap. I should like to have another look at it. I can see that there are dangers and that the Welsh Assembly is responsible for structure plans and all the things that go into that. But there is a brake, in that Whitehall will still have a responsibility for the IDCs. There may be problems. I should like to have another look at that point and I shall write to the noble Viscount.


I am a little worried about the criticism of the Welsh Assembly. I am beginning to think that everyone in Wales must be a bit of a dummy, because everybody is assuming that no one will know what he or she is doing in the Welsh Assembly. I assure noble Lords opposite that we know very well what we are doing. We shall have people there who have experience in local government, national government, international government and even experience on the military, scientific and other sides. We are a quite brilliant nation.

Baroness ELLES

I was going to thank not only the noble Baroness for her very excellent and helpful reply, but also the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for assuring us that we really need worry no more. I cannot think why we should carry on debating any more the problems of devolving functions and powers. The content of the Welsh Assembly sounded very much better than that of some other elected bodies that are around. I only hope that the noble Lord is a prophet, is correct and that the Welsh Assembly contains these very admirable people. All the same, it does not always mean to say that they make good executives. Therefore, I think that we must pursue our inquiries to discover exactly how this brilliant Welsh Assembly will actually work. However, having had this very helpful reply from the noble Baroness and I shall eagerly await her correspondence explaining the points that I have raised, which she is unable to answer at this stage—I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.33 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 57C:

Page 52, line 17, leave out Part IX of the Schedule.

The noble Baroness said: I think that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, will probably be rather pleased with what I am about to say, because I shall refer to three very new bodies which have been set up by the present Government, all within the last couple of years. The first is the Welsh Development Agency which was set up under the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975. This particular body began work on 1st January 1976. I should like to quote to your Lordships very quickly the stated purposes of this particular Agency. They are: To further the economic development of Wales or any part of Wales; to promote industrial efficiency and international competitiveness in Wales; to provide, maintain or safeguard employment in any part of Wales; and to further the improvement of the environment in Wales having regard to existing amenity I think that these are all objectives which we would applaud and approve.

At the time I know that we, on this side of the Committee, expressed certain doubts as to the wisdom of setting up this body. Nevertheless, I think it must be said—and it is fair to say—that we should give credit to those who are running this particular Agency. I understand that Mr. Ian Gray, who is the chief executive, has obviously made great efforts in objectivity to make a commercial and viable success of this undertaking. No one would dispute that. I think that that is a fair statement of the situation.

The number of advanced factories has increased and many of these have now found tenants. This is perhaps something about which the noble Lord who will reply could inform us. Perhaps he can say how this programme is prospering, particularly with regard to the factories which were let—I believe that some have become empty again—whether they have been relet and, in fact, the general progress of this particular venture. I understand if the Minister cannot reply at the moment, but perhaps I could have a reply in writing later on.

The question that besets us is this. If this is a body which has been set up by the Government within the last two years and is successful, why change its ownership? Why not let it get on with the job it is doing, and is trying to do, well? We did not think it was going to be a success but we must be realistic, and if it is making a good job why not leave it alone and let it get on with its job? If it is inefficient and not working well, why then just shove it under the Welsh Assembly? Why is it dealt with in this particular way? If it is inefficient why pass it over to the Welsh Assembly?

It seems to me that what has happened is clear from what John Osborn said in his Creative Conflict, that there were these three bodies, the Welsh Development Agency, the Land Authority for Wales, and the Development of Rural Wales Board, all of which were created as a result of an unhappy internal Party compromise, and not because this was the best thing in the way of administration and efficiency. If it is the belief of the Government that these are the best ways of promoting economic and social progress in Wales, why not leave them alone?

I should like to touch on the other two bodies which have been established by the other two Acts which are referred to in Schedule 2 Part IX. First of all the Land Authority of Wales, which was set up under the Community Land Act 1975, and the Development Board for Rural Wales under its parent Act of 1976. Noble Lords will appreciate that all these three bodies were set up by legislation in Parliament within the last three years by the present Government. The Land Authority for Wales has also shown itself to be capable of exercising, so far as one can tell, sound commercial judgment, unlike, it appears, the regional operations of the Community Land Act in England where much stricter control is enforced.

The Land Authority for Wales has proved itself efficient, so far as one can make out, at land assembly and sees within the near future the prospect of trading at considerable profit. For this it is to be congratulated. So far, from the figures that I have seen—and of course they are subject to correction—there is an estimated profit of about £2 million. It has proved itself popular with small builders, though I understand that it has also proved unpopular with certain local authorities for seemingly overriding planning considerations.

This is a sort of general assessment of what I understand to be the position of the Land Authority for Wales at the moment. But we can at least say, so far as my noble friends and I are concerned, that this body has not proved to be the all-devouring instrument of socialism that was feared when it was set up. For this, one must be thankful and congratulate the people running it. I see that the noble Baroness is not in her place, but it may be due partly, if not entirely, to the spirit of independence shown by her as a member of the Land Authority for Wales.

Turning finally to the Development Board for Rural Wales, which I remember debating with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when this Bill was passing through your Lordships' House, it is the body which covers at any rate most of the rural communities of mid-Wales, and was also set up only within the last few months. It started work only last April. I remember when this Bill was before your Lordships' House there was some concern, and I remember expressing it myself, that it would be difficult for small businesses to compete with a statutory body which had vast sums of money at its disposal, and that they may be setting up businesses in conflict instead of helping small businesses.

I have been given to understand—of course, always subject to correction—that in fact this particular body has been subsidising ventures concerned with small businesses, small craft industries, and helping individuals in mid-Wales. Nobody can fault that. I have always thought that one of the best ways of developing the wealth of a population is to encourage people in the country to develop their craft industries and stay in the country, rather than go into the towns and cause further urban congestion and unemployment.

My noble friends and I believe that if we have these three bodies which have been set up by the Government, they should be given a chance to develop their potential, at any rate for the time being. That does not mean that my Party, if and when we become the Government, would not review these bodies; I am merely saying that they should be given a chance because they have started off and have, so far as can be seen, done comparatively well. Remember, too, that the people running these bodies were appointed by the Secretary of State; that is, by the Government. If he did not trust these people when he appointed them to these expensive jobs—this is no criticism of the people working there; they are no doubt earning every penny of what they are getting—why did he appoint them? Why should they be transferred to some other body to be controlled by the Welsh Assembly?


I must interrupt the noble Baroness. To transfer their control from the Secretary of State to the Assembly cannot by any stretch of the imagination be suggested—as she quite specifically suggested—to mean they are no good. I really cannot accept that.

Baroness ELLES

I am afraid it does.

Several noble Lords:


Baroness ELLES

If one looks at Clause 60, which itself is quite remarkable, one sees the power that is given to the Welsh Assembly over, … all or any of the functions of that body and, if it so provides as to all those functions, for the dissolution of that body". These three bodies are listed as three of the bodies which may be dissolved by the Welsh Assembly. It seems incredible, the Government having set up these bodies to do specific acts, that they are, within 18 months, producing a Bill which says that somebody can dissolve them.


I am sorry, but I must interrupt the noble Baroness again to tell her that the Secretary of State has that power.

Baroness ELLES

Yes, but he must exert it in conjunction with the views of Parliament as a whole; not by a body about which we know nothing. The trouble with this Bill—this point was made yesterday—is that we do not know what we are talking about.


Some of us do!

Baroness ELLES

I do not think the noble Baroness, even with all her knowledge, has the gift of prophecy to the extent of telling us, as did the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, exactly how this body will be composed and how it will exert its authority, but I do not want to get into that argument.


I, too, regret having to interrupt the noble Baroness, especially when she is working so hard and so well, but I beg her not to assume that any assembly knows right away what it is doing. Not even a new Conservative Government will know that at the beginning. This is a pragmatic thing and there is pragmatism in all types of politics, certainly on the Benches opposite. Indeed, on the Welsh side we are all pragmatists.

Baroness ELLES

I do not want to get into a deep discussion with the noble Lord on that; perhaps we can consider that later outside the Chamber.


I fear that I must also interrupt the noble Baroness, but I am trying to be helpful. She referred to Clause 60 and inferred that the Assembly had overriding powers. In fact, the Assembly can enact a Statutory Instrument, but under Clause 37(5) that Instrument must be submitted to both Houses of Parliament. There is therefore that control over the Assembly.

Baroness ELLES

I want to return to the question of these three particular bodies, because the view of noble Lords on this side of the Committee is that here are three bodies doing a good job and we should like to see them left alone, at any rate for the time being. That is my main point.

There will be the difficulty that if the guidelines given by the Secretary of State are very flexible, there will be opened up the possibility for the Assembly to impose economic strategies which are divergent from the Secretary of State, with his powers under Section 7 of the Industry Act. This raises the possibility not only of conflict between the two authorities concerned, but also the danger, which I think is very real, that there would be the beginning of divergence in the economies between England and Wales, which I believe no one would wish to see. From this side of the Chamber we should like to see the three bodies given a chance—at any rate for the time being, and possibly subject to later review—to be left as they are at the moment, and not to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly.


I wish to intervene because I think that the noble Baroness has not really reflected on what has been happening, particularly in the case of the Development Board for Rural Wales. This board was a successor authority in the area of mid-Wales to the Development Commission, which was previously a body covering England, Scotland and Wales. This matter was debated at great length when the Bill dealing with the Development Board for Rural Wales was being considered. I was astonished when the noble Baroness expressed surprise that the Development Board has been helping small industry and crafts, because that is in fact what the Development Commission was doing; and that is the work which the Development Board took over. I say to the noble Baroness that there is nothing surprising about all this. This is precisely continuing the work which, in effect, was devolved to a Welsh agency when it was thought that a special body was needed to take care of the work of the Development Commission in Wales.

Thus, this is a perfectly natural development in Wales, and no one should be surprised about the way that it has developed. I am at least delighted that many of the fears which were expressed on the other side of the Chamber about the Development Board have at last been allayed. I remember the debates in which noble Lords opposite were terrified of this body. When we kept saying that it was only the Development Commission continuing in Wales in another form, they simply did not listen. Now we are almost back at square one on this issue. I want to say again that this body is a Welsh body carrying on a traditional area of work in the rural parts of Wales. It is quite properly Welsh, if I may say so to my Welsh friends.

What could be more sensible than to let the new Welsh Assembly oversee this work, without having undue powers? Bearing in mind the checks over its membership which there will be in the last resort (as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran) what could be more appropriate than to let the Welsh Assembly oversee the work of this Welsh body, and complete what might be described as the final act of devolution in this matter of helping smaller industry in mid-Wales to prosper?

I believe that the whole proposal in the Bill is eminently sensible. There are no dangers involved. In one sense it is rather heartening to have the Opposition so worried about all this. The Development Commission has been in operation since 1910, and it is rather nice that at last someone worries about it. I am its present chairman, and we "beaver" along year after year while nobody worries unduly. I must tell the noble Baroness that such is the tradition of these matters that these agencies get on quite well, and what is proposed will do them no harm at all. Just as Parliament here has the right to look at the spending of the Development Fund by the Development Commission, in the same way it is quite appropriate for a Welsh Assembly to watch over the Welsh spending on exactly the same kind of work now that it is devolved. This is a wholly appropriate provision in the Bill and I hope that my noble friend will resist the Amendment from the Opposition.


I should like to jump to the defence of my noble friend. I speak as an industrialist—not a Welsh industrialist, but with every respect for the brilliance of the Welsh nation, as defined by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. Once again I wish to go through this situation as I would see it as an industrialist, and refer to the kind of lack of confidence that I think can develop from the provisions of this Bill in relation to industrial powers. As my noble friend has already said, these do not include only the powers of appointment and the powers of direction, albeit subject to approval by the Secretary of State: they also include, when we get to Clause 60, the power to take over from below. It is there.

This is the equivalent of combining, with certain safeguards, which we shall no doubt have a chance to discuss later, the power of appointment, direction and takeover of some, probably the more important, functions. I touched on an analogy earlier, and I do not think that analogy is false. It is as though Parliament as such, and not the Secretary of State for Industry, was charged with appointing members of the NEB, was charged with directing the National Enterprise Board, and was specifically given the opportunity to take over some of its functions—albeit with safeguards, but given the specific opportunity so to do. I suggest that that is un-British and near to being unconstitutional. I think we have to remember that much industrial investment is looked at either by Scottish industrialists or by English industrialists who have investments in Wales. Confidence is vital, and confidence has been established by the performance of the Welsh Development Agency, as my noble friend said. It would be a great pity to rock it, because it is not only the confidence of industrialists who may be helped by these bodies but the confidence of all industrialists as to how these very large funds will be used.

As an industrialist, one is slightly inclined to think of the power for an Assembly to appoint people. I am well aware of what the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said to me yesterday on this, but I think the local authority analogy is different. I am inclined to tell the story of the chairman who was very ill in hospital and of the board resolution wishing him a speedy recovery which was passed by 8 votes to 7! I am inclined to believe that when any subcommittee which may be appointed by the Assembly to decide on the appointments of the eight wise men on the Welsh Development Agency make their appointments, and when those appointments are finally passed by the Assembly, possibly by 87 votes to 63, or whatever the numbers are—for four years, and that is all—this is not the kind of way either to get the confidence of industry or even to get industrialists, bankers and others to play a leading part.

Over the years, in various places, I have dealt with many Secretaries of State of all Parties, and I have noticed continuously that they get steadily wiser with responsibility, and they show an increasing deference to the facts. As an industrialist, I could tell your Lordships that I would have confidence in a Secretary of State, with his growing deference to the facts, coming to sensible decisions on these very wide-ranging powers, and maintaining industrial confidence. I have no faith that any Assembly—even Parliament; it is not just the Welsh Assembly—would create that confidence, or would be able to do those things well. Assemblies tend to be lobbies, to be protesters. It is the Secretary of State who has his feet tied down by the facts of the matter, and all those noble Lords sitting on the Front Bench know it, think. I have had said to me by a Minister of Agriculture, "That is all right in practice, but how does it work out in theory? ", and turn to his chief civil servant and say, "We must get this worked out in theory so that I can somehow get it through Parliament". Your Lordships may say that this will happen with the Welsh Assembly, that they will appoint their own machinery; but we are passing Acts of Parliament which actually give these powers to the Assembly, and not to any one person.

For these reasons and in the time available, I will draw short, and no doubt we shall have the opportunity on Clause 60, and probably Clause 37 on the guidelines, to go back into industrial powers. I should be most unhappy if the combination of the powers to appoint, the powers to direct and the powers to take over were vested in any political Assembly as such.


First, may I say how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Northfield for saying, much better than I could, what I was going to say and, therefore, reducing the length of what I have to say. This is a service to us all. I am delighted that the noble Baroness in the light of experience has changed her mind and her Party's mind in favour of these three bodies, the Welsh Development Agency, the Land Authority for Wales and the Development Board for Urban Wales.

I can imagine what noble Lords opposite would be saying if we had failed to devolve these three institutions: "Here are the three really successful things"—which, curiously enough, have Labour origins; but that has nothing to do with it—" which are developing industry in Wales; and you, the Government, who are trying to build this thing up, are taking it away from Wales. You are giving them the National Health Service, which is difficult; you give them education, which is almost impossible; and the only thing which is going well you do not give them." Honestly, it will not do.

I am not going to make an elaborate defence of my position. I think that my noble friend Lord Northfield has already done it. There is a fourth Act that I am going to talk about in the next Amendment. These three, it seems to me, are frightfully important. They have three extremely effective bodies—which the noble Baroness has agreed are effective and I think it would be absolute madness not to give this to the Assembly. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, would not give anything to the Assembly. He is against the whole thing. Okay! That is a perfectly acceptable position, with which I differ.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? What I said was that we were giving all three powers, and I do not believe you can give the accumulation of all three. I did not say give none.


The noble Lord said it was a dangerous thing to give anything to a political body.


These three.


I do not want to prolong this. I do not think detail in this argument will help. We have absolutely different opinions, as so far expressed. Maybe the noble Baroness will change her mind. I beg the Committee not to look at this Amendment.

Baroness ELLES

I think that the noble Lord and I have agreed that we do disagree. I think that there are quite a lot of matters which concern us on this side of the Committee with regard to the devolution of these three particular bodies. I think I must clarify. I did not say that I was in favour of them but, nevertheless, that we view them with less disfavors than when they were set up. After all, one must appreciate the facts of the situation. These are bodies which have done well and are trying to do well. We would not like to see their efforts being hindered or impeded in any way. It is clear in so far as they have acted that so far they are trying to do the best for the people of Wales. For this reason we should like to see that they are able to continue to do so. I should like to test the opinion of the Committee on this issue and allow another place to discuss it later.

10 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 57C) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 42; Not-Contents, 37.

Alexander of Tunis, E. Fortescue, E. Rankeillour, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Gainford, L. Rochdale, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. George-Brown, L. Sandys, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Greenway, L. Savile, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Gridley, L. Selkirk, E.
de Clifford, L. Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Skelmersdale, L.
De La Warr, E. Hunt of Fawley, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Long, V. Strathclyde, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V. Swansea, L.
Dulverton, L. Morris, L. Trenchard,V.
Elles, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L, [Teller.] Tweeddale, M.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Vernon, L.
Elton, L. Newall, L. Vivian, L.
Faithfull, B. O'Hagan, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Forester, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Brockway, L. Hood, V. Segal, L.
Champion, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Stedman, B.
Collison, L. Ingleby, V. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
David, B. Kagan, L. Stone, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Kirkhill, L. Strabolgi, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Wallace of Coslany, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Whaddon, L.
Gaitskell, B. Mais, L. White, B.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L. Winstanley, L.
Hanworth, V. Northfield, L. Winterbottom, L. [Teller.]
Harris of Greenwich, L. Peart, L. [L. Privy Seal.]

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

10.8 p.m.


As the Committee has accepted Amendment No. 57C, I cannot call Amendment No. 57B. We move on to Amendment No. 59.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 59: Page 54, leave out from beginning of line 39 to end of line 9 on page 55.

The noble Lord said: After that cliffhanger—perhaps the whole evening has been rather a cliff-hanger—I rather doubted whether we should actually reach this Amendment but, as we have, I am delighted to speak to it. Its purpose is to remove completely forestry and afforestation from the powers of the Assembly. Up to the time the two devolution Bills were printed, there was one United Kingdom policy for the whole of the forestry industry administered, as we all know, by the Forestry Commission. The Government, however, considered that forestry, because of its close association with planning and land use, with tourism and the countryside, with rural development and recreation, should be devolved. That was made very clear by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, in the debates we had on the Scotland Bill. However, I personally would like to contest this and I would hope that my noble friends and others would be good enough to join me in showing your Lordships that the Government are in fact wrong on this particular occasion.

I should like to start this process by pointing out that forestry, so far as I can see, is one of only two industries to be devolved in Wales. The other, of course, is tourism and there are clearly arguments and clarifications which we shall need on this subject of tourism before we leave Schedule 2 of the Bill; but this is not the place for them. The link industry of agriculture is specifically not to be devolved; yet separation would divorce the two artificially. Surely these two industries should work in much closer partnership and not in opposition, which would be a danger if this Amendment is not agreed to by your Lordships.

Agriculture and forestry go hand in hand, mainly because they both compete for land. It may not be the same land, because forestry usually employs only the marginal land which is not suitable for arable crops, though it may be of use for hill sheep and cattle. Here, again, it is linked, as there is a considerable body of people, both private and public, who are looking at trees to provide shelter for hill sheep and cattle during the winter. Many others feel that there should be one body which interprets the phrase "good land use", and that this should be the Ministry of Agriculture as it is at the moment.

If under this Bill the Forestry Commission or private timber growers wish to plant farmland in Wales, they will need to approach the Assembly who will have to approach the Welsh Office, who, in turn, I suspect, will have to discuss the matter with the Ministry of Agriculture, although it is possible that their recently formed Agricultural Branch would be able to cope with the matter. Nevertheless, this is a very long process and, by interposing the Assembly into it, it will be considerably longer and more involved. One can well see a whole planting season going by without a decision being reached, particularly when one considers that the decision has to go back by the reverse route to that which I have already described.

Those of your Lordships who have had very little to do with the planting of forest trees, whether commercially or indeed in a private garden, may think that this loss of a growing season is not too much time to be allowed to arrive at a correct decision. Perhaps it is not much time at the planting end of the exercise, but it is a long time at the harvesting end, when the continuity of supply of matured timber may well be interrupted with disastrous consequences to the balance of payments. At present, the positive benefit to the balance of payments of home-grown timber is some £160 million a year. I have heard this figure contested on several occasions, but it is in fact 8 per cent.—which is an agreed figure—of the £2,000 million which is the amount currently spent on imported timber and forest products. With the common forestry policy that we have, leading to an expansion of home produced timber and timber products, it is reliably expected that this will rise to at least £450 million a year by the late 1990s. This is not peanuts in anybody's language.

Land use policy, so far as both the agricultural and forestry industries are concerned, is bound up with incentives, particularly tax incentives, grants and subsidies. In the case of agriculture, this is to be reserved. In the case of forestry it is to be devolved. It seems obvious to me that the Assembly's policy for forestry could well be different from that of the Government or, even worse, from that of the European Economic Communities which, although we do not have an EEC policy at the moment, is bound to come along from Brussels sooner or later. These differences could only hinder the object of integration between the two industries that I have already described, and indeed make nonsense if two different grant systems were to be employed. Surely, it is only sensible for the Government to retain responsibility for both industries, ultimately moving towards a grant system embracing them both, for the fuller development of land throughout the United Kingdom.

Another point is tourism, and I am sorry not to see the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, in his place, as he was earlier. I should like now to examine this as a reason for also devolving forestry. The Welsh Tourist Board will never in a million years produce a poster headed: "Come to Wales to look at our beautiful trees". They might, however, point out—and probably do, for all I know—the attractiveness of the landscape in which, and I should be the first to admit it, trees play a significant part, but not a major one. Forestry makes up only 10.8 per cent. of the total land mass of Wales. The magnificent scenery of much of Wales is made up of the land contours, the sea, the lowland areas and their juxtaposition.

It should never be forgotten that the primary object of forestry is the production of timber and that it also enhances the scenery as a valuable by-product and is not an end in itself. One can easily see the Assembly changing its policy, bearing tourism in mind and not the all-important needs of home-grown timber production. It can reasonably be argued that recreation is home-grown tourism; in other words, the people of Wales enjoy the great outdoors in exactly the same way as foreign tourists. Here I include myself among the English and other noble Lords among the Scots, because they are just as much tourists in Wales as somebody from France or the United States of America. The arguments, therefore, on these two points are, I should have thought, exactly the same.

Now we turn to the aspect of rural development. This, I contend, is also a by-product of forestry—and so it should be. The Government, however, would have us believe that it is the other way round. Forestry will provide jobs and create roads and services ancillary to the main national network. This is because the workers employed in forestry will have to get to their jobs and because the mature timber will have to be got out of the centers of the forests. I cannot envisage that creating a new forest in order to promote the rural development of an area is something which will ever happen. It is not a reason for devolving forestry.

I hope that I have argued against all the reasons that the Government have so far given for devolving forestry. However, at the risk of becoming politically involved, I should like to say one last thing. When this matter was discussed during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill, it was hurried through and the argument not fully developed because of the imminence of the dinner hour. Noble Lords will remember that on that occasion Members of your Lordships' Committee waited for three-quarters of an hour before they could get to their dinners. I and several of my noble friends feel that hunger and perhaps not common sense was reflected in the voting figures of 73 to 72—a majority of only one—by which the corresponding Amendment was carried in the Scotland Bill.

This result is not conducive to the Government agreeing to the Amendment in another place. Indeed, I am sufficiently politically naive to be more than a little surprised that the Government did not put down an Amendment at the Report stage of the Scotland Bill seeking to change the situation and to redevolve forestry. I can only assume that the Government are waiting to see the result of this Amendment before doing anything at all. They may, for all I know, be unconvinced that the balance to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, referred in the debate on this subject during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill—at col. 886 of 9th May—may have shifted slightly. His actual words started in col. 885, and were: Forestry is already a matter of great importance in the rural areas of Scotland". I think we can take it by extension that it is already a matter of great importance in the rural areas of Wales. The noble and learned Lord went on to say: Its importance is unlikely to diminish. It seems to the Government that if the Scottish Administration did not have the ability to determine what share of their resources should be devoted to State afforestation and what forms of assistance should be made available to private woodland owners, the administration of devolved functions in relation to land use and development in rural areas would be seriously cramped and restricted. They decided on balance"— and I could not put more emphasis on that word if I tried— that the right conclusion would be to devolve responsibility for forestry and afforestation". I would say in passing, but very much to the point, that the forestry associations and the private woodland owners to whom I have spoken are absolutely speechless with rage that their industry should be devolved, not for concrete reasons but for this terribly indecisive and wishy-washy reason of "on balance".

However, I must return to my point. I am convinced in my own mind, naive though this may be, that a positive decision on this matter, one way or the other, will indeed shift the balance to a point where the Government, both here and in another place, will accept the decision of your Lordships. A repeat of the figures 73 to 72 will most emphatically not.

When moving the Amendment I should have said that I had absolutely no interest to declare. Although I am well known as a nurseryman, I have no interest in forestry, or forestries, or timber products, or any other interest. However, I have moved this Amendment as an environmentalist. For that reason, if for that reason alone, I beg to move.


We are anxious to keep the proceedings short. I should like to support what the noble Lord has said. I think we are speaking of an industry which has a very slow turnover compared with what, in the out-turn, amounts to a very considerable amount of capital and which is very sensitive, as a result, to public policy. The economic pressures on the Welsh Assembly are quite different from those of the United Kingdom. My noble friend has referred to the 8 per cent. level of import saving, which is a real factor in United Kingdom economic policy; but the fact that British timber grown at home saves 8 per cent. of our imports of timber and pulp from abroad will cut very little ice indeed with an Assembly which has no contribution to make or voice in the making of the United Kingdom economic policy. I am also aware of the fact that everybody with whom I have been in contact in the forestry industry is against devolution, including the actual men who cut down the trees and who plant them, and I think that would weigh also with Her Majesty's Government. For these reasons I hope that your Lordships will listen very carefully to what my noble friend has said and will follow his advice.

The Marquess of TWEEDDALE

In sponsoring this Amendment I should like to emphasise that I have had no communication or brief from the Forestry Commission or any of its personnel. To my mind this would have been improper. It is important to stress this point as a misunderstanding occurred on the Scotland Bill which might well have led to serious friction. I would beg your Lordships' indulgence, when debating the devolution of forestry, for taking a certain amount of my speech from the Hansard report on the Scotland Bill debate. Some of the contents I have quoted almost verbatim. I say "almost" with great respect because I feel there are certain parts which would be misleading to your Lordships. One example in the Scotland Bill regarding forestry was reported on 9th May, column 874, line 15, which states my noble friend Lord Dulverton as saying— In the new and growing industry—new, that is, for Britain—many millions have been infested by growers …". The mind boggles, because if the wording is correct I am sure your Lordships on this side of the Committee will have no objection to the subject being totally devolved. It is lunacy to devolve forestry, whether it be private or quasi-nationalised —lunacy for the reason I shall attempt to place before your Lordships' House.

The headquarters of the Forestry Commission have been moved to Edinburgh for the benefit of the overall administration of the Commission's activities with the United Kingdom. These headquarters are working with undoubted success and there should he no interference with their running or diminution of their responsibilities. The Forestry Commission in its present form has established an amicable relationship with agriculture, tourism and landlords and sporting interests. All these are beneficial to the United Kingdom as a whole. I think it is undesirable to say more about the Forestry Commission for the reason I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. Having lived next door to and alongside its activites for 13 years I have a strong personal conviction that neither the Commission nor any part of it should be disturbed by devolution. It is possible that should part of the Forestry Commission be devolved ill-feeling could arise, ill-feeling that at the moment is dormant or non-existent. One example could well be the compulsory purchase of land. As matters are now the Commission holds this power but to the best of my knowledge has never exercised it. Who is to say what would happen if the Commission became fragmented by devolution or fragmentation became a political bauble?

The private sector of forestry openly opposes devolution. Its opposition is not necessarily political—a reason that is frequently bandied about—but is based on efficiency, administration and investment. One has continually heard of the lack of investment by people of the United Kingdom, but this is certainly not true of the private forest owners. By European standards our forestry is small, but it is extremely important when one realizes that the nation's annual import bill is over £2,000 million. However small the industry may be, the effect can only be detrimental if it is split up. This splitting up would result in a loss of effectiveness, distortion of the market, and create endless difficulties in the setting up of new timber processing industries. This Government have already expressed the wish that there should be closer co-operation between forestry and agriculture. Why in the name of sanity should one devolve forestry and leave agriculture to be the responsibility of central Government? This could only drive the two industries away from each other and create unnecessary frictions. Since 1972 the forestry industry, as a whole, has suffered enough at the hands of successive Governments. At the moment the home supply of timber is only 8 per cent. of the annual needs of the United Kingdom.

However, if we go on expanding, which can be done so that there is no interference, at a rate which many people of great knowledge consider is feasible, then the figure of 8 per cent. could be raised to between 20 and 25 per cent. This would make a contribution to the national housekeeping bill of some £500 million. This result might not he "infestation", but it would certainly be a very useful investment. This not inconsiderable saving gained by the increase from 8 per cent. to 25 per cent. would not be like the relatively short-term bonus from the North Sea oil but in one form or another could he there for all time.

To sum up, I address your Lordships in the sincere hope that, having heard the debate, as many noble Lords as feel able will vote for the Amendment, bearing in mind that, should the vote be carried by the Not-Contents, your Lordships' House may well be disturbing the smooth running of the two forestry concerns; that is, the public and private sectors, the ancillary industries depending upon the two bodies, the goodwill of agriculture and of landlords and, above all, the considerable and all-important benefit that sparsely populated and isolated areas now enjoy from having the vital matter of employment made possible when there was little scope before.


I rise to declare an interest, of which I am sure a number of your Lordships are aware, in the subject we are discussing tonight, because I have hastened down from the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee meeting taking place at Edinburgh this afternoon to join your Lordships this evening. My interest at the present time is as chairman of a body called the Forestry Committee of Great Britain. That body is confused by certain people with the Forestry Commission. I am not speaking for the Forestry Commission, which I was quoted as doing a few weeks ago. I am speaking of the Forestry Committee of Great Britain, which represents the private sector of forestry in which the English and Welsh foresters through TGO and the Scottish Foresters through the Scottish Woodlands Owners' Association join together in deliberation and I was chairing that meeting in Edinburgh this morning. I left the HGTAC meeting which is an advisory committee to the Forestry Commission, having heard that your Lordships were debating this subject this evening, because I wanted to back up my noble friends who have just introduced this Amendment.

I shall attempt to be brief, possibly to the degree of being terse. I addressed your Lordships, perhaps at greater length than I should have done, on the Scotland Bill a week or two ago, and now I should just like to add two points. The prospect of devolving forestry into three sections under three separate governmental bodies —three separate Parliaments or Assemblies or whatever they are to be called—is totally opposed to the confirmed interest of the following bodies which are involved in forestry.

I am afraid it is a fairly long list. First, the Forestry Committee of Great Britain, to which I referred just now; the two component bodies—the Timber Growers Organisation representing the growers in England and Wales and the Scottish Woodland Owners' Association representing the growers in Scotland; the two Royal Forestry Societies, one of them being the Royal Forestry Society of England and Wales and Northern Ireland and the other being the Royal Forestry Society of Scotland; the Association of Professional Foresters who are mainly forestry contractors; the Institution of Foresters of Great Britain which is a professional body of foresters. There are representatives of the NUAAW who join in our various deliberations; there is the home timber trade, as represented by their various bodies representing the saw millers, the pulp millers and the chipboard industry. All of those are opposed to the splitting of forestry. Finally, there is the Homegrown Timber Advisory Committee itself, which is an advisory committee to the Forestry Commission. This matter was deliberated quite some time ago in their rather large committee—I cannot be exact, but there are about 35 of us round the table—and with one voice all the members of the committee decided that devolution of forestry would be damaging.

My other point is simply this, that in moving the Amendment on the Scotland Bill I deplored the absence of my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryffe, who is so well known to your Lordships, both for himself and for the fact that he was a most distinguished chairman of the Forestry Commission a year or two ago. He wrote to me after the Scottish debate. He was unable to be present because he was on a remote island in Scotland. He is unable to be here this evening because he has had to return to Scotland. May I make one brief quotation from his letter: I back you up 100 per cent. in what you said on the Scotland Bill. During my period of office as chairman of the Forestry Commission I had the headquarters removed to Edinburgh, and it would now he a piece of nonsense to devolve forestry. It would add to the bureaucracy. It would make it increasingly difficult for the industry to deal with so many Government bodies if the Assemblies of Wales and Scotland were added". I hope that such words from the mouth of Lord Taylor will reinforce Members on this side of the Committee in feeling that the Amendment should be supported; but I hope further that it will convince your Lordships on the other side of the Committee that the Amendment has great merit and importance.


Before the noble Lord sits down may I put this point: He was good enough to read to your Lordships a long list of bodies which are against devolution of these forestry powers to Wales. May I ask whether he had consulted a Welsh body, such as the South Wales Woodlands Limited, on a matter of this kind pertaining to the special circumstances of Wales? I must declare an interest, because that body is helping me to look after some 200,000 trees 800 feet above ground in the rather desolate area around Tregaron.

10.34 p.m.


I am not going to reply to this debate at very great length. All the arguments were well explored in the Scotland Bill. Noble Lords opposite have a majority which is not exactly built-in, but I think it can be relied on. I agreed with 90 per cent. of what the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale said. He said forestry is very important; of course it is. He said we only get 8 per cent. and we ought to get 20 per cent.; of course we ought. The point at issue is whether we get any more if the situation of today is changed, in the very mild way that would arise when those powers, which at the moment are with the Secretary of State for Wales, are transferred to the Assembly.

One would think that the Secretary of State for Agriculture ran forestry in Wales. The Forestry Commission runs forestry in Wales, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for Wales; and he will do the same thing with the Assembly. A vote of one is not conclusive, but there are differences between Scotland and Wales, and I suppose that the main one is that noble Lords opposite own most of Scotland and rather less of Wales!

However, there is only one argument which has any weight at all with me; that is the argument that it is a pity to separate forestry from agriculture. That is an argument that one must look at, and one must decide whether it is better to separate forestry from agriculture or to separate forestry from the other analogous subjects of planning and land use, which are rural development, countryside and tourism. The Government's decision is that the latter is the better.

The extent of new afforestation in Wales is far less than in Scotland. At present the Forestry Commission plants about 10 new hectares in Scotland for one in Wales. But forestry is nevertheless of the very greatest importance to the rural life in Wales, and to a great many ordinary people as well as very large landowners. The total area of existing forest in Wales is almost a third of that in Scotland, but when allowance is made for the greater acreages of Scotland as opposed to Wales, the proportion is very much the same. So it is extremely important. The Government have an absolutely clear view about the devolution of forestry in Scotland, and it would be quite unreasonable for the Government to back down on this matter, however slender I may think are my hopes of carrying the Committee with me.

I should like to repeat that we are speaking only of executive devolution. I repeat that the Welsh Assembly will have no powers which are not currently exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales. So what on earth is everybody talking about? The theme which has run through the debates on every Amendment with which I have been concerned is the conviction of noble Lords opposite that the Assembly will not be any good. I resent that. I think that it is absolutely wrong. Whatever noble Lords may think, they say it again and again. I, personally, have faith in the Assembly. I think that it could go wrong, but I do not think that it will go wrong. I know enough men from the Principality to believe that they can do the job properly.

I think that devolution as suggested is, of the two plans, marginally better. I am sorry about the separation from agriculture, as I was a farmer for many years. I know that the two are important to one another, but there are other links, too. I have spoken rapidly and, I think, as tersely as the noble Lord. I do not believe that further argument will alter any decision that your Lordships may make. I hope that the Committee will reject the Amendment.


The Committee will not forgive me if I spend more than two minutes further on my feet, but I must respond to one matter which the noble Lord raised because I think that he said it in the wrong place. He said that throughout the whole of these debates and as regards every Amendment we are saying that the Assembly is no good. At no point could he have said that in a less apposite way, because two matters are weighing with the Committee: first, the separation of agriculture and forestry, which he himself has said is of considerable importance, together with the economic considerations which we have already mentioned; secondly, that the whole industry, with a singularly united voice, has said that it does not want it. That also must weigh with us. It may be that one limited company has not been consulted, but the list which my noble friend produced was of overwhelming importance.

I shall not delay your Lordships any longer. But I should like to rebut the charge more strongly in this context than in any other that the noble Lord has made that we are against the Welsh. We are not against the Welsh Assembly because it is Welsh. We are not against the Welsh Assembly because it may be no good. We want to make the Assembly, if it has to be, as good as it can be, but this is not the job for it to do.


I was carried away by the excitement of the debate. I do not want to say anything which could possibly be regarded as discourteous to noble Lords opposite. I just think that if your Lordships read the debates carefully, you will get a very curious impression.


This has been a very useful and brief debate. I am

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

10.48 p.m.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 59A:

Page 56, column 2, leave out lines 2 and 3 and insert— ("The powers under sections 2(4) and (5), 3(10), 5 and 8(3)(a).").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 59A is a fairly narrow Committee point, but none the less an important one.

sorry that the arguments have not shifted the balance or even swayed the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. From listening to all the speakers on this debate, I should have thought that the balance of the argument was overwhelming. On this occasion I should like to test the opinion of your Lordships.

10.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 59) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 44; Not-Contents, 34.

Alexander of Tunis, E. Elton, L. Reading, M.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Faithfull, B. Rochdale, V.
Amory, V. Forester, L. Sandford, L.
Bathurst, E. Fortescue, E. Sandys, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gainford, L. Savile, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Gridley, L. Selkirk, E.
Craigmyle, L. Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Hunt of Fawley, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
de Clifford, L. Long, V. Swansea, L.
De La Warr, E. Montgomery of Alamein, V. Trenchard,V.
Denham, L. Morris, L. Tweeddale, M. [Teller.]
Drumalbyn, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Vernon, L.
Dulverton, L. Newall, L. Vivian, L.
Elles, B. O'Hagan, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B Rankeillour, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Brockway, L. Ingleby, V. Segal, L.
Champion, L. Kagan, L. Stedman, B.
Collison, L. Kirkhill, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Stone, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. McGregor of Durris, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Gaitskell, B. Mais, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L. Whaddon, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Northfield, L. White, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Parry, L. Winterbottom, L.
Hood, V. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)

May we take Amendments Nos. 59A and 5913 together?


They are both narrow Committee points but equally quite important. My noble friends have been concerned to ensure that the appointments to the Welsh Water Authority, and indeed to many other bodies we discussed on previous Amendments, are persons experienced in the functions which pertain to those particular boards. In this case appointments of persons experienced in agriculture, land drainage, and fisheries, should remain with the Secretary of State, and likewise appointments to the regional land drainage committee. The first Amendment, No. 59A, has the purpose of retaining with the Secretary of State the function of making appointments to the regional land drainage committee of the Welsh Water Authority. Amendment No. 59B is designed to retain for the Secretary of State his present function of appointing to the Welsh Water Authority persons experienced in agriculture, land drainage and fisheries; in other words, the two Amendments are linked, as the Minister envisaged.

It is felt by several bodies, the Country Landowners' Association not excepted, that it would be a retrograde step to take away from the Welsh Office Agricultural Department the functions of making these appointments when, with their wealth of knowledge, experience and expert staff, they are well suited to make them. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said on the last Amendment, my noble friends and I feel they are far more suited and experienced to make these appointments than the Assembly, no matter what goodwill we may have for the Assembly, and I assure noble Lords opposite that I have great goodwill for them and I do not regard them as a prospective bunch of idiots, to use a colloquialism. As I know from being in your Lordships' House, experience takes a lot of gaining, and for some time, perhaps as long as five or six years, the Assembly will not have gained it. It is in this transitional period that we are particularly anxious to see that the appointments are retained by the Secretary of State and are not devolved to an untried Assembly.


My name also appears above the Amendment, and in addition to supporting what my noble friend has said on the subject, I wish to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, for her helpful comments yesterday in answer to various questions that were put to her. However, if anything she increased my apprehension about this matter because I did not feel we got to the bottom of it. I take this opportunity to raise the slightly wider issue of water, which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, mentioned; he got in ahead of us earlier in the evening. Water catch- ment areas and river basins have been created by the Almighty and I am not sure it is incumbent on a Legislature of any type to interfere with these natural arrangements.

The Water Act 1973, a measure of some wisdom, created the 10 water authorities precisely on these hydrological boundaries, which seem much more logical than the artificial political boundaries which have been man-made. We are therefore looking at water as a national interest matter, and if anything should be national it is water, more so than forestry which we have just been discussing. From what has been said on this subject, particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, it seems that the Assembly will have power to interfere with the water authority and even to form an executive committee. I do not dispute what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said—namely, that the Assembly will be formed of brilliant individuals—but that has nothing to do with it. The point is that if the Assembly were able to interfere with the water authorities and the boundaries that exist —and, after all, one water authority overlaps into Wales and the one in Wales overlaps into England in various places—that would be to introduce a state of confusion and, I believe, would be catastrophic in that it would place the water authorities in England in a totally different position than would be the case in Wales. It also seems to me that it would destroy the co-ordinating function which is exercised by the National Water Council. Obviously the local interests in Wales must be taken care of. Surely this is already done by the appointments made by the county councils and the district councils. I believe that the Secretary for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture, who currently make appointments, should continue to do so, and, therefore, water must, above all things, be considered on a national, United Kingdom basis.

10.55 p.m.


I should like to add a further reason why I believe that these Amendments should be agreed to. In doing so, I wish to return to my worry of yesterday; namely, the question of the appointment of the members of the Welsh Water Authority—should it be devolved. I wrote a note to the noble Baroness about this, but I see that since I did so, she has turned, as it were, into the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich.

As I understand it, the Welsh Water Authority is not a Regional Water Authority as such, and is, therefore, not limited by Section 3 of the 1973 Water Act. It is, however, controlled by Sections 2(4) and 3(10) of that Act, which lay down the constitution and formation of the Welsh Water Authority. However, as those powers are to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly—and here is the problem—it presumably can alter anything in those two sections. If I am correct in this assumption, it would be possible for the Welsh Assembly to nominate all the members of the Welsh Water Authority, with no local authority representation which, as noble Lords will know, is in fact now in the majority rather than the minority.

If this is so, can the noble Lord say categorically that, should devolution take place, the Welsh Assembly will be controlled in this respect by Sections 2(4) and 3(10) of the Water Act 1973? I am worried about this because the reply given by the noble Baroness to my noble friend Lord Hylton yesterday, or earlier today, on a parallel matter—I think it was about rents and rates—was that, although the Welsh Assembly would be tied to the original legislation to start with, once it gets going it could vary that as it wished.


Will the noble Lord not accept that it is reasonable to suppose that a country like Wales—which has a strong tradition of local government, which has educated many local government servants who have helped to govern England, and who have contributed their share to the government of Britain—is composed of men who have served on both the local authorities and the water boards in Wales, and that they will in fact be almost synonymous with the present structure of the water boards within that country? Is the noble Lord not anticipating a situation which could never in fact arise?


If I am to answer that question, then it seems that I have not made my point. I do not wish the water authorities to be composed of people all from the Welsh Assembly. I want my local authority in Anglesey, or in Caernarvon, still to appoint members to them. I believe that they are more important, and are nearer to me on the ground, than those in Cardiff. I am sorry to disagree with the noble Lord. I totally—


Surely the noble Lord would then elect them to the Welsh Assembly?


Certainly not; I want them in Llangefni.

Viscount AMORY

I entirely support what my noble friends have said about the Amendment. In particular, I support the last point made by my noble friend a few moments ago. I understand that all the Welsh county councils are very anxious to ensure that the local authorities in Wales will continue to have the right to nominate representatives to the Welsh National Water Development Authority. Under the Bill as drafted, I think that the task of appointing representatives to that body will be taken over by the Assembly, white in the rest of the United Kingdom local authorities will have the right to appoint members to the Regional Water Authorities. The Welsh Office has stated, I believe, that no doubt the Assembly would consider any representations from Welsh local authorities regarding the membership. I do not think that we can feel much reassurance about a statement of that kind. The Welsh Office really is in no position to know what line the Assembly would take. We have been told repeatedly that this Bill does not interfere with the rights and powers of local authorities in Wales, but here is a case in which it clearly does. The object of this Amendment is to provide that the power to vary membership of the Welsh Water Authority shall not be devolved to the Assembly, and if this Amendment is passed then any order varying the membership of that authority would remain on the same basis as in the case of the English water authorities, and be subject to an Affirmative Resolution of each House of Parliament. I hope this Amendment may be accepted by the noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite.

11.1 p.m.


It might be convenient if I raise a small point, because it will give time for the carrier pigeons to ply their trade. In so doing, I may reveal abysmal ignorance, but at least others may share it. There is a principle which at some stage in our debates on water we shall touch on and which I do not think has yet been elucidated, and it is really quite a simple one. Where we have the Welsh Assembly or, indeed, the Welsh Water Authority responsible for an area which spreads into Herefordshire, as it does, or the Severn-Trent Authority spreading into Wales, as it does, I am not at all clear how the rating provisions work, and if the noble Lord can reassure me I would welcome reassurance that there is no question of a rate being levied by an authority upon a community, the members of which are not represented upon it. After all, it is a cardinal principle of democracy that you have no taxation without representation, and since we seem to be on the question of membership of the authorities, this would seem to he an appropriate time for the assurance to be given. If it cannot, I think many of us will be extremely disturbed.


Before the noble Lord replies, I should like to take up one point that the noble Lord, Lord Parry, made. There must be no question that anybody thinks that there is any doubt about the brilliance of the Welsh people or their ability to exercise any of these functions. That is not the point at all. The point is the principle of whether water should be national or local. The noble Lord might think I am prejudiced because he might well think that my name is Welsh, or part of it; but another part of it might be thought to be Egyptian. In fact, I am neither, so I can look upon this from a United Kingdom point of view.


I would accept on behalf of the Welsh nation the assurance that a man named "David" and "Montgomery" at least has some sympathy with the Welsh.


I should like to mention that the right of the Welsh Assembly to control the supply of water to areas outside Wales is not of mere academic interest. There is bound to be, of course, some uncertainty at this stage, particularly in the Midlands, until the question of who will control the price and supply of water is settled. But, as the Liberal Member for Cardigan indicated in the other place in the course of the debate on the Wales Bill, once Wales has its own Assembly then perhaps authorities like the Severn-Trent Authority should withdraw from Wales and hand over the rights of Welsh water to the Welsh Water Authority. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has any views as to what would be the proper function of the Severn-Trent Authority when an Assembly has been created in Wales.


I shall gladly deal with that point in my reply. I should like to begin by making one statement which I hope will not be too controversial; that is, that one of the most notable contributions made during the course of today's debate was the one made by my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek, when he drew attention to the attitude of the Opposition as far as the Welsh Assembly was concerned. Ever since then, there have been shrill denials, if I may so describe them, in which the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, took a leading part in moving this Amendment. They have the highest regard for the Welsh Assembly, we are told. "They are men of impeccable judgment—but we will not give them any powers". They are not to be trusted with power, though, said the noble Lord, he has great good will for them. That was very generous of him, I am quite sure; and I hope the noble Lord's remarks will get good publicity in the Welsh Press tomorrow morning, because I believe—and I shall try not to overstate the case—that some of this pretty patronizing stuff about an Assembly which is going to be in existence in the near future will be regretted by some noble Lords in years to come.


Really, I think I must contest that to the hilt. It is going a bit too far. Patronizing, I did not intend to be. I do not feel that from my point of view it came out as patronising. I would say this to the noble Lord. I am not trying to put a Party political answer to something which noble Lords opposite have adduced from the arguments that my noble friends have put forward here up to now. I am not in that position. I do not speak from the Front Benches. As a Back-Bencher—or, perhaps, a backwoods Peer, as I might refer to myself—my job is to speak for interests as I see them. The fact that I might be able to gather round me noble Lords of like interest is neither here nor there. This is a point for myself. I brought this up before the diatribe which the noble Lord delivered. I have a feeling that I brought it up yesterday. The Official Report will be able to bear me out. But this is my recollection.


I am delighted that the noble Lord did not intend to be as patronizing as he sounded to some of us. Having said these harsh things to the noble Lord, let me return to the paths of moderation and sweet reasonableness. Before doing so, I would say this. One noble Lord who is no longer, unhappily, with us this evening drew attention to the fact—this has been repeated by a number of noble Lords opposite: I must say that I propose to look at his words in Hansard tomorrow—that we do, apparently, have some grave suspicions about this Assembly but we do have the highest regard for our Ministers: Secretaries of State, men of remarkable wisdom, we are told, surrounded by civil servants of a quality rarely known. I am grateful to hear these tributes. I am sure my right honourable friends will accept them in the spirit in which they are offered. I can, f hope, be not too partisan. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who is never partisan, I fear that I am from time to time. I recall periods where I would not myself describe the record of Ministers in quite the way the noble Lord opposite did. Nevertheless, if that is his judgment of the present Administration, I am grateful to him and thank him for the kind words. I would say this—


Give way!


I do not know whether the noble Lord is anxious to intervene himself. I will always give way. If he is going to contribute to this debate I will give way with great enthusiasm.


I do not know if my noble friend will intervene. The point I wanted to raise is a simple one. I wanted to know whether the noble Lord, Lord Harris—and he is plainly enjoying this debate, and we all appreciate this; it is nice to see people happy—felt that by any chance there was a connection with the greater trust reposed in Ministers even of his own Party by my noble friends and the fact that they are subject to Parliamentary purview and could be called to account. That point has been made frequently and the presence of that possibility affects conduct to the extent that it does not have to be exercised that often. This is not a derogation of power. It is the cane in the cupboard. It may be hung there for ever but it does some good.


I take the point. I imagine the Assembly is going to be a democratic body. There will be elections in Wales. There will be no Stalinist take-over in the first few months of the Assembly. We must assume that there are going to be democratic curbs which will apply to the Assembly in the same way as to Parliament or to local authorities.

On this question of water, I must say this to the noble Lord. The whole issue of water so far as Wales is concerned is so central to the whole debate that it seems to me absolutely unthinkable for us to move into a situation where the Assembly would not have powers which are laid on them in this Bill. Certainly it is necessary to take account of the fact that the Wales-English Border—a point made by the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat—does not follow the hydrological boundary which separates the areas of the Welsh Water Authority and the Severn-Trent Water Authority. That is achieved, so far as this Bill is concerned, by arrangements in Clause 63 and Schedule 8 whereby, first, the Assembly will be able to exercise certain powers in relation to the Welsh Water Authority as a whole (and similarly the Government in relation to Severn-Trent Water Authority): and, secondly, the Government will have powers of intervention to safeguard England and Wales water policy and also particular interests in water in England.

The arrangements are reflected in the provision for appointments to water authorities and their regional land drainage committees under Sections 2 and 3 of the Water Act 1973 and Section 2 of the Land Drainage Act 1976. Part I of Schedule 8 to the Bill provides that the Assembly will exercise powers under these sections for the Welsh Water Authority and the Government for the Severn-Trent Water Authority. But Section 3 of the 1973 Act and Section 2 of the 1976 Act are themselves amended by the entries in paragraphs 47 to 53 and 88 of Schedule 11 on pages 77 and 78 and 84 of the Bill.

The net effect for the Welsh Water Authority is that the Assembly order reconstituting the Authority—and this is the point made in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley—must provide for one member to be appointed by the Government, and four by local authorities in England. The appointment of the remainder will be a matter for the Assembly to decide—a power resting with the Assembly—but it may wish to continue the present arrangements whereby a number of appointments are made by the Welsh local authorities. For the regional land drainage committee, two members will he appointed by the Water Authority itself, two by local authorities in England and the chairman, and remaining members, will be appointed by the Assembly.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, asked whether the Assembly would have to operate Section 2(4) and Section 3(10) of the 1973 Water Act. Yes, it will, as amended, of course, by Schedule 11 to this Bill and, notably, paragraph 53. The Assembly will not be able to avoid these provisions; but under them, however, it will have power to reconstitute the Welsh Water Authority, as I have indicated.

I now turn to the position of the Severn-Trent Water Authority. Here the Government will appoint the chairman, the Welsh Assembly will appoint three members, who could represent Welsh local authorities. This will be a matter for the Assembly to decide. The Government and local authorities in England will appoint the other members, but subject to a formula whereby local authority appointees will be in a majority. For the regional land drainage committee, the Government will appoint the chairman, the Assembly will appoint one member, the water authority two members and the Government and local authorities in England will appoint the remainder.

The Government believe that these arrangements get the right balance for both the Welsh Water Authority and Severn-Trent Water Authority. They cover also the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in his intervention about the no taxation without representation issue, as I have explained. The Amendment would totally destroy this balance in respect of the Welsh Water Authority by removing any guarantee of Assembly appointments and transferring potentially all appointments to the Government and local authorities in England. It is an essential element, in our judgment, of the devolution proposals that democratic control of nominated bodies operating in Wales should be enhanced, and the Amendments cannot be reconciled with that aim or with the granting of meaningful responsibilities over water services to the Assembly.


I rise to thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for that very comprehensive reply, which indeed will need some study. But before leaving this matter, I should like to come back on one item. I daresay when we have studied it we shall be better informed; and if we go back to the principles of the matter which we did not touch on, I believe the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, may have something to say. We seem to have avoided the issue as to whether or not water is a matter of total national importance. There may be an opportunity later to study this at Report stage, but I should not like him to overlook the point that I was making earlier; that is, that in this context water is indivisible on a United Kingdom basis, in the same way as it was considered to be in Scotland, and that the Island on which we live—England, Scotland and Wales—is one area, hydro logically.

It may be that the technical answer we have been given will be sufficient to answer the question; I do not know. I do not think it really matters whether the Assembly is good or bad or whether the Minister is good or bad. That is not the principle I was trying to establish, and I should not like it not to be on the record as a matter of very considerable concern. I suspect from what the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said earlier, that he agrees with this matter. It would be interesting if he were to comment also.


We have had a hard day and I shall take only a minute. The Government's proposals for the Welsh Assembly set out in Cmnd. No. 6876 would produce a different position in Wales. The devolution proposals would produce a different position in Wales. I am paraphrasing, but the proposals would bring a genuine measure of devolution but with reserve powers for the Government. Then we come to the main principle, with which I agree; namely, that nothing in the proposals would change the central principle that river basins would be managed as complete units. The areas of both authorities would therefore remain unchanged. In fact there is much to give satisfaction that we get unity of outlook. I think we must have that in hydrology and, if I may use another word, in dendrology as well.


The answer to this Amendment got off to what I can only describe as a very shaky start, and if this Amendment has done nothing else, it will drive me straight to the dictionary to look up the word "patronizing". "Dendrology" I can cope with, and if your Lordships really want to know, I will tell you what it is. However, if my understanding of the word "patrony" is correct, the boot was getting rapidly on to the other foot. However, be that as it may, when the noble Lord finally buckled to and got down to it, he gave us a horse race that I think will be worth remembering. It was certainly too much for me to take in at this late hour. I can assure him that without doubt we shall be returning to this point at a later stage. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 59B not moved.]

11.19 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 57, line 35, column 1, at end insert—

("The Civic Amenities Act 1967 (c. 69) section 4(2). The powers under that provision so far as exercisable in relation to loans made by a Minister of the Crown.").

The noble Baroness said: This is a technical Amendment to the entry in the Bill for the Civic Amenities Act 1967. It was heralded by an earlier Amendment (No. 57), which deleted the entry in Part VIII of the Schedule. There are two reasons for this Amendment, which involves no change of policy. First, almost all of the Civil Amenities Act (which was originally introduced as a Private Member's Bill by the noble Lord, Lord DuncanSandys, when he was in another place) has now been repealed. Much of it was consolidated into the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, and now most of what was left has been consolidated into the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978. It seems a strange mixture. We have already discussed this Act on an earlier Amendment. The only ministerial power which is left in the original Civic Amenities Act is that in Section 4(2) which relates to historic buildings. The Act is therefore now more suitably placed in Part XIV of Schedule 2 (Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings) rather than, as before, Part VIII (Planning and Land Use). That is part of the purpose of the Amendment.

The other part of its purpose is to correct a minor error in the Bill's treatment of this last remaining power in Section 4(2) of the Act. It is a Treasury power to consent to the terms of loans made by the Secretary of State under Section 4 of the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953. These loans are for the purchase of historic buildings, and the effect of the entry for the 1953 Act in Schedule 3 to the Bill is that they may be made after devolution either by the Assembly or the Secretary of State. It is accordingly intended that the Treasury power of consent should be retained in cases where loans are made by the Secretary of State. The previous entry for the Civic Amenities Act would have required the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of the Assembly rather than the Treasury. Clearly, this was mistaken, and the new entry puts the matter right. I beg to move.


We are obliged to the noble Baroness for that very careful explanation of this technical Amendment. The only point which I should like to raise at this stage is whether there is need to examine the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act 1913 in a similar connection. I am not certain whether powers exist in that Act to make loans, and I wonder whether the Government would look at that in a similar connection.

Baroness STEDMAN

Yes, we will certainly look at that.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 60A, 60B and 60C not moved.]


Amendment No. 61.


I understood that we were stopping before Amendment No. 60. My noble friend Lord O'Hagan left the Chamber for that reason.


No agreement was reached that we should not take the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. I have made no agreement of that kind. If he has left the Chamber and he cannot move it, then I am afraid that we cannot do anything about it. But we were going to go to 11.30 p.m. or Amendment No. 61G, whichever came first. We have not reached 11.30 p.m. I think it very extraordinary that a Member of the Committee should actually leave the Chamber before his Amendment is reached, and I am afraid that we on this side can take no notice of that.


I think perhaps it would be helpful if I said that I believe there has been a misunderstanding here. It appears to me that Amendment No. 60A is a holus-bolus Amendment, to review the whole of Part XVI of the Schedule, which contains a considerable amount of material, and I was under the impression that we would not wish to proceed with such a large subject at this time of night. I think that there has also been a slight misunderstanding about the point in time—it is a very narrow one—at which we agreed to finish. If I have contributed to that I apologies, and, if my noble friend has reposed too much confidence in my surmises, then I apologies for that as well, as I am sure he will do himself later.


He and I are in a great difficulty. The Amendment has been called. If there is nobody here to move it, then there is nothing that I can do about it. It has, in fact, been called and we must proceed from there.

11.25 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 61, column 2, leave out lines 27 to 30.

The noble Lord said: As the Chair has called Amendment No. 61, I am perfectly content to proceed to deal with it. Perhaps I have not recovered so quickly as the noble Baroness opposite from the quick dash we had from the other end of the Chamber. This is a probing Amendment which can be taken very quickly. It proposes that lines 27 to 30 in column 2 on page 61 should be omitted. The purpose of the Amendment is to ask Her Majesty's Government to explain why this inclusion of the Census Act has been made. Rather than produce a list of my surmises of what the effects of this inclusion will be, I think it would be more to the convenience of the Committee if I asked the Government to justify the inclusion of this Act in the Schedule. I beg to move.


In view of the invitation extended by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, may I begin by explaining briefly the Government's policy in relation to the functions of the Registrar General in Wales. After devolution, the Registrar General will continue as at present to operate on an England and Wales basis. There is nothing in the Bill to allow for the creation of a separate Registrar General for Wales. When we discuss Amendment No. 61A, I shall explain in more detail how we see the registration services operating after devolution when the Registrar General will be serving both the Government and the Assembly. For the purposes of the Amendment, I must emphasis that there will remain in being one Registrar General for England and Wales.

The Government's proposals in the Bill allow for devolution to the Assembly of functions in relation to registration services but not in relation to the Census. In the Government's opinion, the Census requires special consideration in view of its status as the most important and comprehensive national population survey conducted by the Government. Much of the information derived from the Census will be required for the exercise of non-devolved functions, and its validity for such purposes depends upon its being conducted at the same time and, of course, on the same basis as for other parts of the United Kingdom. Indeed, I think that point will be taken by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. For that reason, the Census is also reserved for Scotland in precisely the same way. The Government therefore believe that the provisions in the Bill are right; namely, that the Assembly should have no powers in relation to the taking of the Census.

The effect of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord—I take his point that this is a probing Amendment and therefore I shall not hold the noble Lord to its precise phraseology—is not to devolve all the functions in relation to the Census to the Assembly. I do not propose to explain in detail what the effect of the Amendment will be because, as the noble Lord said, he wants an explanation of our basic purpose so far as this is concerned, and I hope that I have satisfied him on this point.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his exposition of that narrow point. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.28 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 61A: Page 61, column 2, line 45, leave out from ("regulations") to ("not") in line 47.

The noble Lord said: This also is a probing Amendment, and perhaps I may repeat what I said when speaking to the previous Amendment. We wish to find out why this inclusion is made and why the reservation in this case is as narrow as it here is, which on the face of it would appear to operate in the opposite direction from the explanation which the noble Lord has just given to us.


Before I deal with the details of this Amendment, perhaps noble Lords will find it helpful if I explain, as the noble Lord has invited me to do, the devolution of registration services. As I explained a short while ago when we discussed the last Amendment, at present the Registrar General carries out his functions on an England and Wales basis. After devolution, there will continue to be one Registrar, as I pointed out before, for England and Wales. There is nothing in the Bill to allow for the creation of a separate Registrar General for Wales, but the Government think it right that the elected Assembly in Wales should be able to influence the manner in which registration services are provided.

The main registration Acts—for example, the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953—require the Registrar General to make regulations in connection with the registration functions which are involved. Within each Act is a single power for the Minister to approve these regulations. Devolution of these ministerial powers alone would not achieve the Government's policy because the Registrar General would still need to make one set of regulations for England and Wales, so that Schedule 2, Part XXIX entries devolving ministerial powers are complemented by amendments to the Registration Act in Schedule 11, which permits the Registrar General to make separate regulations for England and Wales respectively; for example, the matched entry in Schedule 11 for the Births and Deaths Registrations Act 1953 entry in Schedule 2, is to be found on page 74.

Having explained the general principle I will now come to the Amendment, and I hope that I will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that what we are proposing here is reasonable in all the circumstances. Indeed, I should be very surprised, having explained it, if I did not so satisfy him. Section 39 of the 1953 Act contains the general ministerial approving power of the Registrar General's regulations. This is devolved to the Assembly in column 1 of page 61. This devolution is limited by the words in column 2. These make it clear that the Assembly will only be able to approve regulations made in connection with births, deaths or registration in Wales. But, additionally, the Assembly is precluded entirely from approving regulations in respect of Sections 3A and 14 of the Act.

The noble Lord in reality asked the question why in fact there are these exclusions. The explanation is this. Section 3A, which is inserted in the 1953 Act by Section 92 of the Children Act 1975 is concerned with entries in the Abandoned Children Register. This is a register, held in St. Catherine's House in London, providing information about the births of abandoned children in England and Wales. The devolution of the Section 39 power in relation to this section could lead the Registrar General to having to keep quite different information depending on whether the child was abandoned in Wales or England. And what of the child found abandoned on a train from London to Cardiff? This is the kind of problem which would arise if we did not have this exclusion.

Section 14 is concerned with legitimated persons. When evidence can be provided that a person has become legitimated, the Registrar General can authorize the re-registration of that person's birth. The re-registration is effected in the manner and place prescribed by the Registrar General. There is also provision in relation to persons born at sea and legitimated later. Evidence can be provided from anywhere in the world in respect of a birth registered in England and Wales. All such evidence is presented to the Registrar General in London. He then prescribes the manner and place of re-registration. If the power in Section 39 in relation to this prescribing power were to be devolved, the Registrar General would have to operate two different systems in St. Catherine's House. I hope that satisfies the noble Lord. Certainly I have found his question particularly interesting, and I, like him I suspect, have learned a great deal.


One of the few fruits in the desert of Opposition is occasionally to be able to do very little work and cause the Government to do a great deal. If Her Majesty's Government then have the grace to say they have profited from the exercise, one's cup runlets over. Indeed, we have had a very interesting day, one of the highlights of which, if I may revert to an earlier theme, was to hear the noble Lord called Leek, Lord Davies of Leek, arguing fiercely about water with another noble Lord named after a desert. Finally, we have had a slight but unintentional misunderstanding. I understand that Her Majesty's Government have agreed to meet us very generously in difficult circumstances as to timetable, and therefore, for many reasons, I should like to thank the noble Lord Opposite, and I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.