HL Deb 22 June 1978 vol 393 cc1387-461

3.35 p.m.


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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Lord GREENWOOD of ROSSENDALE in the Chair.]


I understand that at the last sitting we reached the Motion that Clause 47 stand part, and Clause 47 was stood part; so we begin today at the top of page 5 of the Marshalled List with Amendment No. 89.

[Amendment No. 89 not moved].

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 89A: Page 19, leave out lines 28 to 30.

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 57C.

Baroness STEDMAN

Dependent, of course, upon what may happen to it when that Amendment goes to another place.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 90 not moved.]

Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 49 [Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General]:

Lord CULLEN of ASHBOURNE moved Amendment No. 91: Page 20, leave out lines 14 and 15 and insert ("Secretary of State, after consultation with the Assembly, recommends the removal to Her Majesty.").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment relates to the manner of the removal from office of the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General. Subsection (3) of this clause provides for his appointment or his removal from office to be made by Her Majesty if the Assembly resolves that the Secretary of State be requested to recommend such removal. The effect of this Amendment is that it would be for the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Assembly, to make such a recommendation if he thinks fit. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

This is the first of a series of Amendments concerning the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General and it may be for your Lordships' convenience if at this stage I indicate the Government's views as to his office and the various arrangements relating to it which are set out in the Bill. Briefly, the Government wish to see a relationship between the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General and the Assembly which resembles as closely as possible that between the United Kingdom Comptroller and the House of Commons. That may not be a particularly helpful formula, since that relationship is a unique one and depends largely on custom rather than definition, but we hope to see the office of the Welsh Comptroller established as that of an independent public official responsible in a very generalised sense to the Assembly and to its Accounts Committee for the proper discharge of his duties, but not, in the way of an ordinary official, for his particular actions. The Comptroller's independence of the Assembly in a day-to-day political sense is symbolised by his appointment by Her Majesty and by the fact that as the Bill stands his salary and pension are charged directly on the Welsh Consolidated Fund and are not subject to appropriation annually by the Assembly.

I do not think there is any difference of view between noble Lords opposite and those on this side as to the desirability of ensuring that the accounting and audit arrangements set out in the Bill should operate as effectively as possible. It is clearly important that the examination of the Assembly's accounts should be carried out clearly and punctiliously, that the reports of the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General should be full and should be objective, and that with his assistance the Assembly's accounts committee should pursue its examinations in a searching manner. Much will clearly depend on the creation of a close and trustful relationship between the Welsh Comptroller and the accounts committee and on the Committee's emergence as a strong back-bench watchdog for the Assembly, analogous in its standing to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

I acknowledge that there are differences from both Westminster and the Scottish Assembly, in both of which there is an Executive constituted separately from the main body of Back Bench Members. But the Bill confers certain important functions on the Assembly's Executive Committee, as established by Clause 18, which must seek credits for expenditure from either the Welsh Consolidated Fund or the Welsh Loans Fund, and which must account, under Clause 52(1)(a), for payments into and out of these Funds. Only one member of the Executive Committee may be a member of the accounts committee, and under Clause 22 Party balance must be reflected in its membership.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether these aecounting arrangements are likely to operate more successfully if the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General is seen to be an officer of the Assembly as a whole, independent of the Executive Committee, or as a place-man of the Government, as he would be turned into by a number of the Amendments we are about to come to. There is no discipline like self-discipline, and so far as the Government are concerned they are in no doubt that responsible attitudes to expenditure can best be induced by giving responsibility fro the Assembly for ensuring that the accounting arrangements are properly administered. It is with this philosophy in mind that the Government have carefully considered all the Amendments put down on this subject, and for reasons which I will be happy to explain when we come to the later Amendments, we believe there are good reasons why some of them should be resisted.

However, so far as the present Amendment is concerned, I must confess that we have some sympathy. It has been suggested that the existence of a power for the Assembly to resolve to request the removal of the Welsh Comptroller could prevent the proper kind of relationship, such as I have been speaking about, from developing. In the Government's view, this risk is a theoretical one, but we do agree that there is a case for saying that an Assembly which itself has executive power to request the removal of a public official responsible for examining its public accounts could be held to be anomalous. It might lead to public misunderstanding as to the extent of the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General's authority and in certain circumstances might affect public confidence in him. For these reasons, provisions on the lines proposed in the Amendment do have a value in reinforcing the independence which is symbolised by the Comptoller's appointment by Her Majesty and by the special charging of his salary to the Welsh Consolidated Fund. The Government are happy to accept the Amendment.


This is a very encouraging start to the afternoon. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 91A not moved.]

Lord CULLEN of ASHBOURNE moved Amendment No. 92: Page 20, line 17, after second ("the") insert ("Scottish or").

The noble Lord said: I think the purpose of this Amendment is really very obvious. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

It is my job to be handing out the goodies this afternoon. It may be arguable whether there is any essential constitutional incompatibility between membership of the Scottish Assembly and the office of Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General, but we do accept that as a matter of practice active membership of the Scottish Assembly could not be reconciled with the efficient discharge of the Comptroller's duty. Moreover, it is hardly fitting that a senior public official in one part of Great Britain should be an active politician in another part. Therefore, once again, we are prepared to accept the Amendment.


Is the noble Baroness denying the Assembly the ability of a Scottish accountant, because that would be a very retrograde step?

Baroness STEDMAN

No, we are not denying them the benefit of a Scottish accountant. What we are saying is that the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General should not also sit in one of the other Assemblies as a politician.


I hardly know how to thank the noble Baroness.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 92B not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 49, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

3.46 p.m.


I am not sure that I have fully taken in what the noble Baroness said in her long speech about the Welsh Comptroller; it may be that the notes I have prepared need a little amendment. I ask the Committee to be patient. Having dealt with the matter of the Comptroller's removal from office, I should now like to ask the Government how he is to be appointed. The very fact that sub-section (1) provides that there shall be a Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General shows that the Government recognise the need for this ultimate safeguard, as the noble Baroness explained.

Government spokesmen have frequently explained that the Welsh Assembly is a new body; it is not a local authority; nor is it similar to the Scottish Assembly, as it has no legislative powers. Finance will be of prime importance, and we on these Benches fully endorse the decision by the Government to build a provision into the Bill for an officer to oversee the financial doings of the Assembly. Of equal importance will be the qualifications and experience of the Comptroller, and presumably his duties will be analogous to those of the United Kingdom Comptroller.

I should like to make a suggestion here for consideration; if that is the case—that his job will be so analogous—I would have thought the most suitable person for the job would be somebody in the United Kingdom Comptroller's office. I would think that the best idea would be to second a member of that Department to the Welsh Assembly, particularly in the early stages of setting up this unique body. I hope that this is just what the Assembly will try to arrange. This would be in no sense a derogation from the powers of the Assembly. Rather would it give confidence to the Welsh people, who will be assured that his voice will speak with the force of independence and disinterest.

I see no reason why the Assembly itself would not agree to this proposal. In fact I hope that it might welcome it, as the Members of the Assembly, of all people, will be well aware that this is a brand new and untried body and that they will need all the independent expertise that they can get. I am not being in the least dogmatic. I just think it would be a better arrangement. But if this proposal does not find favour with the Committee, I would think that the next best thing would be for the Secretary of State to be not only the person who may recommend his removal from office but also the person to appoint him. I beg to move.


I am sure that noble Lords who speak Welsh in this Committee will agree with me that questions of expenditure can be very sensitive in certain parts of Wales. I have been wondering whether the words "after consultation with the Assembly", which have been accepted in Amendment No. 91, require further clarification. As that Amendment has been accepted, the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General, may be removed from office by Her Majesty if the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Assembly, recommends the removal to Her Majesty". This may be considered to be a minor point, but what does "consultation with the Assembly" mean? Does it mean, as in the original words, that a resolution of the Assembly would be required? And what is the scope of that consultation? I raise this matter only because I can see that there will be very considerable anxiety at some stage to get rid of the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General. Therefore, I wonder whether the words, "after consultation with the Assembly", should be further considered by the Government.

Baroness STEDMAN

So far as the Comptroller and Auditor General is concerned, provision is made in this clause about the tenure of the office. He will be appointed technically by the Crown, but it will be on the advice of the Government to the Assembly. He will hold office during "good behaviour", which is a phrase which cropped up in the Scotland Bill, as well. He will be completely independent of the Executive Committee, but he will be ultimately responsible to the Assembly as a whole. He will have the right to resign if he so wishes, but only the Assembly will have the power under subsection (3)(b) to take the initiative to secure his removal from office. That will have to be done by requesting the Secretary of State to recommend the removal to Her Majesty.

He will be responsible for the staff numbers which again the Assembly will control because it will hold the purse strings in the form of the Welsh Consolidated Fund. He will be able to delegate to his officers such powers to the extent laid down in subsections (6) and (7). As regards whether the most suitable person is someone in the United Kingdom Comptroller's office, that is something that would have to be considered when the necessary advice was being given to the Assembly.

I take on board the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. I should like to look at them further to see whether there is any way in which we can clarify his suggestions. However, as regards the appointment, that is made on the advice of the Government by the Crown. So far as getting rid of him is concerned, it is for the Assembly to take the necessary initiative for his removal from office via the Secretary of State who will make the necessary recommendation to Her Majesty.


Before the noble Baroness sits down, I wonder whether she could enlighten me as to whether there will be any method of appeal or what will be the mechanism for the removal of the Auditor. I can see that there might be a clash or a differing of opinions and possibly a personality clash. The Auditor might interpret his duties in a fairly strict way and the Assembly might feel that he was being unduly harsh or restrictive. The Assembly might, by resolution, ask the Secretary of State to propose to Her Majesty that the Auditor be removed. However, would there be any method whereby the Secretary of State would have to accept that resolution, or could he take a broader view than the elected Members of the Assembly? Could the Secretary of State suggest to Members of the Assembly that they pause for thought or that their views—even though they have made the resolution by a majority view—might be unduly hasty? Would there be any mechanism under subsection (3)(b) for such a cooling off period?

Baroness STEDMAN

There is no such mechanism written into the Bill. We do not envisage that this is the sort of situation that will arise. I take the noble Lord's point that there perhaps ought to be some means of consultation It need not necessarily be written into the Bill but it should be clarified before the next stage of the Bill and that I shall certainly undertake to do.

Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 50 [Salary and pension of Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General]:


The next Amendment is No. 92C.


The Committee will be pleased to learn that I am moving into a sort of "not moved rhythm". Consequently, Amendment No. 92C is not moved.

[Amendments Nos. 92C to 92H not moved.]

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Appropriation and other accounts and audit]:

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge) moved Amendment No. 93: Page 21, line 32, leave out ("lay") and insert ("send").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 93 which I should like to link to Amendment No. 94. These are the first of a series of Amendments which also affect Clauses 53, 55 and 77 and Schedule 11 and which standardise the wording applied to the making of reports to the Assembly, by requiring that they should be "sent to" or "made to" the Assembly and be "published by" the Assembly. The Amendments eliminate the use of the phrase "laid before" the Assembly. The Amendment is purely for the sake of good English and I feel sure that noble Lords will support it. However, I should like to explain the situation for the record.

In the case of a report made to a Minister it is appropriate to require him to "lay" it "before" Parliament, and Parliament can then resolve that it be printed. But in the case of a report made to the Assembly, it is less clear how the Assembly can "lay" it "before" itself. One observes the difficulty here. And without a publication requirement it might have been possible for reports whose contents should be generally known not to be made available even to all members of the Assembly.

The Amendment accordingly proposes that the Comptroller and Auditor General's reports on the Assembly's acounts should, together with the certified accounts, be "sent to" the Assembly. There is already a publication requirement in Clause 54, which is unaffected. In this case, therefore, the Amendments are designed to standardise as explained above. The later Amendments which I shall mention as they arise, relate to various matters: Clause 53—reports of the Assembly Accounts Committee; Clause 55—reports by the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts of transactions into and out of the Welsh Loans Fund; Clause 77——a standard conversion for reports at present laid before Parliament but which relate to matters with respect to which the Assembly will exercise functions. There will be sent to the Assembly which will have to publish them; paragraph 87 of Schedule 11—reports to the Assembly from the Welsh Development Agency; paragraph 91 of Schedule 11—reports to the Assembly from the Development Board for Rural Wales; paragraph 96 of Schedule 11—reports to the Assembly from the Health Service Commissioner for Wales.

It may sound trivial, but we thought it better to get it right and I hope that noble Lords will support the Amendment. I beg to move.


Is the noble Lord moving the two Amendments at the same time?


I am moving Amendment No. 93.


We are always glad to welcome improvements in the use of English and also increasing clarity in legislation. However, I rise to my feet at this stage to ask the noble Lord whether he will be kind enough, if lie has the information before him, to tell us the numbers of the other Amendments which are linked to this Amendment because it makes much more sense of the Marshalled List if we can tick off those Amendments in advance.


Amendments Nos. 93 and 94 are the two concerned. There is also Amendment No. 95 which deals with Clause 53. I think that perhaps it would be better, having had notice of the question, to sort the matter out properly.


Yes, I should have thought that that would be for the general convenience.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4. p.m.

Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 94: Page 21, line 32, leave out ("before") and insert ("to").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 94A not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 52, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


Can the noble Lord assure me that the interval of time is not too great? The clause states the month of November, and if I am correct that would mean eight months after the close of the financial year. If it was eight months instead of November everybody might think that was rather too long an interval. I should have thought that six months would be adequate for the purpose. Moreover, if he is going to delay receiving the accounts until the end of November, then Christmas creeps on very soon, and I do not suppose that the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General will report until well into the New Year on events that happened nearly a year before. Surely, six months would be better than eight months. Naming a month creates complications if we should ever change the Parliamentary year. That, of course, has been discussed in various Select Committees. Perhaps one day we may get round to it.


BRIDGE: If a change were made, of course it would be possible to make a change in this, too. I have not given consideration to this point. It was recommended by the financial people who were advising the Government on how to set this up. We are takling not on an Amendment, but on the Question, Whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill? I shall certainly talk to them about it and if they think there is anything in the suggestion I shall write to the noble Lord.


I am glad the noble Lord took the view rather than the financial people. They always like plenty of time.


I spoke eliptically. After some discussion, I will take a view, and I shall discuss with my ministerial colleagues and write to the noble Lord.


When the noble Lord discusses the matter with his ministerial colleagues, and when he comes to consider whether September shall be substituted for November, will the Minister bear in mind that in the months of September, August and probably July quite a number of people are on holiday and therefore the machinery might not be functioning fully.


I think one must accept that this is rather an elementary point which, if the advisers have not already regarded it, they should have done so.


Before we conclude this clause, may I commend the Government for the drafting of Clause 52. I believe that subsection (1), particularly paragraphs (a) and (b) provide a very sound basis for the accounting of moneys paid into and out of the Consolidated and the Loans Funds. I think it is fairly safe to assume, as we found in the case of the Scotland Bill, that these accounts are going to be in a complicated form which will be alien to almost anything which has been seen by many members of the Assembly. Thus, we think it is absolutely right that the Auditor should carry out his duties which have been very plainly and clearly set out in subsection (2). It seems to me more clear that the Scotland Bill although I am loth to admit it.


I cannot understand the insertion of the phrase "alien to many members of the Assembly". If the noble Lord knows a Cardiganshire farmer, if he knows a good Welsh housewife, and if he knows a good Welshman who cannot add up and work out sums of money, then nobody else in the world can. I do not like the phrase "alien to members of the Assembly". They are well-versed and numerate.


I think those remarks were aimed at me. Fair enough—I will always accept comments and admonitions from the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. I do not know whether the noble Lord was present in your Lordships' House when the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, produced some accounts which were very alien to what the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, had seen in business. Certainly my attempts to unravel some facets of the Consolidated Accounts on a Governmental or even a local authority basis do not involve the mere question of adding or subtracting. It is a question of seeing what lies behind the figures. I shall probably have more to say on that point when we come to Clause 53. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and I are at one.

Clause 52, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 53 [Accounts Committee]:

Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 95: Page 21, line 36, leave out ("laid before") and insert ("sent to").

The noble Lord said: This is the third Amendment to which I referred when I spoke a short time ago. It applies to Clause 53, page 21, line 36, and the second Amendment No. 96 refers to Clause 55, page 22, line 34, in each case altering the words from "laid before" to "sent to".

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 53, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


Before we conclude the discussion on this clause, I believe it is right to show that it provides for the appointment of the Accounts Committee. This is an admirable concept, but I wonder precisely what is going to be the role of the Accounts Committee. There are several that I have in mind. First, how is the Committee going further to examine the accounts? These accounts will in all conscience be difficult enough to comprehend—hence my comments with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek—even to those members of the Accounts Committee in the Assembly who have experience of local authority or even Government accounting.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will be aware, as certainly will other noble Lords in the House—and again I look at the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, who I know has experience in this field—that one aspect of the art and skill of accountancy is to haze, to de-emphasise, to provide so much information that the relevant information is effectively camouflaged. Who is going to assist the Committee in their work in trying to dig through and unravel much of the witting and unwitting camouflage of this form of accounts? I wonder whether the Auditor General could fill this particular role of helping the Accounts Committee in their deliberations and investigations, since it is his handywork, if I may call it that, which is under discussion?

Secondly, how is the Accounts Committee going to report further on the accounts over and above the report of the Auditor General? That seems fairly difficult. There is a way round it, but I wonder how it is that the Accounts Committee is going to report on the Report of the Auditor General. Are they going to criticise the way he has gone about his work? The clause means to be clear, but to my mind it is not entirely clear. It is far away from much of what I found in auditing and similar investigation work in the financial world. This particular aspect means little to me, but the Committee must have some duties which will not be just as set out in the clause. I would hope that they would find some other duties, even of scrutinising various aspects of expenditure and receipts.

A third point came to my mind with the Accounts Committee. Would the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, be able to suggest any imaginative new concept so far as the Accounts Committee is concerned? I venture to think that he or any other noble Lord who has not explored fully the wonderful world of accountancy with its enthralling symmetry of debit and credit will be bogged down as are all of us in finance in the wide world.

Lastly, I consider that this Accounts Committee could adopt a completely new role which would be akin to the Public Accounts Committee in another place, or even would be able to scrutinise other aspects of Assembly spending. However, I do not think that the Bill appears to grant the Committee power to do anything other than to carry out a pale shadow of the audit which has already been carried out by the Auditor General. I just wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, would be able to give me his thoughts on this matter. He might like to read the full text of my remarks; I have fired one or two rather sharp balls at him and he might like time to reflect. These are thoughts that have come to my mind; I hope that they are relevant. I support the concept of the Accounts Committee, but I just wonder whether its duties and scope are adequately spelled out in Clause 53.


Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, might care to answer me at the same time. If he followed what I said on a previous "clause stand part" debate on the timetable, he will know that this Accounts Committee will report on the report of the Auditor General, and literally it will be catching trains in the year-before-last Bradshaw. I believe that that may happen in the United Kingdom at the moment, but when a new arrangement is set up, can we not do something a bit better? It is no good indicting people for being extravagant the year before last. That is what will happen.


I do not quite know what the fuss is about. Subsection (2) of Clause 52, which we discussed with moderate intelligence, says that copies should be laid before the Assembly. The Assembly will then pass these copies on with reports that will be submitted. I would judge that Clause 53 is doing a wise thing in appointing an Accounts Committee. That committee, being composed of an intelligent band of men and women, would be a pragmatic organisation because it is new. I entirely agree about the difficulty of modern accountancy; it is changing year by year. However, expert advice would be given to that Committee, as is the case in all types of Committees in this place and in the other place. Without any doubt, I believe that that expert advice will be available to the Members of the Assembly. I do not disagree with probing at all; I think that the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, were wise. I believe that that advice would ultimately create an Accounts Committee that would be responsible and would understand what it was doing for the Welsh Assembly.


First, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that the time issue should not be very seriously altered by an Accounts Committee looking at accounts. Of course, it could be: the Committee might take six months; but if it did, it would be very bad organisation and I see no reason whatever why that should be so. I have accepted that there may be some virtue in the noble Lord's main criticism, but I do not believe that it really makes any difference.

The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, is asking for something which we already have. The Accounts Committee, which is described in this clause, has the power, though not the duty, to behave exactly as he suggested, which is matching the existing practice at Westminster, where the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is ex officio a member of the Public Accounts Committee and advises that Committee on the import of the accounts submitted.

Happily, I am not a businessman, but I think that the normal drill of business is for an auditor to go through the business firm's accounts which are submitted to and scrutinised by a sub-committee of the board—that is not invariable, but it is very usual—and then, with the sub-committee's comments, they are passed on to the board. I see nothing in what the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, said—which I thought was very sensible—which is not entirely available to the Assembly, if that is how the Assembly wishes to do it, although it is not obliged to. I do not know whether that covers the noble Lord's point, but, as he suggested, I will read his remarks with the greatest care and see whether I have anything to add to what I have said.


I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for what I believe is a very honest attempt to come close to my points. I do not have much experience of large-scale business, but I think that the noble Lord would accept from me that as far as I am aware the relationship which exists between the auditor and the board of directors in large companies is a somewhat distant one, whereby the auditor tries to remain at arm's length. I will not go into the ramifications of the relationships between an auditor and a public company where—as I am sure the Committee will be aware—the auditor is appointed by the shareholders. If there is a dispute with the board, it is the shareholders and the company in general meeting which decide whether or not the auditor shall stay and whether or not he has performed his duties adequately.

I take the noble Lord's point that it is believed that Clause 53 produces an Accounts Committee which is, to all effects, analogous to the Public Accounts Committee in another place. However, perhaps he would look at line 34 on page 21 of the Bill, which states quite clearly that the Accounts Committee shall be appointed by the Assembly and this Accounts Committee: shall examine and report … on the accounts and reports et cetera. Taking those words on a very restrictive basis, it seems to me that the Committee will just be examining the accounts as submitted; it will not scrutinise. It does not seem to me that the two words "examine" and "report" give the Accounts Committee of the Assembly power to scrutinise a little further or to carry out a much deeper audit than the Auditor General would wish to do, or perhaps even to have a special examination of one particular item of expenditure which might be of great interest to the people of Wales.

Through its Accounts Committee the Assembly could, of course, exercise all its care in examining this especial problem and these especial figures of expenditure, or perhaps income, in any one year. It seems to me that the method of "examine and report" is somewhat staid. I believe that the Government wish this Accounts Committee to have somewhat wider powers than are set out in subsection (1) of Clause 53. However, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and I are thinking along the same lines.


I really do not believe that the noble Lord has a point of substance here. I have been a director of one very large company, even though it is not my habit. When the accounts are received surely somebody looks at them very carefully to see what they reveal about the progress of the body concerned. The Assembly will have a very large sum of money at its disposal. It may overspend it; it may underspend it; it may wrongly spend it. The accountant's business is to produce these facts and the Committee's business is to comment on them and to say that one department has clearly behaved in a way in which it should not, and so on. I do not believe that there is anything between us at all. I believe that the clause covers exactly that which the noble Lord is asking for, though it does not insist on it. I repeat, I will read with the greatest care what he has said and see whether I have anything to add.

Clause 53, as amended, agreed to.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 95A:

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause— (" .In relation to any accounts examined by the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General in accordance with the provisions of section 52 of this Act, section 161 of the Local Government Act 1972 shall apply as if—

  1. (a) such examinations were an audit of accounts under Part VIII of the Local Government Act 1972;
  2. (b) The Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General were a district auditor;
  3. (c) members of the Assembly were members of a local authority;
  4. (d) any reference in the said section 161 to a person being disqualified for being a member of a local authority were a reference to that person being disqualified for being a member of the Assembly; and
  5. (e) subsection (13) of the said section 161 provided as follows:—
(13) The Court having jurisdiction for the purposes of this section shall be the High Court."").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friends, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne and Lord Gowrie, I beg to move this Amendment. After my comments on the previous two clauses—Clauses 52 and 53—I think that the Committee will certainly be satisfied, as indeed I am, that the powers of the Auditor General are well-defined and, I submit, well-understood. However, the powers of the Accounts Committee are—subject to the comments which I hope to be receiving from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson—I believe a little less well-defined and a little more difficult to understand, especially to the Assembly and to the people of Wales. But I think that we shall come to understand this role more clearly as the Committee stage and the other stages of the Bill proceed.

The Committee may bear with me if I consider the implications of Section 161 of the Local Government Act 1972. Noble Lords will be aware that this section deals with the powers of the district auditor in local government and the court. The section commences by giving the auditor power to seek a declaration from the court that some item in the accounts is, as the section has it, "contrary to law." In this case no declaration need be granted should the person, against whom it were to be granted, be found to have acted reasonably. There is a safeguard here and I think that is excellent.

However, it seems that under this section the auditor has power to recover from any person the sum total of any loss of discrepancy in the accounts for any sum which has been misspent. We find particularly in subsection (7) of this section that the section permits disqualification from being a member of a local authority. I believe that this is a powerful deterrent to any malfeasance, manipulation, or to any misappropriation of money for which the authority and indeed we hope the Welsh Assembly, is going to be responsible.

By moving this Amendment I seek in no way to down-grade the Assembly by bringing it to, or even suggesting that it will be at, the level of a local authority. But, indeed, there are local authorities in England and Wales—and at least one in Scotland—which are of colossal size and would rival in size and responsibility as well as finance the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly. There are various mentions in Section 161 of a parish council. However, I think that this section provides a useful guide to what ought to be, or what could be, done in the Assembly which will be handling, or indeed will be responsible for, sums a lot larger than any other authority, as is mentioned in the Bill. It is likely that many Members of the Assembly will already have had considerable experience of local government, and certainly I should have considered that some members of the accounts committee that we have been discussing on Clause 53 would not be overly intimidated by the form and scope of the accounts presented to the Assembly. For all these reasons, I beg to move this Amendment.

4.23 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

As the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, has said, it is Section 161 of the Local Government Act which makes the detailed provision for handling irregularities arising from the audit of local authority accounts. The basic objection to this clause is that the Welsh Assembly will not be a local authority, and it will not be exercising local authority powers nor engaging in the kind of direct provision of services in which local authorities are involved. The Assembly will be acting on behalf of the Crown, and exercising functions which are at present exercised by Ministers of the Crown. Heaven forbid that I get into discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, on Ministers of the Crown, as I did with one of his colleagues on Scotland.

In these circumstances, the accounting and audit arrangements which provide the best analogies are those which relate to Ministers and the Comptroller and Auditor General, and not those relating to local authorities and the district audit system. The system provided in Clauses 49 to 54 of the Bill is therefore based on the Westminster arrangements. I readily acknowledge that the absence of a separate Executive gives the Welsh Assembly certain superficial resemblances to a local authority when compared with either the Government or the Executive provided for in the Scotland Bill. But I say advisedly superficial resemblances, because there are a number of important provisions in the Bill which clearly distinguish the organisation of the Assembly from that of a local authority, and these are of particular significance in the context of finance.

Clause 18 provides for a separate Executive Committee. The Executive Committee must recommend all orders appropriating sums from the Welsh Consolidated Fund (Clause 42) and must take the initiative to seek the credits on that Fund and the Welsh Loans Fund (Clauses 41 and 43), which must be obtained from the Welsh Comptroller or Auditor General before any sums may be withdrawn from either Fund. It is the Executive Committee under Clause 52(1)(b) which prepares the accounts of payments into and out of the Funds. The Assembly accounts committee, as I said on an earlier Amendment, may include no more than one member of the Executive Committee, and its membership must reflect Party balance in the Assembly.

We think it is important that the Accounts Committee should be encouraged to develop into a strong back bench "watchdog", which will be the guardian of the public interest in expenditure matters and can be counted on to bring any irregularity to the notice of both the Assembly as a whole and the general public. It will then be for the Executive Committee, or individuals concerned in any irregularity, to justify their actions to the public in Wales. In the case of an important political body elected by the whole electorate of Wales and exercising functions on behalf of the Crown, the political disciplines should be, and must be, made to be effective. That will not be achieved by procedures of the kind applied by the new clause, which seem to be designed to deal with problems arising at local level in bodies with functions of a quite different nature.

It is important, in the Government's view, that the arrangements for accounts and audit should encourage self criticism and self-discipline in the Assembly. We want—and we expect—to see an Assembly which is confident, mature, and responsible in its handling of all such matters. The Government fear that the new clause would in practice operate in diametrically the opposite direction from that which we want the Assembly to take. I therefore ask noble Lords to reflect on this further, and not to press this Amendment at this particular time.


I am sure that the whole Committee is grateful to the noble Baroness for giving a particularly full reply to the question that I raised and to the questions raised on this particular Amendment. I think that it would be unwise of me to bandy further comments on Ministers of the Crown, or indeed to start discussing Crown Prerogative, with the noble Baroness this afternoon. I am sure that the Committee would think that there are better things to do.

All we sought in this Amendment was to set up a guideline, or suggest a guideline. However, I take the noble Baroness's comments that the authority exercised by the Assembly will be that of Ministers of the Crown. I accept that, so far as their responsibility for funds spent and received is concerned, although I do not believe that there is much between Section 161 and the methods which have been suggested by the noble Baroness. I do not believe that there is a lot between them.

If the noble Baroness would allow me to reflect on the full reply she has given, I would be grateful, and I am sure that the Committee would be. I was impressed that the noble Baroness included comments on the Accounts Committee, and included comments that she hoped that the Accounts Committee would be able to conduct its affairs in a new and imaginative light. These were exactly the kinds of comments I had received from the noble and learned Lord, Lord 1McCluskey, at an earlier stage on the Scotland Bill. Indeed, I was surprised that these comments came from the noble Baroness and not from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, although of course the noble Lord had no knowing of the points I was going to raise on Clause 53 stand part. Certainly I am grateful to the noble Baroness, and if she and the Committee will forgive me I shall read her comments carefully and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Before the noble Lord withdraws his Amendment, may I say that I would support quite strongly the principles and motives behind the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, and I sympathise with what the noble Baroness said. However, I feel that this Committee should give firm indications that considerable control should be exercised by the Welsh Assembly over the actions of the Auditor General and the Comptroller General.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Modification of enactments providing for payments into or out of Consolidated Fund or authorising advances from National Loans Fund]:

4.30 p.m.

Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 96: Page 22, line 34, leave out ("laid before") and insert ("sent to").

The noble Lord said: This is another of the Amendments to which I referred earlier. The noble Lord opposite asked whether I could give the numbers of all the Amendments. I am now in a position to do so. Amendment No. 95 is in relation to Clause 53; Amendment No 96 is in relation to Clause 55; Amendment No. 106 is in relation to Clause 77; and Amendments Nos. 108B and 113 are both in relation to Schedule 11. I beg to move formally Amendment No. 96.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 55, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Enactments authorising the lending of money]:

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 96A: Page 64, leave out lines 14 to 16.

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment is consequential on an earlier Amendment. I beg to move.


The Amendment is perforce agreed to by the Government, but I wish to add our usual proviso that this is without prejudice to returning in another place to the question of restoration of Part IX of Schedule 2.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Rate support and other grants]:

Lord CULLEN of ASHBOURNE moved Amendment No. 96D: Page 23, line 31, at end insert ("and shall be made to the full extent of the amount specified under section 44(1A) above.")

The noble Lord said: I propose to be honest to the point of naivety, in that I had expected my noble friend Lord Gowrie to move the Amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

With slightly less brevity, I should like to reply to the Amendment. We feel that the Amendment rests on a misunderstanding of the financial proposals in the Bill. The block fund to be paid over to the Welsh Consolidated Fund, under Clause 44, will be designed to cover that part of devolved public expenditure which falls to be met by the Assembly after allowance is made for contributions to devolved spending from other sources, such as local rates. Obviously, certain assumptions as to such contributions will have to be made when the block fund is settled. We dealt with this in our White Paper on devolution.

The Government, in deriving the amount of the block fund from the United Kingdom estimates of total public expenditure, will have to make assumptions about the contribution of local rates and about the amounts local authorities will borrow for capital expenditure. It can then be worked out what their remaining expenditure will he and what will he the requirement, on certain further assumptions, for rate support. But these assumptions do not commit the Assembly or the Welsh local authorities. They must get together separately, and work out a rate support grant settlement in accordance with the procedures of the Local Government Act 1974. The relevant powers are transferred to the Assembly by Schedule 2 and Clause 58. It would not be practicable to identify a sum within the block fund as a kind of embryo rate support grant, and in fact no sum will be earmarked for any devolved purpose. Whatever assumptions may be made when the block fund is being discussed lose their validity as soon as the total is settled. It is an integral amount, and it is for the Assembly to decide how to divide it up between different devolved purposes. That is what having a block fund means.

How could the Government, even if they wanted to, work out the rate support grant? They will have no direct concern with education, roads, personal social services, planning, water, or other important local government services. They will have no means of conducting the kind of dialogue with the associations representing the Welsh local authorities which is required by the legislation as a preliminary to the fixing of the grant. It would be quite improper for the Government when they settle the block fund to pre-empt all the discussions which ought to take place between the Assembly and the local authority associations by laying down a rate support grant figure which must be applied regardless of the course those discussions may take. That is a course which would deny the local authorities rights of consultation which they have always enjoyed.

I find it difficult to understand the suspicion that somehow or other the Assembly may be out to do down the local authorities, which is half implicit in the Amendment. The extent to which the work of the Assembly will link with that of local government is likely to create a close working relationship between them and a ready understanding on the part of the Assembly of the problems of the local authorities. Moreover, there will be fairly close coincidence between the Assembly's constituents and the local ratepayers, and that, too, should result in greater understanding. We appreciate that noble Lords opposite are anxious to ensure good relations between the devolved Administration and local government. For the reasons I have given we think that they are perhaps unnecessarily anxious and concerned, hut, in any case, the Amendment is not compatible with the system of devolution provided for in the Bill.


I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for a very educational speech. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 58 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.37 p.m.


This seems the right moment to discuss the merits, or other wise, of introducing a Speaker's Conference clause into the Bill, possibly at the next stage, given that it was at the precisely equivalent point in the Scotland Bill that a Committee of your Lordships' House approved an Amendment which introduced just such a clause into that Bill. Many of us had little enthusiasm for the Speaker's Conference Amendment so far as the Scotland Bill was concerned, because we felt that the case for a reduction in Scottish representation at Westminster, in the event of legislative devolution becoming a reality, was so overwhelming and unarguable that a Speaker's Conference would merely fudge the issue.

However, the case for a reduction in Welsh representation—and Wales is over represented to the tune of about 15 or 16 per cent. compared with England—is more finely balanced; or at least it seemed so until yesterday evening. At that point the Government made absolutely clear their rigid determination to bestow the luxury of absolute privilege upon the Welsh Assembly. This luxury was hitherto confined to the sovereign Parliament itself, and, incidentally, has never been bestowed, and is never likely to be bestowed, upon any other non-legislative body in the United Kingdom, however large.

It seems to me that there are only two possible explanations for this attitude on the part of the Government. The first is that it is a ploy to delude the Welsh Nationalists—or to be more precise, those erstwhile Labour voters who may be toying with the idea of switching their allegiance to the Nationalists—into think- ing that the Government plan before very long to expand the powers and privileges of the Welsh Assembly.

The alternative explanation is that it is not a ploy at all; that the Government really do have an undeclared plan to expand the powers and privileges of the Assembly in this way, possibly by means of a short, simple amending Act, if, and when, they obtain a larger majority in the House of Commons. I am sure the Committee will agree that in this eventuality we should obviously have to take a long, hard look at Welsh representation at Westminster. Therefore, I wonder whether there is not something to be said for putting down a Speaker's Conference Amendment before the next stage, as a precautionary measure. I should be interested to hear the views of the two Front Benches upon this suggestion.

Baroness STEDMAN

I have been interested in what the noble Lord has been saying, but, quite frankly, it does not have much relationship to the rate support grants and other grants that we are discussing on this clause. Certainly, the noble Lord has every right to make up his mind—in the light of what we say as we go through the Bill—as to what action he takes at the next stage. However, at this point I do not think that what he has said is really relevant to the clause, which deals with rate support grant.


I should like to explain to the noble Baroness that it was at the precisely equivalent point in your Lordships' consideration of the Scotland Bill—at the beginning of this Part—that a Speaker's Conference Amendment was introduced and approved.

Baroness ELLES

If I may say just a word from these Benches, I do not think that this is a matter which should be discussed at this stage of the Bill. I believe it is a matter which should be discussed, and I hope it will be discussed later, during the proceedings in Committee on this Bill. I therefore reserve the right from these Benches to speak on this matter later, at the appropriate stage.


I am very pleased to have heard what the noble Baroness has had to say.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Clause 59 [Power to make new provisions as to certain bodies]:

[Amendment No. 96C not moved.]

4.41 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 96B:

Page 24, line 43, at end insert— ("(6) No provision made by order under this section shall effect any change in the law or government of any part of the United Kingdom other than Wales.").

The noble Baroness said: I believe that this Amendment is a very important Amendment; a fundamental one to the purposes of the Bill and to the system of devolution which is envisaged by the Government to the Welsh Assembly. I advise the noble Baroness—and I should like to thank her for all the help and co-operation we have had so far on this Bill—that this is only a probing Amendment at this stage. It is in order to elicit some information during this Committee stage of the Bill that I put this Amendment forward now. It is particularly to elicit from the Government clarification on the powers which are being devolved under this clause, and to define the areas within which the Welsh Assembly may or shall operate, in particular in relation to the exercise of its authority over certain statutory bodies which are listed in Schedule 7 to the Bill.

I must say that I was not reassured as to the powers of the Welsh Assembly in relation to United Kingdom matters by the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, during the discussions in Committee last night. Of course, I have not got the column reference because we have not yet had Hansard, but I can inform the noble Baroness that it was the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, speaking between 1.45 and 1.50 a.m. I hope that I may be taking up something which he had not perhaps meant to say, but I think I should repeat what he did say, and that is that the Government do not think it necessary to provide a power of policy override in respect of possible repercussion on what might be termed the "English dimension" of a devolved matter.

As the clause stands, and as I read it—and this is why I should be grateful for clarification—it seems to be giving the Welsh Assembly the most sweeping powers of an unconstitutional nature. To my knowledge there is no elected body which has ever been given powers to be exercised over an area outside the power base of the body concerned. Indeed, if the Bill were to go through as it now stands and as I read the clause—I hope I may be mistaken, and that the noble Baroness will be able to clarify this point for us and reassure us—I cannot but see that this clause will enable intervention by the Welsh Assembly in areas within England; and this will undoubtedly sow the seeds of conflict, or may sow the seeds of conflict, between the English and the Welsh peoples. I am not here to speak in any scaremongering sort of way—that is not my intention at all—but I think that there are such matters in the Bill, and I should now like to go into it in a little detail to show where I think there is going to be some difficulty.

In Clause 59 there is a bundle of provisions. I will not go into them all because it will take up too much of the time of the Committee and I do not think it is necessary to do so in order to show the points that I wish to make. But under this clause a Minister may confer powers on certain bodies which are listed in Schedule 7 to the Bill. These bodies are very important bodies. I have to name only some of those in Part I: the Forestry Commissioners, the Housing Corporation—both of which, of course, are United Kingdom national bodies; and I use the words "United Kingdom national" as opposed to "Welsh National"—the Severn-Trent Water Authority and the Welsh National Water Development Authority. In relation to these four bodies, which are contained in Part I of Schedule 7, according to Clause 59(2) of the Bill, as I understand it, a Minister may by order modify or exclude any provision of the Act in relation to these bodies.

Again as I read it—and I shall be grateful for clarification if I am wrong—this would enable the Minister to change the lists in Schedule 2, which we have debated for so long, in relation, for instance, to the Forestry Commission or the Welsh National Water Development Authority, and to remove functions from the right-hand side, column 2, "Excluded functions", into the functions which have been devolved to the Assembly. It might well seem to your Lordships that we have wasted a considerable amount of time discussing Schedule 2 when all along the Government have had up their sleeve this power, which a Minister can use to change totally the contents of Schedule 2 in relation to the listed bodies under Part I of Schedule 7.

The other area in which the Bill operates is in Clause 59 (3), which gives to a Minister the right to make provision: enabling powers to be exercised or requiring duties to be performed by the Assembly". It also gives the Assembly powers, under subsection (3)(b), which will allow them to require or authorise the appointment of additional members. This is one of the key provisions of this clause, because the Committee will realise that these boards which are referred to in Clause 59 and listed in Part II of Schedule 7 are not Welsh bodies; they are not bodies which are set up within the areas of Wales for the benefit of the Welsh people. They include the British Waterways Board; the Council on Tribunals, which is a council of major importance in the administration of justice throughout the United Kingdom; the Health Services Board; the Housing Association; the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council, and the Medical Practices Council. I will not weary your Lordships with a continuation of this list, but it will be been from the ones I have already mentioned that there is a considerable number of very important bodies, all of which are of United Kingdom national composition and not local bodies reserved entirely for the benefit, in their operation, of the people of Wales.

Under this clause the Welsh Assembly would be able to require these bodies to appoint, or authorise the appointment of, additional members, to which there is apparently no limit. I am not saying that this will happen, because I am not in any way commenting on the attitude or the content of the Welsh Assembly; I am merely saying that these are powers which are being given to a local body to interfere with, to intervene in and possibly, in the end, to overtake and control bodies which are of national importance to the whole of the United Kingdom. I am just wondering whether I have read this clause correctly. I should be very pleased to know that I have read it incorrectly; but, if not, I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could reassure me on these particular points.

Is it a fact that the Welsh Assembly will be entitled to meddle in any way with these national bodies? Will they in fact, in their subordinate Instruments and through the operation and control that they might take of these bodies, therefore be able to affect territory or interests which are outside the Principality of Wales? Because, if so, this Bill is a mockery and, I would call it—I hesitate to use the word, and it is certainly not a word that I would use to any individual noble Lord opposite—a major piece of deceit: that, when you are talking of devolution to the Welsh people, you are in fact giving the Welsh people powers which will affect the lives and interests not only of the Welsh but also of the English and other members of the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

4.50 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

Over the years, Governments of both Parties have created large numbers of public bodies which are appointed in the main by Ministers and on which extensive statutory functions have been conferred. In certain cases the substantive powers to provide a service or regulate an activity are vested in the public body and not in the Minister himself; and his functions are supervisory and, perhaps, financial. When we come to devolution, it is only these limited ministerial functions which can be devolved. But if a single public body operates in both England and Wales we cannot devolve the ministerial function as it stands. We have to create a reserved ministerial function relating to the body's activities in England and a corresponding Assembly function relating to its activities in Wales.

The functions of these bodies and the arrangements for ministerial oversight are so varied that it is not practicable to make detailed provision in the Bill either in general terms relating to all the bodies or in specific terms relating to each of them separately. Accordingly, provision is made for the necessary 'adaptations to the constitution of the existing bodies to be made by order. Many of the bodies in Schedule 7 currently operate on an England and Wales, Great Britain or United Kingdom basis. The purpose of Clause 59 is to allow for a division of responsibility to take place to take account of the devolution of functions to the Assembly. There will therefore be some consequentials which have an effect on the law and government of the United Kingdom outside Wales. This is inevitable: a change in the government of Wales is bound to have some impact upon the government of the rest of the United Kingdom given the present unitary system. This is particularly so when the ministerial functions are concerned with bodies operating beyond the boundaries of the Principality.

The effect of this Amendment would be to make substantial inroads into the Government's devolution proposals, because it would make it virtually impossible to make an order under Clause 59 in respect of a Schedule 7 body. I appreciate the fears of the noble Baroness and her colleagues, but I would remind them of the safeguards which already exist in the provisions of Clause 59. First of all, the Assembly has to convince the Minister that an order should be made. Then the Minister has to consult the body itself to see whether they are willing for the order to be made. The order has to be laid before Parliament for Affirmative Resolution. In the Government's view, all of this will ensure that the interests of the United Kingdom beyond Wales will be fully taken account of when the time comes for an order to be made.

I think that we have written sufficient safeguards into the Bill: the use of subsection (2) of Clause 59 to devolve further powers in relation to Part I of the Schedule 7 bodies. We have all sorts of bodies, and this was raised in the Commons when they were discussing it. All the bodies are concerned with functions, all operate on the general basis of United Kingdom or Great Britain; so we have to have provision to divide their responsibilities so that they can account satisfactorily to and be responsible to the Welsh Assembly for what are their activities in Wales while they remain responsible to the Government in the United Kingdom for the other operations. If we had made detailed arrangements, we should have burdened the Bill with immense and unnecessary detail about accounts, appointments, finance and other matters which are normally best dealt with by orders. We should have imposed detailed arrangements on the various bodies in respect of their activities in Wales without any opportunity for the Welsh Assembly to be consulted either about their nature or their details.

In practice, the Assembly may be content that only minor changes are made; for example, enabling them to make a nomination to a board of management. But it was in dealing with these bodies that it was necessary to distinguish between those whose devolution is so central to the devolution of functions in the field in which they operate that provision must be made for them from day one—and those are the ones listed in Part 1 of Schedule 7; for example, water authorities, the Forestry Commission—and those whose devolution can be postponed without producing administrative chaos. So those bodies shown in Part I have already had most of their relevant functions transferred by entries in the appropriate part of Schedule 2. Some of the functions which need to be divided as between England and Wales are at present expressed in a way which makes them "unsplittable"—which, perhaps, is not a very usable word: but I think noble Lords will find it is what we mean—without some modification. The effect of the order will be to re-express the functions in a way which makes them operable separately by both the Assembly and the Minister. The safeguards that are written into Clause 59 will, I hope, allay the noble Baroness's fears.

Baroness ELLES

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation. As I understood it, it has confirmed my worst fears. It appears to me that there is nothing in the Bill which will prevent, for instance, the Welsh Assembly under subsection (2) of the clause being able to acquire considerable powers over say, the Forestry Commissioners and to take measures which undoubtedly will affect England as well as Wales. There seems to be nothing written in this clause which prevents it. I accept what the noble Baroness has said: that the Welsh Assembly must convince the Minister and that the Minister must go to Parliament and he must lay an Affirmative Resolution before both Houses. Nevertheless, these are not mandatory prohibitions against the Welsh Assembly interfering at any time with geographical areas or matters outside the Principality either for geographical or interest reasons. It seems to me, therefore, that the provisions in this clause are not satisfactory, but I should like to study carefully what the noble Baroness has said and to come back to this at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Public bodies]:

The Marquess of TWEEDDALE moved Amendment No. 97: Page 64, leave out lines 21 and 22.

The noble Marquess said: This is a consequential Amendment on forestry. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

Just to make the usual proviso, this is without prejudice to the Government's attitude when it is considered in the other place.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.58 p.m.

Lord SKELMERSDALE moved Amendment No. 97A: Page 64, leave out lines 27 and 28.

The noble Lord said: Noble Lords may well have been slightly confused by this Amendment which seeks to leave out "The Welsh National Water Development Authority" from the provisions of Schedule 7. I hasten to say that this is a probing Amendment and there is no design to have a major water debate on it. Two things which concerned us were, first, that, by order, on 1st April this year the Welsh National Development Authority changed its name to the Welsh Water Authority. It has occasioned no little confusion to have both these titles running through these debates and in my own mind and in that of several of my noble friends. May I ask the noble Baroness whether it would not be appropriate to transpose, wherever they appear within the Bill, "The Welsh National Water Development Authority", and "The Welsh Water Authority"?

The second point is a little different. The Water Acts (or those bits which remain) will, through the interaction of this Bill, make the Welsh Assembly responsible for promoting national water policy for Wales. This is in the 1973 Act which, I know, is not particularly germane to this Amendment, but I hope that the noble Baroness will be good enough to answer the point. When the Act was written, national water policy meant water policy for the whole of the United Kingdom. Now that the Assembly has its hands on a section of this, I should like to know whether the national water policy referred to is Welsh national water policy or whether it is still United Kingdom water policy. If it is still United Kingdom water policy, I have a further question: there does not seem to be any means of communication in the Bill for the Welsh authority to determine what the national water policy of the United Kingdom is. With this list of questions, I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

The Government believe that water is so central to domestic matters of everyday concern to people in Wales that the Assembly should be given substantial powers. Also, it is an essential element in the devolution proposals to improve democratic control of nominated bodies operating in Wales. The Bill seeks to achieve both these aims. But the Government recognise that it is necessary also to take account of the fact that the Wales/England border does not follow the hydrological boundaries of the Welsh Water Authority and the Severn Trent Water Authority. Therefore the Bill provides that in general these two water authorities should be responsible to the Assembly for their activities in Wales and to the Government for their activities in England.

The Bill establishes the general principles for the split of responsibilities and covers important matters such as the arrangements for safeguarding the England and Wales national policy for water and the question of appointments to the water authorities, but we have not attempted to deal in the Bill with all the practical arrangements, for example in relation to the division of accounts and reports, which are also consequential on the split of responsibility. Instead, we have provided, by listing the water authorities in Schedule 7, for orders to be made under Clause 59 of the Bill to deal with these detailed matters after full consultation with the authorities. As a result of the acceptance by the Government of an Amendment in another place, the orders under Clause 59 are to be subject to approval in draft by each House of Parliament. Acceptance of this Amendment would prevent the necessary practical details being dealt with by order in relation to the Welsh Water Authority and would leave a state of confusion for that body.

The noble Lord suggested a change of name. He will probably be delighted to know that we are considering a change of name. We hope to put down an Amendment at Report stage to change the name to the Welsh National Water Development Authority, which I think may meet some of his points—

Baroness WHITE

The other way round!

Baroness STEDMAN

; I beg your pardon; yes, the other way round. The noble Baroness is right. The Welsh Assembly have to act in harmony with England and Wales over water policy, and the Government will tell it what is the national policy and it will be expected to conform with it.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that full answer. At the begining, it sounded like trotting out the same old gramophone record. But I assure the noble Baroness that certainly, to me, she has put her message firmly across. The last part of her answer needs a little clarification. She says that the Government will continue to set out their policy. Will this also continue to be interpreted and passed on through the chain of the water authorities by the National Water Council?

Baroness STEDMAN

Yes, that is the way I see it working.

Baroness VICKERS

May I ask about water abstraction and applications for a licence? Who is going to be responsible for informing the owners when a licence is taken out to abstract water? At the moment notice has to be published in the London Gazette and at least once in each of two successive weeks in one or more newspapers. It is extremely important to individuals to know when water is going to be abstracted from rivers. The noble Baroness may remember questions about aquifers. In many cases the owners of rivers are not notified, and two years ago, when we had the very bad drought, farmers did not know when water was going to be abstracted. Their beasts went without water or had great difficulty in climbing down banks to get to it. Also, fish died because of the shortage of water.

I should like to know which authority will give notice—or will one authority let another authority know that they are going to abstract water? Landowners and farmers do not know these things at the moment. I understand that it is said to be too difficult to notify them individually. A practical suggestion might be to place a notice on telegraph poles. Notices about refuse collection arrangements are dealt with in this way. Everybody in the villages looks on telegraph poles nowadays because they know that is where they will see postal and local authority notices. This is an important aspect. Technically, I understand that there is no requirement to notify any landowners or occupiers. Certain authorities must be notified, including the district internal drainage board. If the noble Baroness could give me some assurance on how this is going to work in the future, I should be grateful.

Baroness STEDMAN

We shall have a major debate on water when we get to Clause 63 and Schedule 8. We had the question of abstraction raised earlier, and we said that both the authorities would be consulting and the announcement would still he placed as it is now, in the London Gazette. I was asked whether there was going to be a Cardiff Gazette, but there is just the London Gazette. Both authorities will be consulted. Notices on telegraph poles is an ingenious suggestion. I do not know whether the noble Baroness meant it seriously—I think she did.

Baroness VICKERS

Yes, I did.

Baroness STEDMAN

We will look at that idea.


It is a little difficult to reconcile that. The only thing I can say is that telegraph poles actually float, given half a chance. With that remark, I ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.7 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 97B: Page 64, leave out lines 36 and 37.

The noble Lord said: In the absence of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, and because I know that this is a matter which the Committee would wish to discuss at a later stage, I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I moved the Amendment formally in his name in order that the noble Baroness should have an opportunity to make clear the position of the Government. My noble friend will then be able to rely upon her reply to determine his position. I speak in some ignorance. If my noble friend has arrived at an agreement with the noble Baroness on this matter, I shall withdraw. If he has not, it will be of use to the Committee and my noble friends on the Front Bench to have some clarification of the implications as to what is becoming an increasingly important industry in this country. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity of explaining how we see the position of the Inland Waterways Board and the British Waterways Board. This Amendment, as it is framed at the moment, would mean that the Welsh Assembly would be prevented from exercising any functions in respect of the British Waterways Board. The Government consider this is unreasonable. But, on the other hand, we do not propose that functions in respect of inland waterways should be automatically devolved from the outset—in the manner for instance of housing functions. What we propose is a middle course which we have arrived at after close consultation and the consideration of representatives by those concerned with inland waterways. We believe now that the proposals in the Bill are reasonable and practical ones.

During earlier debates on forestry, the House gave considerable weight to the linkages between forestry and other matters. It was argued by some that it had closer links with reserved than with devolved matters. I would suggest that with inland waterways there is no such room for argument. Whether one regards inland waterways as a form of transport or a form of amenity, all the analogous matters are to be transferred to the Assembly—for example, those functions in respect of general transport policy, roads, countryside and tourism are to be transferred.

It might, however, be argued that inland waterways in Wales have close physical links with those in England. This is, of course, true. I think that there are two canals in Wales which cross the border and a third which has links with canals in the West Midlands, and perhaps the difficulties here are exaggerated. Canals, even more often, cross local authority boundaries—but I have never heard it argued that it was wrong to give local authorities inland waterways functions under Section 114 of the Transport Act 1968. Indeed, Section 114 even gives to a local authority powers in respect of a waterway entirely outside its area, if it can conveniently be used by persons residing in the area of the authority. We assume, of course, that local authorities possess common sense and will be ready to consult and cooperate as necessary. If we can assume that for local authorities, and it works, I trust that we may do so for the Assembly.

The Assembly will not have direct functions in respect of inland waterways. It will take over the existing Ministerial functions, most of which will be exercised through the British Waterways Board. The British Waterways Board will remain, as it is now, a single unified body responsible for waterways throughout Great Britain. There is no question, as has sometimes been suggested, that the Bill creates a separate Board for Wales. Let me explain the position. The British Waterways Board is listed in Schedule 7 and so may be the subject of an order under Clause 59—I say "may" and not "will" and I shall return to that shortly. The scope of what a Clause 59 order may do is considerable. The maximum it would do would be to transfer to the Assembly all existing ministerial functions in respect of the Board's activities in Wales, and provide for the Board to be separately financed by, and accountable to, the Assembly for those activities. The minimum it would do would perhaps be to give the Assembly a power to appoint one or two members of the Board.

The listing of the Board in Schedule 7 carries no presumption that either the maximum or the minimum are what will happen. No action at all will be taken unless the Assembly request it. It will then be for the Secretary of State to consult the British Waterways Board— this is a statutory requirement. In the light of the Assembly's request, after consultation wth the Board, the Secretary of State will then draw up an order containing what he considers to be the provisions appropriate to the circumstances. This order will only take effect if both Houses of Parliament so resolve.

The Bill is, therefore, not in itself devolving functions in respect of the British Waterways Board. It is providing for the possibility of devolution at a later stage, and I would suggest that this is a very modest aim. I should like to emphasise that this is a matter on which we have not only listened carefully to those concerned with inland waterways, but we have altered the Bill in the light of representations. The Minister of State in the Privy Council Office has held two meetings with the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Committee accompanied by MPs of both main Parties, and subsequently the Government agreed to accept Amendments in another place to move the Board and the Advisory Committee itself from Part I to Part II of Schedule 7. This has the important effect that there will be no devolution unless and until the Assembly specifically request it. In particular, this allows greater scope for a smooth transition, because concern has been expressed about the position of projects which were already in progress at the time the Assembly is set up.

I suggest that this Amendment is considerably less modest that what we propose in the Bill. The Amendment would entirely exclude the possibility of any transfer to the Assembly of functions in respect of the British Waterways Board, however limited this might be and however much it might have been agreed after consultation. This seems a very extreme remedy for a matter such as inland waterways, which is so closely linked with other functions to be devolved. We believe that the Bill should be allowed to stand as it is.

Baroness WHITE

May I express thanks to my noble friend and her colleagues for having taken a very great deal of trouble about what was a difficult and potentially explosive situation.


I should also like to thank the noble Baroness for what she has told us. However, I should like to point out that this matter cropped up in a connection with the Scotland Bill and, as it stands at the moment, canals are now a reserved matter. Although I fully understand that the waterways in Wales are not going to be devolved as yet, I think I should like to keep this open and perhaps come back to it later on, if the noble Baroness agrees.

Baroness ELLES

Before we conclude our discussions on this Amendment, I should like to put two points to the noble Baroness. She gave the analogy of local authorities discussing with each other across the border—obviously water does not stay within the confines of one local authority, and she rightly pointed to the need for good co-operation between adjacent local authorities. I wonder whether she could tell us with whom the Welsh Assembly will negotiate—will it be with the United Kingdom Parliament? There is no regional area which covers England or the adjacent parts of Wales. Would the Welsh Assembly consult with the Herefordshire County Council, for instance, or with some other county councils? It seems to me that one would not get the same level of body through which to hold these negotiations. The analogy, therefore, if I may say so, seems to be a false one.

Could the noble Baroness also tell us whether the Resolution to be placed before both Houses of Parliament before any of these orders can take effect would be a Negative Resolution or an Affimative Resolution, which is subject to debate? I should be grateful for her comments on these points.

Baroness STEDMAN

It will be a matter for the Welsh Assembly to discuss with all the bodies around it, including the English counties, the British Waterways Board and everybody else who is concerned, before a recommendation is made and before any of the procedure is put into effect. My information is that it will be an Affirmative Resolution and therefore both Houses will be able to discuss it.

There is one other point, of course. The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries in another place have recently reported on the Board and have recom- mended that it should be excluded from devolution. The Government have not yet made up their minds about the recommendations of the Select Committee. They will be publishing their response, and I believe similar remarks were made in connection with the Scotland Bill. We expect to get that response shortly, and, if necessary, we will return to it at a later stage in the light of the decision on that report.


This has been unexpectedly useful and fruitful, and I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response to my impromptu intervention. As I understand it, the position of the British Waterways Board has not changed since their response to the White Paper, and the relevant plea seems to be found in the following sentence: It would, however, be quite wrong for Parliament to prejudge the general future of the British Waterways Board by making ad hoc decisions on certain parts of their network. Nor, in their view, is the matter one of principle so far as Scotland and Wales are concerned". That is the kind of starting point so far as they are concerned.

The noble Baroness has deployed a great deal of technical information, which no doubt my noble friends will wish to study. I have noted what my noble friend Lord Tweeddale has said, that the provision in the Bill as it now stands is different from that in the Scotland Bill as that now stands; and I think the noble Baroness was present when I received a most terrible wigging yesterday for suggesting that the Welsh should receive anything different from the Scots, as that was derogatory. I should have thought that this must do something to weaken any position she might take at Report stage in view of what my noble friends may say then. However, in thanking her for what she has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord WIGG moved Amendment No. 98: Page 65, leave out lines 10 and 11.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is consequential, and I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

I must again add the same caveat that this is subject to any further consideration of the Bill after it has been to another place.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord WIGG moved Amendment No. 99: Page 65, leave out lines 17 to 22.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is also consequential. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 60 [Power of Assembly to assume functions of certain bodies];

[Amendment No. 99A not moved].

5.20 p.m.

Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY moved Amendment No. 99B: Page 25, line 1, leave out ("all") and insert ("the").

The noble Lord said I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee, if I speak to Amendments Nos. 99B and 99C together. The purpose of this Amendment is to probe and also to be helpful, because I do not think the Government mean what I think I thought they meant. Your Lordships can try translating that into Welsh, if you like. As I understand it, Clause 60(1) empowers the Welsh Assembly, with certain safeguards, to take over duties of all or any of the nominated bodies. These bodies comprise, according to a Written Answer to a Question in the Hansard of another place of 16th March 1978, the following: the Ancient Monuments Board for Wales, the Area Health Authorities, the Central Advisory Council for Education (Wales), the Development Board for Rural Wales, the Historic Buildings Council for Wales, the Land Authority for Wales, New Town Development Corporations, the Wales Tourist Board, the Welsh Development Agency and the Library Advisory Council (Wales). Can the Government assure me that this is the complete list of all the bodies? Are there any non-statutory bodies that would fall in line? I should also be grateful if the Government would confirm that the power of appointment by local authorities to the Area Health Authorities, to which I referred, is not disturbed in any way by the Wales Bill.

My second question is perhaps the same as my first. Am I correct in assuming that the Welsh Assembly can subsume the duties and powers of a nominated body only if it has sole responsibility for appointing all the members to that body? If I am correct, then I suggest that this Amendment is helpful in so far as it says just that, and the Government might like my English better than theirs and accept it. I beg to move.


In supporting my noble friend, may I say that I regard this Part, even more than that dealing with water, as the most crucial Part of the Bill. I find it crucial, because it is something that is completely anathema to me in my ideas, as I have read the clause and as I understand it. It states: … the Assembly may by order … provide for the exercise by the Assembly of all or any of the functions of that body". Is this a power that the Assembly is taking over from the Secretary of State? The clause also puts a kind of caveat or check on this, by stating: … the Assembly may by order made by statutory instrument". Whose Statutory Instrument? Is it its own Statutory Instrument? I see that the noble Lord indicates that it is. So it has complete and utter power in this matter. I should have thought that this gave the Assembly the opportunity to take over virtually any body, and I did not think that this was what the Government had in mind. I should be grateful for clarification on this matter.


I do not think that it is as difficult as noble Lords have implied; at least, I hope we shall agree on that by the time I have finished. Clause 60 is concerned with public bodies for which all ministerial powers of appointment will be transferred to the Assembly. In other words, a body will be within the terms of the clause, irrespective of whether one or all the members are appointed by the Minister, provided that all such appointments are devolved by means of entries in Schedule 2. It sounds complicated, but it is quite simple. If one ministerial power of appointment is left with a Minister, then the body cannot be subject to a Clause 60 order. The effect of the Amendment before us is to restrict the terms of Clause 60 to bodies whose entire membership is appointed by Ministers. So if, for example, there is one local authority appointment to the body, that body cannot be subject to a Clause 60 order.

I have looked through the terms of appointment of the principal bodies who, under Clause 60 as it stands in the Bill, would be subject to the terms of that clause. I find that this Amendment would create some curious results. The main bodies which would no longer be caught by Clause 60, if the Amendment were carried, are the Ancient Monuments Board, the Area Health Authorities, the Community Health Councils and the National Parks Council. Bodies such as the Advisory Council for Education remain as potential candidates for a Clause 60 order. I therefore conclude that this Amendment not only derogates from the powers of the Assembly, but does so in a very arbitrary way. It seems to me that there is a misunderstanding in noble Lords' minds as to what Clause 60 does, and I hope that I have said enough to make it clear that this Amendment would confuse matters even more.


I just wonder whether there is a misunderstanding in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. If there is not, then there is in mine, because the provisions, as I read this clause, do not coincide with what he said. The clause appears to say that where a Minister of the Crown has power to appoint members to a body—it does not say what proportion there should be; whether it is one in 100, 16 in 100, or all of them—then, if the whole of that power is exercisable by the Assembly, it may then make a Clause 60 order. That is what it appears to me to mean. But the noble Lord went on to say that if any local authority could appoint any member to such a body, then the opportunity to make a Clause 60 order would not exist.


With respect, under the Amendment.


I apologise to the noble Lord. So that the confusion was in my mind. I think I agree with my noble friend that we have got it straight, and the Government have now said that they mean that as long as a Minister can appoint one member to a body, and if that power is in the hands of a committee, then it is translated into an ability to take over the body. Although it might have 60 members on its executive committee, if one of them is appointed by the Minister this is an entrée for this system. If that is so, will the noble Lord confirm that the rather short list which my noble friend read out of bodies which meet this specification is complete, because there may be many of which one had not thought—for instance, under the terms of a charity—where the Minister had power to make an appointment, which would fall, perhaps unwittingly, into this basket.


The noble Lord's list was taken from the reply in another place of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales, in which he said: The following are the principal statutory bodies which would fall within the scope of Clause 62". I do not think this means that there could never be another.


Indeed. The word "statutory" does not appear in the clause, so the Secretary of State has referred only to the statutory bodies which fall within this definition. There may be a great many others—for instance, trusts, beneficies, who knows what? I should have thought that the Government might at least tell us what this trawl will catch.


I am not clear in my own mind about charities of a general kind. I do not think that they come under this clause. I shall have to look at the point again. My impression is that that is not the case, but I shall write to the noble Lord.


I sympathise with the noble Lord—obviously this is a difficult field—and no doubt he will sympathise with me. It may be that he will be able to deal with my difficulty when he has read that piece of paper. If the noble Lord's answer is that he is right, a letter will, of course, suffice. If the answer is that he is wrong, then a letter will not suffice.


The point which the noble Lord makes would be sound if it applied, but it does not. The information which I have just had confirmed is that it must be a statutory body.

Baroness ELLES

I wonder whether I could intervene in the happy dialogue which is taking place and reinforce a question which my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley put to the Minister. My noble friend read out a list of the statutory bodies which would fall within the scope of Clause 60, and he asked what statutory bodies are considered to fall within the scope of Clause 60, apart from the ones which were given by the noble Lord's right honourable friend in his answer on 16th March 1978. I may be wrong about this, but when the noble Lord referred to some of these bodies I thought that he mentioned two which were not on that list—one in connection with National Parks and another relating to community something-or-other—which I should be grateful if the noble Lord would repeat. Certainly it was not on the list which was given by the Minister in another place. Possibly the noble Lord has a list which would satisfy, at least partly, the curiosity of my noble friend. When the noble Lord answers that question, I wonder whether he could confirm that if Part IX were to be removed from Schedule 2 to the Bill, the Land Authority for Wales, the Welsh Development Agency and the Development Board for Rural Wales would therefore no longer fall within the provisions of Clause 60.


The answer to the last question is certainly, Yes. The point which the noble Lord missed and that I did not emphasise when I spoke about a statutory body is to be found in line 2 of Clause 60(1): conferred by any enactment". I think that those words make it quite clear. I cannot give a complete list to the noble Baroness. I do not think that there could be such a list. My noble friend Lady Stedman wrote a long letter to the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, giving him certain information of this kind, which I have not got. I know that the letter was written, and I hope that it will have given some information of this kind to the noble Lord.

Baroness ELLES

I am sorry to insist on this point. In the case of bodies which are under the threat not only of control but also of extinction, does not the noble Lord consider that it would be a matter of interest both to the noble Lord and to the Committee as to which these bodies might be?


To back that up even further, it would be a matter of great interest to the bodies themselves.


We are getting away from the point. The number of statutory bodies is highly limited. We started to speak about charities, most of which are not statutory bodies. I shall try to give a list of some of the statutory bodies that might be affected, but I certainly cannot give it off-the-cuff.

Baroness ELLES

I am sorry to pursue this point. I have with me a document called Paid Appointments to Statutory Bodies. I understand that it lists at least 70 or 80 bodies throughout the United Kingdom which were set up by statute. There is nothing in the clause which states that the Minister who devolves his powers to the Welsh Assembly should be the Secretary of State for Wales. It could be the Department of the Environment. I am not saying that any Minister would ever devolve powers to the Welsh Assembly in order to deal with a national body. Nevertheless, as the clause is now worded, this is a possibility.


I am still not entirely clear about this, nor am I sure that the Committee is, either. Can I put the position as I see it, now that the noble Lord has kindly explained it to me. If the Welsh Assembly has the power to appoint all of the members to that particular body, then it has the power to subsume that particular body. To give one example which slightly worries me, after our long discussion at some unearthly hour of the night I understand that one member of the water authority is still to be appointed by the Government. Therefore the Welsh Assembly cannot subsume the powers of the water authority. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord is nodding, which means that I am beginning to make a little more sense. Also, I understand—although I may be wrong— that, so far as Area Health Authorities are concerned, some of the members are to be nominated by local authorities. May I ask whether the Assembly can therefore subsume their powers, for the Area Health Authorities are on the list? I wonder whether I have explained myself. I have got my answer, because the noble Lord nodded, but when he gets up to reply perhaps he could put it on the record that I am right about that.


Yes, I am very happy to do that. It is quite clear that the noble Lord is right on the first point.


May I ask the noble Lord about the last point—the Area Health Authorities? Why can their powers be subsumed by the Welsh Assembly? I believe that some of their members are not to be appointed by the Welsh Assembly, although I may not be correct about that.


In so far as they have members who are not so appointed, then clearly their powers cannot be subsumed by the Welsh Assembly.


I am not absolutely certain about that. I think I have got the point, but I may have to come back to it. At one moment I thought we were speaking about Irish devolution, because we were speakingatcross purposes! However, I understand what the noble Lord says, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 99C, 99D and 100A not moved.]

5.39 p.m.

Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY moved Amendment No. 100B: Page 25, line 9, leave out ("including") and insert ("excluding").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment needs hardly any explanation. It says that the Welsh Assembly should not change the law. Perhaps the Government might care to explain the thoughts which lie behind their wish to allow the Welsh Assembly to change any enactment. Could the Government give me a few examples of what type of enactment they might want to change? I beg to move.


The power in Clause 60 to modify any enactment is there to allow for any technical tidying up necessary as a result of an order made under the terms of the clause. For example, if the Assembly were to assume some of the functions of the Area Health Authorities, Amendments might have to be made to the National Health Service Act 1977, for example, to take account of the changed circumstances. There is no question, as seems to be in the noble Lord's mind—I think, wrongly—that the power is intended to be used, or can be used, by the Assembly to extend the scope of devolved functions. The drafting of the provision precludes that.

On the whole I think that the Amendment would do more harm than good. I know that it is only a probing Amendment. I am not treating it otherwise. But, if it were agreed to, it would prevent the kind of mechanical consequential change being made to enactments which may be necessary as a result of the making of an order under subsecion (1) of the clause. Primary legislation would therefore be needed. I am sure your Lordships would agree that this is giving the matter an exaggerated and unnecessary importance which is totally out of proportion to the action required. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied with that explanation.


I am very grateful for that explanation. It was proposed only to clear my mind of the fear that the Assembly could suddenly change an Area Health Authority into a swimming pool, or something extraordinary. I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY moved Amendment No. 100C:

Page 25, line 16, at end insert— ("(5) No order shall be made under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: As a result of our original discussions, your Lordships will see that Clause 60 is large and important. It contains far-reaching powers. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could tell me whether similar powers are given to any person or body in England, at the moment, without an order being laid before Parliament. I beg to move.


I think that we are becoming more and more familiar, as the noble Lord said, with the effect of Clause 60. I do not want to waste time by entering into another narrative as to the way the clause works. Clause 60(1) confers an order-making power on the Assembly in respect of a body falling within the ambit of that clause. But the order cannot be made until the body concerned has been consulted. That is a statutory duty on the Assembly and cannot be shirked.

Once consultations have taken place the order must be approved by the Secretary of State who must surely, in deciding whether or not to approve the order, take into account the views expressed to the Assembly by the body. In the Government's view, these arrangements will ensure that adequate attention is given to the views of the body in question and also that the Assembly's proposals are adequate and acceptable. These orders are essentially concerned with the consequences of devolution and the making of arrangements, so that the functions of the bodies concerned may be discharged in the most effective manner appropriate to the transfer of responsibilities to the Assembly. The orders are not concerned with a matter of principle, and are not, therefore, in my view, appropriate to the Parliamentary scrutiny envisaged in this Amendment.

Noble Lords may point to Clause 59 and the appropriate Resolution procedure in subsection (5) as proof to the contrary. Let me remind your Lordships that the bodies in Schedule 7 all operate on an England-and-Wales basis and will continue to do so after devolution. It is only right, therefore, that Parliament should have the means of ensuring that the English activities of the body will not be injured by anything the Assembly may wish to do in respect of the body's Welsh functions. This argument does not apply to the bodies which could be affected by a Clause 60 order. Hence the differing treatment of them. The noble Lord asked me whether anything of this kind could be done in England without a statutory order. The answer to that, I think, is in the negative.


I am not entirely happy about the whole position of Clause 60—in fact, I am far from happy about it. I am certainly very much happier and understand the clause much better since the noble Lord has been so good as to explain it so fully. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment 100D not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 60 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness ELLES

The initial fears expressed by my noble friends on this side of the House have not been allayed by the answers, although they were extremely courteous, from the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench. In fact, not only have they not been allayed but I think that they have been increased. For one thing, there seems to be no limit to the number of bodies which may be included and which may fall within the scope of Clause 60, apart from the facts that they must be bodies established by statute and that a Minister of the Crown—it need not necessarily be the Secretary of State for Wales— has the power to appoint Members to that particular body.

There are three points in relation to individual bodies that I should like to mention that were not discussed on earlier Amendments. The first is in relation to the Welsh Commission, which may be debated later under Clause 62. The Welsh Commission will be a body of immense importance, in accordance with the subsections of Clause 62. But, under subsection (13) we see: Section 60 above shall apply in relation to the Welsh Commission as it applies in relation to the bodies there referred to". This is a real case of strangulation at birth, if not a case of abortion.

The second board included in the original list printed in the Answer to a Parliamentary Question on 16th March, is the Welsh Tourist Board. This gives rise to concern and causes us to ask why this particular board is included. There will already be possibilities under Clause 61 for the Assembly to make arrangements direct with the British Tourist Board to undertake activities in relation to the promotion, quite rightly and very properly, for the purpose of encouraging people to visit Wales. It seems to me that there will be a schizophrenic situation here, using one body for one purpose and another body for another, and in the meantime the British taxpayer will be paying out more for the people who have to administer these dichotomies.

A further point, which has not been commented on but which certainly gives me cause for concern, is the matter of some of the bodies which were in the original list, if I may refer to it as that. Among that original list was the Ancient Monuments Board for Wales. It has not been brought to the attention of noble Lords that it is not only a Minister of the Crown who has the right to appoint members to that body. There are many other bodies who have a right to appoint members to that body, such as, for example, the Trustees of the British Museum. Are the Trustees of the British Museum aware that this body may be dissolved under Clause 60? I am certain that they are not aware of that. If they are aware, they have not expressed the concern which they must undoubtedly feel. There are other bodies in a similar position, to which the Minister may be entitled to nominate or appoint persons—but they are bodies to which other important bodies also have a right of appointment. This matter has not been discussed sufficiently widely. Nor has the attention of these other nominated bodies been drawn to what may well happen to these statutory bodies falling within the scope of Clause 60.

The noble Lord made two points, on which I should like to touch, on the question of consultation. The noble Lord will know very well indeed that consultation is not the same as negotiation or being in a position of power. Many of us have consulted many people and gone away with a dusty answer, and it might be the same in this case. I do not think that the power of consultation with a body which you are about to dissolve will give that body particularly strong support or encouragement in its relationship to the Welsh Assembly.

As the noble Lord himself rightly said, this power under Clause 60 can be exerted only with the approval of the Secretary of State. He pointed out also that naturally the Secretary of State has to take into account the views expressed by the Assembly, and that will be only right and proper. If the Welsh Assembly expresses the view that such-and-such a body should be dissolved, I think it would be difficult for the Secretary of State to go behind that democratic decision of a body elected by the people of Wales. I feel that this clause has immense implications. It has not been discussed in the Commons and I think another place should have an opportunity to discuss it. I hope that my noble friends will agree with me that we should go into the Lobbies and divide on this particular clause.


I thought that in opening her remarks the noble Baroness was slightly confused about the rôle of the British Tourist Authority—and I would remind her that it is the British Tourist Authority and not the British Tourist Board—and the role of the Wales Tourist Board. We are to discuss this more fully under the next Amendment; to be moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, but the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, seem to me to be misconceived because what is being proposed under the next paragraph is in fact a topping up arrangement whereby the funds which go to the British Tourist Authority—which, after all, is promoting Britain as a whole overseas—can be topped up to some extent by the local Wales Assembly if they wish to have a special promotion in that respect.


I should like to say two things. First, we are discussing the Question, Whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill? and if the noble Baroness thinks of dividing the Committee it would be equivalent to a decision to leave out Clause 60. Just so long as we know what we are talking about. The point of this clause is fairly clearly stated in the Bill. It is to provide a machinery for the Welsh Assembly to take over certain things of which it already has the full functions. The idea of dissolving something against its will is quite wrong and nothing whatever to do with the functions which we are proposing here.

I am puzzled: I have the feeling that the noble Baroness feels that this will be a way of allowing worthy statutory bodies to be suppressed by an unworthy Assembly. I believe that is an absolutely false idea.

Baroness ELLES

Oh, no!


If that is not the idea held by the noble Baroness, then it is the greatest possible mistake to leave the clause out because the machinery will then not exist.

Baroness ELLES

I am sorry to disabuse the noble Lord's mind. I admit that I am very often confused, and I often fail to understand either what is being said by the noble Lord opposite or indeed what I read, but it seems to be perfectly clear in this particular clause, and in conjunction with what the noble Lord has just said, that the Assembly may exercise all or any of the functions of that body.


If they are devolved, with respect.

Baroness ELLES

Precisely, but what we have not got out of the noble Lord is which bodies are fit to come within this scope, and he seems unable to tell us. He has also, quite rightly I believe, told us that he cannot tell us. I think this is a considerable worry, not only to your Lordships but also to any body which may fall within the scope of that clause. I cannot feel that we should leave this matter as it is. In my view, we should allow another place to discuss it.


With respect, if I said "limited companies" the noble Baroness would not say that I must give a list of limited companies. It is a perfectly clear definition and we have an equally clear definition here. I really do not understand the desire to have a list.

Baroness ELLES

It so happens that bodies which might be affected by this clause are interested. If the noble Lord were to give a list of limited companies, those limited companies would be independent, corporate bodies with their own responsibilities and they are not controlled by an overriding governmental or other elected authority. Here we are talking about an Assembly and it is no disrespect to that Assembly; it is exactly the same as if any body was to come within the control of some other newly elected body, let us say in Ruritania. I think that those bodies who may come under the powers of such an Assembly and whose functions under Clause 60—as it states quite clearly, and as the noble Lord himself stated quite clearly—might be ingested into the Welsh Assembly, have a right to know and the other bodies who appoint persons to those bodies have a right to know. I do not think that the noble Lord has made a good case.


I think I must have one more "go". Of course, they have a right to know. Each body knows whether it comes under this definition. The ministerial powers of appointment must have been devolved in Schedule 2 before Clause 60 operates. That is the first

point. Secondly, if the power has not been devolved in respect of even one appointment, then Clause 60 cannot affect the body. Each body will know whether or not this is the case and will know whether or not it is affected. Also it is inconceivable that the Assembly should transfer the powers of a body to the Assembly without discussion with the body. Probably what would happen is that almost certainly the same people would continue to do the same work under a different name. By all means let us test the feeling of the Committee, but I think that the noble Baroness is barking up a gum tree.

Baroness ELLES

I should be happy if that were true, but I think we should test the feeling of the Committee on this and see whether they will come up the gum tree with me.

5.58 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 60 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 74.

Airedale, L. Gaitskell, B. Plant, L.
Ardwick, L. Glenamara, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Banks, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Samuel, V.
Barrington, V. Hale, L. Seear, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Segal, L.
Bernstein, L. Howie of Troon, L. Shinwell, L.
Birk, B. Jacques, L. Stamp, L.
Boothby, L. Kirkhill, L. Stedman, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Listowel, E. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Brockway, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stone, L.
Castle, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Strabolgi, L.
Collison, L. Longford, E. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Crook, L. McGregor of Durris, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
David, B. Meston, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Davies of Leek, L. Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L. Wigg, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Murray of Gravesend, L. Willis, L.
Denbigh, E. Ogmore, L. Winterbottom, L. [Teller.]
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.) Wootton of Abinger, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Phillips, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Colville of Culross, V. Elton, L.
Amory, V. Colwyn, L. Emmet of Amberley, B.
Ampthill, L. Craigavon, V. Faithfull, B.
Auckland, L. Croft, L. Falkland, V.
Balfour, E. Cromartie, E. Ferrers, E.
Belstead, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Fortescue, E.
Blakenham, V. Daventry, V. Gridley, L.
Bledisloe, V. de Clifford, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. De Freyne, L.
Carrington, L. Denham, L. [Teller.] Halsbury, E.
Cathcart, E. Drumalbyn, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Clitheroe, L. Elles, B. Kilmarnock, L.
Cockfield, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Kinloss, Ly.
Lauderdale, E. Northchurch, B. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Long, V. Nugent of Guildford, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Luke, L. O'Hagan, L.
Lyell, L. Onslow, E. Strathspey, L.
Mancroft, L. Orr-Ewing, L. Swansea, L.
Middleton, L. Robbins, L. Swinfen, L.
Monckton of Brenchley, V. Rochdale, V. Tenby, V.
Monson, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly. Trefgarne, L.
Mottistone, L. Sandford, L. Tweeddale, M.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Sandys, L. Vickers, B.
Sempill, Ly. Vivian, L.
Newall, L. Skelmersdale, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Norrie, L. Spens, L.

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

Resolved in the negative, and clause disagreed to accordingly.

6.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 61 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness VICKERS

I beg to move to leave out Clause 61. In the document Devolution to Scotland and Wales it states at page 50, paragraph 257: The Assembly will be responsible for tourism in Wales, including the Wales Tourist Board, but… —this is what I want to draw attention to— …overseas promotion will remain the responsibility of the British Tourist Authority, which will receive funds from the Government for promoting tourism in Wales as well as in England and Scotland. If the Assembly wants to give the Authority extra funds for specific promotion overseas, or give work to other agencies, it will be free to do so, but it will not receive extra United Kingdom funds for the purpose". This Bill is an immensely complicated Bill anyhow, but the position of tourism after creation of the proposed Assembly is very hard to disentangle, and I hope the noble Lord will be able to help me. As I understand it, under Clause 61 the Assembly may make the arrangements I mentioned for the Authority to undertake work outside the United Kingdom for the purpose of encouraging people to visit Wales. Looking at Schedule 11, page 77, the Development of Tourism Act 1969, paragraph 32 reads: Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (3) of section 2 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969, the Wales Tourist Board shall have power, by virtue of subsection (2) of that section, to carry on activities outside the United Kingdom for the purpose of encouraging people to visit Wales". Under Clause 60 of the Bill the Assembly may subsume and abolish the Wales Tourist Board, provided that the Assembly itself exercises all or any of the functions of that body. So it is left entirely to them to decide whether or not to carry it on. It is, therefore, most unclear, at any rate to me, as to where responsibility for promoting Wales abroad will lie. Will it lie with the Assembly, with the Wales Tourist Board or the British Tourist Authority, or sometimes a combination of all three? Will, for instance, any promotion of Wales abroad by the British Tourist Authority be chargeable to the Welsh Consolidated Fund? This is what I call modifying responsibility between all these different authorities.

I should like some clarification on this matter. Similarly, it would be helpful to know where financial responsibility will lie. Will, for instance, any promotion of Wales abroad by the British Tourist Authority be chargeable to the Welsh Consolidated Fund? I should particularly like an answer to that question. There are persistent rumours—I have heard this from more than one authority—about a British Tourist Authority display in Brussels where a map of Wales was displayed upside down in a window.

Tourism is a major growth industry in Wales. The Wales Tourist Board appears to have been more satisfactory in its performance in encouraging people to come to Wales than the other authorities. The amounts of money estimated to have been spent by British tourists—in other words, not tourists from overseas—are as follows. I shall give just two examples. In 1972 the British people spent £125 million and by 1976 £250 million in Wales alone. In addition, the contribution of overseas tourists is growing. In 1976 it was estimated that visitors from overseas spent about £50 million in Wales.

On 23rd August 1977, Mr. Harold Naylor, the Chief Executive of the Wales Tourist Board, claimed that the Welsh tourist industry could be earning £1,000 million a year in 10 years if special tourist development areas were set up. In my view that is what the Welsh people can do better than anybody else. That was in response to the proposal for tourist development areas put forward in a Conservative document called A Policy for Tourism. At present, the Special Tourism Projects Scheme resources and EEC fund aids for tourism are available only in industrial development areas. For example, parts of Denbigh, Conway and West Flint are excluded from development areas. There is a case for separating industrial development areas and tourism development areas so that all of Wales can potentially benefit from these sources.

Under the Special Tourism Projects Scheme established by the Development of Tourism Act 1969, £8 million was set aside until 1978 for grants to encourage tourism in Wales. Under this scheme it was estimated that by March 1976, 3,000 jobs had been created, either directly or indirectly, at a cost of about £1,590 per job. I suggest that that compares very favourably with job creation costs in other industries. In many ways tourism is of special importance to rural Wales. It helps to sustain the economy of the rural areas without causing dislocation or disruption which other industries are prone to do.

The suggestion that the board may be dissolved under the provisions of Clause 60 seems to run counter to the Government's own feelings about the Board. In a Written Answer on 6th January 1978, at column 3 of the Official Report. Mr. Barry Jones, the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, claimed: The Wales Tourist Board's responsibilities are different from those of the British Tourist Authority. We have certainly no intention of winding up the Board". On 17th January 1978 the South Wales Argus reported that, Mr. Jones said—and I agreed with him—that it would be 'putting back the clock' to scrap the Board, and this would be unacceptable to the people of Wales … Mr. Jones replied that the Board had put Wales on the international map and had been 'a thundering success'.". In the debates on the Scotland Bill there were references to tourism and I think that they have some bearing on the Welsh Tourist Board. I am pleased to see that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, is here because I gather that on the 14th March this year, at columns 1265 to 1268 of the Official Report, he discussed the question of the reorganisation of the British Tourist Authority as proposed in the Scotland Bill, and the under-representation that England would have on the newly reconstituted Board. In columns 1275 to 1277 the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, echoed the feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, underlining the importance of an independent and impartial British Tourist Authority. I also understand that in columns 439 to 450 on 17th May this year, the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, to increase the number of independent members of the British Tourist Authority, was withdrawn following an assurance by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, that the Government were prepared to accept that there was a case for a larger board than five members, and were prepared to look again at the proposals in the Bill.

I should like to know today from the noble Lord who will be answering the debate whether he does not think that the Welsh Board is adequate to undertake tourism for itself. I know that the British Tourist Authority is rather annoyed with me because during the Second Reading debate I suggested that it would be better if it were done away with—perhaps I put it more elegantly than that, and said that it should cease to act—and that the various boards for England, Scotland and Wales should do their own work, because in my view they could do it equally well. Moreover, it would save money and they would not have to set up separate offices. They could use the British Airways office and they could immediately fix their clients up, put them on planes and send them to, for example, Wales.

I should like to know how many representatives the British Tourist Authority has working for Wales overseas. I consider that the Welsh people are by far the best people for putting over the conditions of their country. They know what is needed. They know all the beauty spots. Moreover, they have great charm and a particular way of speaking. Perhaps they could speak a little Welsh to show off their language and encourage others to learn it before they visit Wales. I know of an Indonesian diplomat who was going to Wales to give a lecture. He learnt Welsh and gave his lecture in Welsh and it proved very successful. Therefore the language cannot be all that difficult. I know that the Indonesians are very talented in languages but Welsh is a language which can be learnt. I suggest that the best promotion could be done by the Welsh people. I hope that my Amendment will be considered as a probing Amendment. If the answer is satisfactory I may be able to table a better Amendment in the future. I beg to move.


I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, referred to her remarks on Second Reading. Whether she put the matter inelegantly or not, she said: I should like to take the opportunity to close down the British Tourist Authority, keeping the English, Welsh and Scottish Authorities and letting them manage their own arrangements ".—[Official Report, 23/5/78; col. 907.] The particular question which she has raised this afternoon is where does the authority for promoting Wales overseas lie. At present the position is that the promotion of Wales and of all different parts of the United Kingdom overseas is in the hands of the British Tourist Authority. From time to time there may be needs for special promotions for particular parts of the United Kingdom.

We know as regards the Scottish Tourist Board that it would like to have some presence overseas. But when it actually comes down to it in the discussions with the Scottish Tourist Board, in my view what is primarily needed is an additional entry in the telephone directories of Montreal, California, Chicago and so on which would have the same telephone number as the British Tourist Authority. In that way people would look under "Scotland" or "Wales" as the case may be, and they would be directed to the British Tourist Authority which would encompass the whole of the marketing for the British Isles overseas. One should say in this connection that the British Tourist Authority already has marketing arrangements overseas with the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and the Channel Isles. Therefore, what particularly is envisaged here is that there would, of course, be the normal British Government grant to the British Tourist Authority for promoting the whole of the United Kingdom overseas and this particular clause would allow for additional and special promotions for Wales to take place overseas with the authority of the Assembly and with additional monies provided by the Assembly.

The proposal moved by the noble Baroness this afternoon I know not only does not find favour with the British Tourist Authority but does not even find favour with the Wales Tourist Board itself. I have it on good authority that Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies has said that the Wales Tourist Board would be totally opposed to the suggestion which has been put down here. I think the very great danger in this situation is a duplication of effort. We need to have a co-operation not only involving the British Tourist Authority but also involving the ambassadorial posts overseas, British Airways and all the outposts overseas which promote different aspects of Britain. To try to fragment this would, on the one hand, be likely to be less effective and, on the other, be very much more expensive. Therefore I would urge the Committee not to go along with the proposal which has been made.


I take it that this is to leave out Clause 61, but I consider that such a thing would rupture the purpose of encouraging tourist trade in Wales. In Clause 61 the Assembly can make arrangements with the British Tourist Authority for that authority to undertake activities outside the United Kingdom, and the noble Lord who has just spoken illustrated that with knowledge and understanding. But let me tell noble Lords—it is an amazing figure according to the Council for the Preservation of Rural Wales—that between 11 million and 12 million people a year visit Wales. The entire population of Wales, whether they are English speaking Welsh or Welsh speaking Welsh, is less than 3 million, so four times the population of Wales visits it for its historical information, its industrial information and for the beauties of its hills; and, further, do not let us forget that it is a great ambassador for peace.

The international Eisteddfod at Llangollen brings people from all over the world, from Eastern Europe, from Latin America, to take part in the Eisteddfod, in singing, musical and cultural activities. The Welsh, to their sorrow, have been beaten by the Bulgarians. The Russian Red Army singing basso profundo can reach the centre of hell itself sometimes, and have amazed us. We have even had them come from Patagonia where Welsh and Spanish is the common dual language. In other words, the tourist industry in Wales is of fundamental importance.

Already, if it is not returned in the other place, Clause 60 is being taken out; but nothing can be taken out and nothing can be enacted without affirmative statutory instruments coming through the House. Finally, let me point out that there are increasing activities in the tourist industry. When mankind quarries into a beautiful mountainside it leaves a scar. In my boyhood I used to meander around those quarries looking for deep ponds in which to swim, and our mothers were always warning us about swimming in quarry ponds in the slate quarries, even in millstone grit areas, and as any geologist knows, once you reach the millstone grit there is no more coal after that. The fascinating thing about those quarries is that, seen 10 years later when the hand of man has improved the work of nature by planting flowers and trees, the quarry becomes a beautiful resort.

This Board that we set up must be given the local knowledge by means of which it can make arrangements with outside people. We sometimes want to talk with geologists who may be in English or foreign universities. We want to employ them and give them a fee to enhance the local beauty in a quarrying area. Many of your Lordships will remember Aberfan—the tragedy of a moving tip of slurry that wiped off the earth 150 schoolchildren before any could be saved. I am president of a new type of mining museum which we are establishing in Stoke-on-Trent where we have a tip and where we shall have museum objectives, and we expect to draw thousands of visitors a year. In South Wales and in parts where the quarrying of slate is concerned the tourist authority may want outside experts brought in and the power to spend money to increase the amenities and the beauty of areas where once there were tips.

There must therefore be the possibility for co-operation between the British Tourist industry and the Council for the preservation of Rural Wales. All these bodies vv ill have to grow together in consultation. Justifiably, of course, the Opposition must probe, but no Government, whatever their politics, should expect that they can sweep terrific Bills like ths through Parliament, as they did once with the Common Market Bill. That went through this House like lightning, without any Amendments, without altering a full stop, a comma or a semicolon. It went through your Lordships' House before you could say "Jack Robinson".

I do not object to a long time being spent on important Bills, but I believe we must use our judgment here. This case of the tourist industry and the tourist authority is of paramount importance to Wales. There can be no answers straight away, no Minister can be expected to give accurate answers. I have said about three times during the course of these debates that all this is a pragmatic thing. The Assembly is a novel idea. Men and women of common sense and of different political views will come together in that Assembly, and whatever their political views they will all try to do their best for the Welsh Assembly or the Scots Assembly, and, if the Anglo-Saxons get one outside this Parliament, for that one too. Consequently I hope that this Amendment is not accepted.


One of the very valuable functions provided by an Amendment such as the probing Amendment of my noble friend is to elicit a speech such as that we have just heard—full of praise for, as the noble Lord has rightly said, one of the principal and growing industries of Wales. From the figures he quoted one would have thought that the country was saturated. In fact, three weeks ago I had one of the most pleasant motor drives of my life from Cardiff to Carnaervon in that lovely weather, and you would not have known that it was a tourist paradise at all. That must be its principal charm. I passed the fatal tip at Aberfan and noticed how it had been beautified.

If your Lordships will allow me 30 seconds to reminisce, it happens that my great-great-grandfather managed a silver mine for the King of Denmark in Konigsberg, in Norway. I visited the place a year or two ago, and if the noble Lord says that he has a mining museum in mind he might care to visit one there. It goes three miles into the mountain by rail. He would see the old workings, and the machinery still at work exactly as it was in the early 19th century. But perhaps this is not the moment for dissertation like this.

I am grateful to my noble friend for advancing this, and also for the opportunity of saying that of course we on this side recognise the enormous importance of the tourist industry to Wales and the great threat this poses to the Welsh. Maybe devolution comes at an important moment for them to resist this threat, which is the threat of becoming quaint. One has seen communities which are too much exposed to public view become, not human zoos, but human Whipsnades, where people go around in what the foreigners think of as peasant costume and they regard as fancy dress, where they eat food they do not like in order to please customers who pay them well. I am sure that the Welsh have the native strength and widsom to resist this. I should like to take this opportunity of declaring complete solidarity with them in this.


May I intervene very briefly for one moment. This is the first time that I have taken part ina Committee stage of your Lordships' House and I am slightly confused. If we have decided that Clause 60 shall not stand part of the Bill, is it possible for Clause 61 to operate?— because under Clause 60 the Assembly must have powers to do what is being proposed, to make arrangements with the British Tourist Authority. In the circumstances, can Clause 61 of the Bill stand?


I think that it can. In the first place, I think enough remains of Clause 60 for it to be perfectly possible to pass Clause 61, even though it will not, of course, have as wide an effect as it would otherwise have. For example, the Assembly's relationship to the British Tourist Authority is not affected in any way by the removal of Clause 60.

The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, made a most interesting speech; in fact, we have had a number of interesting speeches. I want to be a little narrower in what I shall say because this is a very modest clause. It does not ask the Assembly to do anything; it does not ask the British Tourist Authority to do anything; it merely states that: The Assembly may make arrangements with the British Tourist Authority … for the purpose of encouraging people [from abroad] to visit Wales". The clause is concerned with overseas promotion. As I say, its purpose is to confer powers on the Welsh Assembly, as distinct from the Wales Tourist Board, to use the British Tourist Authority for promotion overseas to encourage people to visit Wales, if it wants to and if it thinks fit. There is no compulsion of any kind, but the clause gives it the right to do that.

The overseas promotion powers of the Authority for Great Britain as a whole and its responsibility to the Government in the exercise of those powers are unchanged by the Bill. In other words, whether or not we have Clause 61, the British Tourist Authority has a duty in relation to the United Kingdom. In so far as somebody in the British Tourist Authority in a foreign country can persuade people to come to Wales, unless the Welsh Assembly asks them not to they will continue to do so. But, of course, that is quite different from the Welsh Assembly asking them to take specific steps. This clause gives them the right to do that if they want to, and says nothing about the method by which this would be done. Presumably there would be some payment, but that is not specified.

The Wales Tourist Board itself is under the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Assembly will pay for the expenses of the Wales Tourist Board out of the block grant. That is in reply to one of the questions which the noble Baroness asked. In a Bill about Wales we really must not try to abolish a United Kingdom body like the British Tourist Authority. That is not within our power, and I do not think that the noble Baroness raised this as more than a probe.


What about the Arts Council?


That is a question which seems to me to be wholly irrelevant to our discussion. Central Government funds for the overseas promotion of tourism throughout Great Britain will continue to be channelled to the British Tourist Authority. It has great skill in this in spite of the map which was upside-down; that was a horrid story to hear, and I am sure that it has not happened again. However, it is likely that the Assembly will think it sensible to continue to use the Authority's services, though obviously in discussion with the Wales Tourist Board, which can spend money doing this itself with the Assembly's permission.

I regard this as an entirely satisfactory situation. It is permissive; it is not compulsory or mandatory. I think that we should do much better to leave this clause in position and let the Welsh Assembly, in consultation with the Wales Tourist Board and the British Tourist Authority, make its own plans for dealing with this very important part of its economy about which we have been talking. I hope that this is no more than a probe, because it would be rather disastrous actually to omit this clause. I hope that I can persuade the noble Baroness—in fact, I do not think that she needs a great deal of persuasion—to be satisfied that we have had a good discussion on the matter.

Baroness VICKERS

I should like to thank the Minister very much for his reply. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, had hold of the wrong end of the stick. This was the only way in which we could discuss this matter. It is rather interesting that for once we, on this side of the Committee, are trying to promote the Welsh, saying how marvellous they are and how much better they could do it than the other Authority; whereas the other side of the Committee are now saying how much better the English Tourist Board could do it. I am very surprised at that reaction.


I must deny having said anything of the kind. What I said—and I think that my noble friend said this, too—was that there is a perfectly competent body, the British Tourist Authority, which is doing this. It would be absurd to prevent the Assembly from using the Authority if it want to, but meanwhile it has its own Wales Tourist Board; it has money to pay for it, and it has the power to do it itself.

Baroness VICKERS

But now we are to have another authority. We have the Assembly, the British Tourist Authority, the Wales Tourist Board, the English and the Scottish Tourist Boards. We are having one authority after the other. I am frightened that there will be considerable overlap and that one authority may be left out.


I am sorry to keep interrupting, but this will not be different from the situation that we have today. We have a Wales Tourist Board, we have a Scottish Tourist Board and we have an English Tourist Board. We also have the British Tourist Authority. We have added nothing except changed the authority.

Baroness VICKERS

But we are adding another authority, because Clause 61 says, "The Assembly"—and we did not have an Assembly before—" may make arrangements". There is a little bit of blackmail here, because they will not get any money for overseas promotion unless they do it through the British Tourist Authority. It says so.


I am sorry to enter into what seems like an argument with the noble Baroness, but the Assembly is in lieu of the Secretary of State. This is the fourth day that we have been discussing it, and the whole basis of the Welsh devolution is that the statutory powers of the Secretary of State, plus certain other powers discussed in Schedule 10, are transferred to the Welsh Assembly. There is no additional body at all.

Baroness VICKERS

I should like to suggest to the noble Lord that in the past the Minister has not done any promotion, although he has the powers. I do not think that he does any actual promotions; he has other things to do. But the Assembly will be a body that can get together and have a proper programme for promotion. That is why I want it to have a few more powers. I think we have discussed this long enough. I realised that this was the type of attitude I would get from the Government. However, I think that they must be a little sorry that they could not support me a little more in saying how efficient the Welsh are and how much better they probably would have done it had they been given the chance.

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clause 62 [Countryside Commission for Wales]:

6.40 p.m.

Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY moved Amendment No. 101: Page 26, line 25, leave out subsection (10).

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is again to ensure against the possible encouragement by the Welsh Assembly of taking and using agricultural land for purposes other than agriculture. The problem here is that subsection (10) of Clause 62 gives the Welsh Assembly powers to tell the Welsh Commission what to do. I should add for the convenience of the Committee that subsection (11) is consequential on subsection (10).

As the Committee no doubt understands, the Welsh Commission will be doing the same job as the Countryside Commission does in England. It is therefore important to note that in the Countryside Act 1968 the functions of the Commission are set out in Section 2. Throughout that section, and in each subsection, the Commission is told to do certain things, and then to make recommendations or take appropriate action. What the section does not do—and this is the point I wish to make, and indeed is the substance of my Amendment—is to authorise the Minister, or indeed anyone, to make recommendations to the Commission. Clause 62(10) of the Wales Bill, the one I am referring to in this Amendment, does just that.

Not only will the Welsh Commission have to abide by Section 2 of the Countryside Act 1968, but they will also have to listen to, as this subsection says, … such directions of a general character as appear to it expedient in relation to the exercise of the Commission's functions and the Commission shall comply with the directions". This is coming from the Welsh Assembly. No similar power coming from anywhere else applies in England to the Countryside Commission; that is, from the Secretary of State.

I believe this to be wrong and to be dangerous. It is wrong because the Welsh Commission will have Big Brother of the Welsh Assembly looking over its shoulders, and dangerous because the Welsh Assembly could make recommendations to the Welsh Commission to take agricultural land. We already have enough agricultural land taken each year without further encouragement.

May I explain my fears. I can see that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, is looking perplexed, but I am fairly certain that I am on the right track here and I am not going to be put off by him looking perplexed. My fears are that it is likening the problem to the Welsh Assembly being put in the position of priming the pump of the Welsh Commission, and to pump good agricultural land properly used into some other use. I beg to move.


I have some sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, in the general principles behind his submissions, although I do not agree with his specific references to land. What worries me about this clause is that the Assembly may give to the Welsh Commission … such directions of a general character". What are these directions of a general character? I would not mind those words appearing by themselves in the subsection, but then it goes on to say, "the Commission shall comply with the directions".

I should have thought that there was plenty of opportunity for confusion here. The Assembly gives directions—no doubt as a result of a resolution of the Assembly —of a general character such as appear to be expedient in relation to the exercise of its functions. Then the Commission shall comply with such directions. There is too much scope for confusion here and the wording of the subsection would be worthy of reconsideration.


I should like to support this Amendment. I feel that the reduction of agricultural land, whether it is in Wales, Scotland, or here should be opposed. In Scotland, and certainly in Wales, the Assemblies will be predominantly composed of urban people, because far more people live in towns than in the countryside. Inevitably, it will be found that the Assembly will not have the same appreciation of the countryside as the Welsh Commission has.

Obviously the Welsh Commission's strong views are that they should preserve for agriculture, and for beauty, and so on, as much as they possibly can of the Welsh countryside. I am afraid, because it happens continually, that the majority in the Assembly will be urban-based people. You cannot help it. More people live in towns than in the country. It happens everywhere. We country people are always having to fight to keep as much agricultural land as we can, whether for agriculture or forestry. The general aspect of the use of land we want to try and keep on the agricultural side.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, that it is a pity to give anybody authority over the Welsh Commission if, as I believe, they are doing a good job. It is a pity that we should encourage anyone to interfere with that very good job. Perhaps I may be unnecessarily anxious about this but it does happen. The amount of land that is taken away from agriculture for industrial or urban development of one kind or another all over the United Kingdom every year is far greater than it ought to be. Therefore, I should like to support this Amendment because it is important that the Welsh Commission should have scope and authority for its work, which it does very well, rather than be interfered with—perhaps that is rather a strong word—or not allowed to operate without reference to, or without being given instructions by, a body that in my opinion will be largely urban-based.


I think that the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, in moving this Amendment to leave out subsection (10) may have a point. All of us are worried about the use of agricultural land all over Britain, and not merely by the Welsh Countryside Commission but for the huge motorways being built. What is lost in agricultural produce, which saves imports, has never been computed. I am sure the noble Lord will be aware that the type of people who would be elected to the Assembly would be of the kind that would want to preserve agricultural land. When I was a youngster we knew what it was like trying to farm land above the 600 foot contour on the side of a mountain, where you could not use a tractor and where a horse was more useful, and there was a shortage of true meadows. That type of agricultural land in itself is a caveat on the people of Wales letting valuable pieces of land go.

I think that the Assembly might be using these powers because it would think it necessary to stop the destruction of agricultural land by small villages of caravan sites in some areas which needed reorganisation and better planning than they have at the moment, so that farm land could be used in a better fashion. I hope that after we have had this probing, the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, who has been most assiduous in his work on this Bill, will not feel that he has to press this Amendment to a Division.


When I prepared my notes to reply to the Amendment one point which never crossed my mind was that it would be concerned with agricultural land. I thought that we were to discuss the functions and the set up of the Welsh Countryside Committee, which is now called the Welsh Commission. I must make it perfectly clear that the powers listed in Clause 62 simply put the Welsh Commission into exactly the same position as the English and Wales Commission was in up until the devolution of the Welsh Committee under the Bill. Nothing is added. The authority which the Assembly has over it is only the same as the authority which the Secretary of State for the Environment has over the Countryside Commission. He does not exercise that authority, because he wants the Commission to go its own way; but he has that power.

Having said that, I do not know to what extent I should use the notes which I had prepared and which relate to the Welsh Commission itself, in view of the fact that the concern is about the wrongful purchase of agricultural land. This can take place only as a result of planning permission, which is nothing to do with the Assembly in this regard, and so I do not think that there is anything to be worried about at all. The clause sets up for Wales a separate Welsh Commission, with powers which are, as closely as possible, the same as those of the English Countryside Commission which included Wales—and no more. Having said that, I shall sit down. If noble Lords wish to ask questions on this matter, I shall try to answer them. However, it seems to me that the fears in the minds of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness are quite wrongly based. If they were rightly based, I should share them.


Perhaps for once I can help the noble Lord. I disagree with him—and I should be more than happy to take this back—over subsection (10) which says: The Assembly may give to the Welsh Commission such directions of a general character as appear to it expedient in relation to the exercise of the Commission's functions and the Commission shall comply with the directions". I am sure that I shall be told that I am wrong, but I do not think that in the Countryside Act 1968 there are any similar clauses which empower the Secretary of State in England to tell the Countryside Commission to get on with its job in certain ways. I may be incorrect, but that is the substance of my Amendment. I should like, briefly, to repeat the point involved here. Under the clause the Welsh Assembly could say that it wanted more recreation areas, country parks, or lakes. The Assembly could say to the Welsh Commission: "Get on with it —find some lakes, or country parks". That could involve the noble Lord's farm or my farm. The pump is being primed here. I accept that we may have to be made into a country park, with nice dresses as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said in relation to the last Amendment. But I do not want this priming. That is what is worrying me. I think that the pump is being primed in order to take over agricultural land. I hope that I have explained why my fear is slightly greater here than it would be in relation to England.


I should like to deal with the question of the powers. Clause 62(10) directly reflects the power of the Secretary of State under Section 3(1) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, to give general directions to the present Countryside Commission, while subsection (11) of the Bill reflects the same publicity requirement for such directions under Section 3(2) of the 1949 Act. I am sorry to be so technical, but this is a technical point. The powers do exist.

The noble Lord is saying—although he does not mean to say this—that one can afford to give these powers to an English Secretary of State, but one cannot afford to give them to the Welsh Assembly. I do not believe that that is what he means, but it is the effect his Amendment would have. I hope I have cleared his mind on the agricultural land aspect, at any rate.

Of course if the Secretary of State for the Environment was persuaded in Cabinet that more money should be spent on one matter connected with the countryside, rather than another, he could influence the Countryside Commission to behave in that way. I do not think that he ever has, and I do not think that he ever would —but he could. The position is exactly the same here. I agree that the Welsh Assembly would have the power to interfere in a way in which it should not interfere, but one should not assume that it will behave in a worse way than its English counterpart.


I thank the noble Lord for that reply, but I am not entirely with him on this point. I appreciate that in Cabinet it could be decided to direct, but there is not a clause which encourages this—


I have read out the actual reference, and I shall do so again. Section 3(1) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 gives the right to give general directions to the present Countryside Commission. I cannot be clearer than that.


Very well—I shall have to give way on this. I was rather surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, did not think that I might speak about agriculture, as I normally speak about it. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, is entirely on my side over the question of the taking of land unnecessarily; indeed, I think that everyone is on my side on this. However, I suggest that, while we all say this, it is usually the case that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and the taking of agricultural land continues. That is the point I am trying to make in the Amendment. I hope that the point will be well in front of the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Commission not to take any more land if it can be avoided. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 102: Page 26, line 29, leave out subsection (11).

The noble Lord said: In view of the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, regarding Clause 60(1), I do not propose to move the Amendment.

Clause 62 agreed to.


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

House resumed.