HL Deb 23 May 1979 vol 400 cc439-40

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to take action to repeal the Wales Act 1978.


My Lords, the Government intend to ask Parliament to approve the draft order for the repeal of the Wales Act in the near future.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his Answer which, since I tabled the Question, has been foreshadowed in the gracious Speech. And though it may appear a little tardy following my noble friend's notable speech last week on the humble Address, may I take this opportunity of congratulating him upon his first appearance at the Dispatch Box at Question Time. May I ask him what are the Government's plans now for the disposal of the old Coal Exchange building in Cardiff, on which a certain amount of money from public funds has already been spent; and whether they expect that that expenditure will be recouped?


My Lords, this is a matter which is being considered now by the Property Services Agency, whose activities are the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister to convey to his colleagues who deal directly with this matter the suggestion from this side of the House that they should not be too precipitate about disposing of buildings, but rather should address themselves to the question of structures, particularly regarding local government and especially in Wales? I ask this so that there can be an acceptable and congenial reform of government in Wales, not perhaps in the same sense as the proposals recently decisively rejected, but in a form which is conducive both to the better government of Wales and to control by the Welsh people of the innumerable nominated bodies which at the moment are surging through the Principality.


My Lords, I take to heart what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has said about not being too precipitate, but in fairness to my noble friend Lord Swansea, I should say that monies have been expended on preparatory work to convert the old Coal Exchange building for use by the Welsh Assembly. The building is held on a lease, and there is a current annual cost of rent and maintenance of £45,000. Obviously such factors must be borne very much in mind. With regard to the second part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, I think it is fair for me to say to him that the Conservative manifesto for Wales stated that the Government intend to examine ways of improving government and administration in Wales.


My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that, in view of the commitments of the present Government, it is extremely important that they realise all national assets in order to pay for them?