HL Deb 04 February 1993 vol 542 cc351-64

3.24 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

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.—(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Chairman of Committees in the Chair.]

Clause 8 [Duty to issue guidelines]:

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 23: Page 4, line 31, after ("issue") insert ("and publish").

The noble Lord said: All Welshmen talk too much!

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I stressed the importance of publishing the board's productions when speaking to Amendment No. 10. What I said there, applies here. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

I shall respond as briefly as I can. There is something in the noble Lord's first amendment, but nothing in the second. The difficulty is that the first amendment would have to be reconsidered to ensure that it is correctly framed. I shall accept his amendment in principle if I can take it away and look at it more carefully.

Amendment No. 24 would be counterproductive as it is currently drafted. Its effect would be to allow the board to issue or publish guidelines without the Secretary of State's approval since it would restrict the need for his approval to where issuing and publishing happen together. Quite apart from that undesirable effect, it seems to me to be unnecessary. I shall accept in principle Amendment No. 23.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the Minister for what he said about Amendment No. 23. I note what he says about Amendment No. 24. We shall go away and reconsider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 24 not moved.]

Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 4, line 34, at end insert: ("() The Board shall exercise its powers under this section so that the guidelines contain such practical guidance as the Board thinks fit for promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language including guidance on the following matters—

  1. (a) the need to ensure that when communicating orally or in writing with any person resident in Wales, the language used, whether English or Welsh as the case may be, complies with the requirements of that person;
  2. (b) the status of the Welsh language generally;
  3. (c) the use of the Welsh language in the conduct of the business of the body;
  4. (d) the criteria for the employment of bilingual staff;
  5. (e) the arrangements for enabling staff employed by the body to receive tuition and achieve proficiency in the Welsh language;
  6. (f) the monitoring and reviewing on a regular basis the scheme and its implementation;
  7. (g) a complaints procedure.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment seeks to insert into the Bill general criteria to which the board should have regard when designing the draft statutory guidelines. The inclusion of the criteria in the Bill would have a number of advantages for the statutory board. First, the criteria would mean that the board would have clear guidance from Parliament as to the range of matters which should be detailed and defined in the guidelines.

Secondly, it follows that if the draft guidelines were within the criteria, that would avoid the possibility that at a later stage, when submitted to Parliament for approval, they would be challenged successfully on the grounds that they were going beyond what was necessary. If that were to happen, the board would have to go through the whole procedure once again of drafting and consultation, and that would be time-consuming. People in Wales are anxious that the guidelines should be approved by Parliament at an early date.

Thirdly, the Welsh Language Board has by now had about three years' experience of developing and applying voluntary guidelines. I feel sure that it knows by now the core elements that should be included in the guidelines. That point was touched upon by the Minister on Second Reading. As the core elements have been identified, they should be included in primary legislation. That would enhance the legitimacy of the guidelines.

Finally, there is another reason why we on these Benches believe that at least the principle of the amendment should be accepted. That is an important reason. One must never overlook the all-important point that the status of the guidelines, or of individual provisions of the guidelines, may well one day be challenged in the cold, analytical climate of the courts. If the guidelines came under examination in the courts, we believe that it would be important for the core elements to be given specific authority in the primary legislation.

I urge the Committee to accept the principle of the amendment. Once again, I am not wedded to the criteria which are set out in the amendment, but perhaps I may be allowed to mention that, apart from the inclusion of the complaints procedure—that is paragraph (g)—the criteria represent an attempt by me to summarise the main issues which are addressed in the board's voluntary guidelines for the public sector. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I rise to support the content of the amendment because I believe that it is an excellent attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, to set out on the face of the Bill what many of us hope will be in the guidelines as laid down by the board.

In our earlier Committee deliberations and on Second Reading I made it clear that I accept the logic of the Bill as it stands; namely, that we have enunciated the general principle of treating both languages on a basis of equality. I feel strongly that the board should be seen to be a powerful instrument of that equality by ensuring that, in producing its schemes, it will be able to be effective in planning for the extension of Welsh within the public sector. On that basis this amendment sets out the principles under which the guidelines for schemes should operate. If the Minister is unable to accept the amendment as it stands, I hope that at least he will be able to tell us that that is the Government's intention.

I should draw attention in particular to the relationship between this amendment and the work already undertaken by the non-statutory board. The non-statutory board has been able to go a long way down the road of indicating to public authorities and also, in an advisory capacity which applies to other parts of the Bill, to non-public authorities what kind of schemes may be required in order to implement the principle of equality.

The amendment emphasises the use of the language and the employment criteria enabling tuition and proficiency. That is a very important area of training which will enable employees and public authorities to acquire the use of Welsh and become fluent in it. It also emphasises the need for a clear complaints procedure.

I am anxious that the board should be seen to be not only a promotional agency but also a conciliation agency. Where there is conflict about the implementation of bilingual policy or equality, the board should be able to undertake an active role of conciliation. The effectiveness of a complaints procedure will signal to people in Wales, whichever language they speak as their first language, that they will be able to turn to the board as an agency to resolve any conflict about the implementation of the policies.

For those reasons, I am pleased to support the content of the amendment. When the Minister responds, I hope that he will assure us that he expects the board to follow that direction when it sets out the guidelines for the schemes. To me the combination of the specific schemes negotiated between the board and public bodies and the general principle is the strength of the Bill. However, both the general principle of the treatment of languages on the basis of equality and the specific content of schemes need to be equally strong if the Bill is to be effective. Without effective schemes, the Bill will be inadequate.

Earl Ferrers

I understand the anxiety of the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, and what he is trying to achieve. The Welsh Language Board's guidelines will be crucial to the success of this legislation. The Bill establishes a clear principle which the Government intend should be the foundation of Welsh language services in the public sector. One of the board's key roles will be to offer guidance as to how this principle can be given practical effect. The guidelines will be central, both in illustrating the practical measure which should be contained in the schemes and in ensuring that the principle of equality is interpreted consistently across the public sector as a whole.

On reading the Bill, my own reaction was that I too could not see, in any great detail, what it was that the guidelines were to contain. I have no doubt that that is what lies behind the amendment. In part, this does of course reflect the fact that the guidelines are the board's responsibility. It must be right therefore that if the board is to undertake this task, the Bill should not attempt to do it for it. The more the Bill does that, the less discretion the board has in determining what the guidelines should contain.

That does not, however, mean that the Bill says nothing about the contents of the guidelines. The guidelines must be such as to ensure that public bodies are able to' give effect to the principle that the Welsh and English languages should be dealt with on a basis of equality. The purpose and underlying aim of the guidelines, therefore, is clear. It is this on which the Bill should concentrate and not the detailed content. I am sure that we could spend many hours discussing matters which are worthy of inclusion in the guidelines. I do not believe that that would be suitable. Parliament has to ensure that the Bill provides the board with a clear legal framework in which to operate. Having established that framework, we should allow the board to attend to matters of detail and to the practical issues on which its expertise will, in due course, become even greater than—dare I say it?—that which is available in this Committee today.

I am encouraged in that by the Bill's provisions which ensure that the guidelines are subject to public scrutiny. They will be the subject of extensive consultation. They will need to be approved by the Secretary of State and will then need to be laid before and approved by Parliament.

Through the Bill, Parliament will require the board to include in the guidelines all services which are provided by public bodies, because the schemes will cover all the matters. That is different from the current guidelines. In future they will have to give effect to the principle of equality, which is a new principle.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, is anxious about the legal uncertainty of the guidelines. The uncertainty would be greater the more detail we tried to specify on the face of the Bill. It would raise a question as to whether the points which have not been detailed in the Bill could be included in the guidelines. Once one says what must be included in the guidelines, it implies that that which is not listed should not or need not be included. I believe that it is best to leave such matters to the board.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. Will he spell out to me in slightly greater detail the point he has just made; namely, that the schemes would give effect to the principle of equality and that that is a new departure in the Bill compared with the existing guidelines of the non-statutory board?

I believe that this is a very important relationship between the first principle of the Bill—the treatment of languages on the basis of equality—and the content of the schemes and the guidelines. If the Minister could spell that out, he would go some way towards enlightening people outside the Committee as to the real powers vested in the board by the Bill and the likely effect of specific schemes.

Earl Ferrers

One starts with the whole principle of the Bill which is to encourage the use of the Welsh language, to preserve it and enhance it. In order to achieve that there will be a statutory board which will lay down guidelines for public bodies. Those public bodies will base their schemes upon those guidelines. That is a statutory duty on both the board and the public bodies.

I understand the anxiety of some Members of the Committee to know exactly what will be in the guidelines. However, this Bill states exactly what the board's statutory requirements are. It is then up to the board to decide how, through its guidelines, to put those statutory requirements into practice. Once the guidelines have been produced, each public body will have to make its own scheme in accordance with those guidelines. I cannot go further in saying what the guidelines should be because that will be for the board to determine.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, for supporting this amendment. I am sorry that the Minister has resisted the principle of the amendment. I fear that the Minister and the Government may be underestimating the extent to which these guidelines may come under attack in future. The guidelines are the key to the Bill. They are crucial to the Bill. The suggested criteria are not detailed criteria at all. I have grouped under five headings about 21 guidelines to be set out in the board's voluntary guidelines. I will not detain the Committee as we have further business. However, I take note of what the Minister says. I am disappointed with his response and we shall have to consider whether it is appropriate to return to this amendment or to an amendment along these lines. But, having said that, it seems to me that if the Minister is afraid of details, we might perhaps consider accepting the first subsection of my amendment, which states: The Board shall exercise its powers under this section so that the guidelines contain such practical guidance as the Board thinks fit for promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language". If that wording were included in the Bill, it would at least tell us something about the board's authority to design the guidelines and to decide what matters they contain. Would the Minister respond to that before I decide precisely where to go with it?

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, is like the serpent and is very beguiling. He has asked me to accept the first few words of his amendment. When I considered the amendment I considered what one might describe as the whole panjandrum and it was that which was not acceptable. In looking at the first few lines it would appear to me, speaking off the cuff —that is a dangerous thing to do—not to have great disadvantages. However, whether it would be appropriate to include it in the Bill is a matter that I should prefer to consider rather than give an immediate response.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am grateful for that grain of comfort. I, too, will reflect upon the Minister's comments. I shall decide whether or not it is appropriate to return with this matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 26: Page 4, line 34, at end insert: ("() The Board and the Secretary of State shall each take such steps as they consider necessary to encourage public bodies to adopt the policies and practices recommended in the guidelines.").

The noble Lord said: It would be helpful if the Bill confirmed that the Secretary of State himself has a continuing duty to promote the Welsh language and the objects of the Bill. Accordingly, this amendment places a responsibility on the Secretary of State to promote the Welsh language. As this important Bill stands, the powers are in the hands of the Secretary of State. I should have thought the corollary of that was that the Secretary of State should have a public responsibility to promote the Welsh language. He should not have power without public responsibility for promoting the objectives of the Bill. That is what we seek to embody in the legislation by means of this amendment. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

It is certainly the Government's intention that public bodies should have close regard to the guidelines across all the services that they provide. That is clearly and forcefully taken care of in the Bill. There is no need to have a separate power to encourage bodies to comply with the guidelines. They are already required to produce schemes and therefore they must be complying. Schemes must comply with the purpose as defined in the Bill. In doing so they must have regard to the guidelines. I believe the noble Lord said the Secretary of State should not have power without also having public responsibility. However, he has public responsibility. The guidelines will be produced by the board and they will be given to the Secretary of State. He has to approve them and he then has to bring them to Parliament. As such he has that public responsibility. When Parliament approves those guidelines submitted to it by the Secretary of State, Parliament will endorse the Secretary of State's power.

Lord Prys-Davies

I should have thought in general the Bill places the responsibilities on the board and not on the Secretary of State. A great deal of power has been vested in the Secretary of State and we were particularly anxious that it should be clear that the Secretary of State still has a pro-active role to play in promoting the Welsh language. He cannot disengage from that merely because the Welsh Language Board is in existence. That was the point I was trying to make.

Earl Ferrers

I hope I can help the noble Lord. I do not think the Secretary of State will be negating his responsibilities. Later in the Bill it can be seen that, if a public body does not put forward schemes, the board can tell that public body to put forward schemes. If the public body still does not do so, the board can approach the Secretary of State and he can make that public body implement schemes which the Secretary of State himself will formulate. At the end of the road the Secretary of State has that power but the whole principle behind this Bill is to shift the onus on to the Welsh Language Board as that board will have responsibility and knowledge and it will implement the scheme. However, at the end of the day, the Secretary of State has responsibility.

Lord Prys-Davies

I welcome the reassuring words of the Minister. However, I respectfully differ from him in one respect. I believe that the continuing duty should have been incorporated in the Bill. However, that is another matter which we shall have to consider further. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Approval of guidelines]:

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 27: Page 5, line 2, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 27, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 28, 29 and 30. Amendments Nos. 27 to 29 reform Clause 9(3) and Amendment No. 30 proposes a new procedure in what is, I believe, very much the same spirit. Clause 9(3) would, in our opinion, be considerably improved if it read: After considering the Board's report and the draft guidelines the Secretary of State shall within the period of 40 days from receiving a copy of the draft approve the draft or, if he does not approve it, publish details of his reasons".

In our view that would introduce a note of brisk, businesslike efficiency, which is strangely lacking in the present formulation. It would also encourage a more open and public discussion of any disagreement, which would be very much in accord with the principle of open government wherever open government, so often espoused by the present Administration, is possible.

We prefer "shall" to "may" because it makes clearer sense. The Secretary of State has to do something about the guidelines and the Bill seems to say very little about what he must do if he does not approve the draft.

We suggest a period of 40 days as being sufficient and not too much. Your Lordships may recall that in the Old Testament the Children of Israel were frequently instructed that 40 days was a long time. In our view it would encourage the Secretary of State to be expeditious in his consideration. It also matches the 40-day period in Clause 9(6).

We propose that the Secretary of State should publish the reason for his disapproval so that there can be a wide-ranging debate on such matters of disagreement as may from time to time arise. Such a debate, if openly conducted, could conceivably produce an acceptable solution which had not occurred to people until the debate took place. If it did not, we hope that the requirement introduced by Amendment No. 30 would oblige the Secretary of State, in effect, to be locked up in a room in the Welsh Office with the Welsh Language Board, no one to be let out until they had come to an agreement.

We would be profoundly unimpressed if a situation were allowed to arise in which the Secretary of State unilaterally amended the draft guidelines and then laid before Parliament a set of guidelines in which the board itself manifestly had no confidence. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, is very apprehensive. I believe that I can allay his anxiety. First, however, I must point out that his amendment would require the Secretary of State to agree the nature of any amendments which he might wish to make with the Welsh Language Board. The guidelines which will come before Parliament for approval will, of course, be the guidelines prepared by the board, but it will be the Secretary of State who is responsible for what is put to Parliament.

Before he puts those guidelines to Parliament, the Secretary of State will consider them. He may wish to amend the guidelines. The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, suggests that in that event the Secretary of State will produce guidelines which are thought to be the board's guidelines but which are not. If the noble Lord looks at Clause 9(4) he will see that, The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a copy of any draft guidelines received by him from the Board, with any amendments made by him under subsection (3) above". Therefore, Parliament will see the draft guidelines which the board will have proposed to my right honourable friend. It will also see my right honourable friend's amendments. It will then be for Parliament to decide. Therefore, I believe that the noble Lord's anxiety is misplaced.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the noble Earl for that clarification. As I read Clause 9(4) I believe that it could be taken quite legitimately to mean what I understood it to mean. If I interpret the noble Earl correctly, he means that the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a copy of any draft guidelines received by him from the board, together with any amendments made by him under subsection (3).

As it stands the subsection could be read as meaning that the draft guidelines as submitted to Parliament would simply include any amendments, which would not be identified separately. If I am wrong about that, or if the noble Earl would like to consider the matter further between now and the later stages of the Bill, I should be quite content to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, has shone a shaft of light on to a possible interpretation that I had not seen. I see now how the noble Lord may have construed that provision. It is my inclination to believe that my interpretation is correct and that Parliament will see both the draft guidelines and the amendments which the Secretary of State will have proposed. If that is so it will be the Secretary of State's responsibility and they will be the Secretary of State's guidelines. However, I shall make quite certain that the interpretation that I have translated to your Lordships is correct.

Lord Prys-Davies

This is an important point. It is our understanding of the clause that there is nothing to prevent the Secretary of State substituting his own guidelines for those of the board. Is the Minister saying that when the Order in Council comes before the Houses of Parliament we shall have both the Secretary of State's version and the board's version and that Parliament will decide between the two? Surely that is not the case. What will be presented to Parliament for approval will be the guidelines as approved by the Secretary of State, which means that he could substitute his own guidelines for those of the board. It seems to us that the Secretary of State should not expect a reluctant board to prosecute his policy.

Earl Ferrers

I believe that there would be no question of that. As I said, the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has thrown light on an area which I had not realised contained even a vestige of a shadow. However, I can see that there is disquiet and perhaps I can look at the matter again before the next stage.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am most grateful to the noble Earl. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 28 to 30 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Revision of guidelines]:

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 31: Page 5, line 21, leave out ("five") and insert ("two").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 31 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 32 and 33. Amendment No. 31 is a probing amendment designed to give the Government an opportunity, if they feel so inclined, to explain in greater detail their reasons for proposing that the guidelines shall be set in concrete for a period of not less than half a decade.

It seems to us likely, especially in the early stages of the operation of the legislation when it becomes an Act, that all manner of unforeseen eventualities may arise which suggest that it would be sensible to alter the guidelines. Suppose, for example, that the guidelines included a provision on the lines of the one we proposed in Amendment No. 25 relating to communicating orally or in writing and that hitherto unsuspected developments in information technology made it important to include reference to machine-readable forms or electronic mail or something of that sort. Why should the board's hands be tied for a period as long as five years?

A long time ago a famous cartoon appeared in Punch which showed two examiners walking through a wood in spring. One examiner quoted Wordsworth's lines: O cuckoo! Shall I call thee bird, Or but a wandering voice? The second examiner added, "state alternative preferred. Give reasons for your choice." I invite the noble Earl to give reasons for his choice of five years.

In relation to Amendment No. 32, although every responsible public body will keep its schemes constantly under review, we believe that the duty to review a scheme every five years should be placed formally on each public body and appear on the face of the Bill for two main reasons. First, a large and complex public body such as, for example, a county council or health authority, might, because it has so much to do and especially if it has a good scheme which operates successfully, lose sight of the necessity to review its scheme. If the amendment appeared on the face of the Bill it would act as a reminder to a large and complex body of its duty, and that would be beneficial.

Secondly, in matters of linguistic change, developments take place constantly. Languages do not stand still. For example, one new Welsh medium school in any area which has not previously had one, can, within five years, change the whole pattern of language usage in that area. A local health authority or a fire authority might not necessarily register that change sensitively. In our view every five years it would need to take stock and simply palpate the processes of change. We propose five years because we believe that the review should be serious and substantial. Five years is a long enough time.

Amendment No. 33 speaks for itself, and simply requires that the board may ask a public body to give information on the review which it may from time to time need. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Viscount St. Davids

Clause 10 represents one of the important points of flexibility in the Bill. The Government's intention is that the framework it provides should be able to evolve just as the use of the language evolves and that this Bill should therefore be able to stand the test of time. The essential feature of this evolution is that the board can determine, from time to time, that it would be appropriate for it to amend the guidelines.

It would, however, be a mistake to see this procedure being entered into lightly or indeed too frequently. Although a language is continually subject to change, the evolution we have in mind is one which takes place over decades and generations. Welsh language schemes must be responsive to change, but will not require wholesale overhaul according to the sort of timetable envisaged in this amendment.

The Government felt that it was reasonable to stipulate five years as the minimum period after which the board could initiate its first general review of schemes. I believe the Bill has it about right. The important decision will, of course, be that of the board once it is in place and once it can take its own view on these matters.

I would, however, draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the time period mentioned in subsection (2) relates only to the board's first review of its guidelines. Thereafter the frequency with which they should be reviewed will be entirely at the discretion of the board. It would, I believe, be a mistake to conclude from this that the board will wish to review its guidelines every five years. The important thing is that it will be for the board to decide.

On Amendment No. 32, at Second Reading my noble friend stated that one of the important features of the Bill is that the schemes to which it will give rise, will not be cast in tablets of stone".—[Official Report, 19/1/93; col. 837.] It is essential that we provide this flexibility not only to reflect the evolution of the language over long periods of time but also to enable public bodies and their schemes to respond to changing circumstances. Clause 15 provides for schemes to be amended to reflect any change in circumstances of particular public bodies. Such a revision can be proposed by the board or by the public body concerned. The public body will have an incentive to do so in order to ensure that its scheme does not refer to services for which it is perhaps no longer responsible. The board will be able to propose amendments so long as it is satisfied that there has been a change to the function or circumstances of the public body which makes this appropriate.

In Clause 14 the Bill also provides for there to be a more general review of schemes as a result of the board having revised its guidelines. Whether there is a need to amend schemes will of course depend upon the circumstances of individual public bodies. Before requiring schemes to be revised, therefore, the board can require a public body to conduct a review and to submit to it a statement of its conclusions. The ability to require such a review ensures that new schemes are introduced only where there is absolute necessity.

I am sure we are all agreed that we would not require schemes to be changed when that is not necessary. The main thrust of the amendments therefore is already taken care of in the Government's Bill. It is important not to impose too much bureaucracy on those organisations such as would be involved if every five years every single body were to review its scheme.

There is also the practical difficulty of what a review comprises. Does it involve taking a scheme out of a drawer and putting it back again? What is the penalty if that ritual dance has not been gone through? Who knows whether or not it has?

Lord Prys-Davies

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation and defence of Clause 10(2). However, it does not meet our anxiety. I agree with the noble Viscount that we do not want the scheme to be amended unless it is necessary. But it is always my experience that the difficult task is to draft the initial document. One drafts the initial document, considers it and sees that mistakes have occurred. Let us assume that the board realises after year one that there has been a mistake in the guidelines. As the clause stands, it can do nothing about that for five years. We say that where the mistake occurs in the original drafting—that is where it usually occurs—the board ought to be able to come back within two years to put it right. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.

Baroness White

I hope that the matter will be reconsidered by the Government. I anticipate that there will be a preliminary period before those guidelines are issued. If I am wrong, I stand to be corrected. Then one has to wait five years before one can alter them. That is how I read the Bill; I may be wrong. That is too long a period when one is experimenting, as one will be in the first period. I hope that the matter may be reconsidered.

Viscount St. Davids

In the first five-year period the board will need to have a considerable amount of experience under its belt. It would be unduly cumbersome if a shorter period of time were imposed. The board will have to cope with a considerable number of diverse companies and organisations. If we were to reduce the length of time to the proposed two years, it would then put the board under other pressures which would be detrimental to the purposes of the Bill.

Lord Prys-Davies

The Minister has not answered the question. If within 18 months the board sees that there is a mistake in the guidelines, is the Minister saying that it has to wait five years before it can be corrected?

Viscount St. Davids

No, I do not say that. The board can propose amendments to schemes at any time.

Lord Geraint

Perhaps I may ask one question of the Minister. Members of the board may be satisfied with the guidelines within the first five years. The Secretary of State may be satisfied with the guidelines. But if the majority of the people of Wales are not satisfied with the guidelines, what is the next option?

Viscount St. Davids

It is the board's responsibility to get the matter right. I cannot imagine that the type of board that the Bill envisages will create what would be a major nonsense.

Lord Prys-Davies

Does it help the Minister if we make the suggestion that the board should be entitled to revise the guidelines within five years at its discretion? That provision would help us to get round this difficulty.

Viscount St. Davids

Following the remarks that have been expressed on the amendment, we will take it away and return in due course.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the noble Viscount for what he has said. His view about the speed at which languages change and develop is not totally in accord with my brief experience of it. Languages develop much faster in certain cases than he imagines. He believes that the Bill has got it just about right; we on these Benches believe that on this matter the Bill has got it just about wrong.

I take the point which the noble Viscount makes about the first and subsequent reviews, and I am grateful for the clarification. We thought that Clauses 14 and 15 were not specifically precise and did not impose the kind of discipline that we had in mind. We were concerned about the duty and discipline of review rather than the more swinging 'sixties, permissive view that Clauses 14 and 15 appeared to have in mind. Once again, I am grateful for the clarification.

The noble Viscount mentioned the idea of a review as being some kind of ritual dance which could be indulged in, presumably annually at eisteddfodau and other meetings of the clan. He asked what would happen if a county council, for example, simply took its review out of the drawer, had a look at it, turned it upsidedown, shook out the dust and put it back. What penalty would there be if it did that and nothing else? Who would know whether it had revised the scheme?

I remind the noble Viscount that there are countless Acts on the statute book which impose the duty of review on one body or another. The same would apply there as applies here. Perhaps I may respectfully suggest that that is the Government's's problem, not ours. However, I am grateful for what the noble Viscount said about taking the amendments away, and I shall think about it.

Lord Prys-Davies

The Minister did not reply to my noble friend's speech supporting Amendments Nos. 32 and 33. The point I wish to make about those amendments relates to an announcement made in another place on 27th February by the Secretary of State for Wales. He then said that the board would have the task of monitoring the implementation of the language schemes. I have seen no express reference in the Bill to the monitoring task.

In addition to the objectives which my noble friend outlined, Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 also seek to rectify that omission. Amendment No. 32 would require everyone to review the operation of the scheme every five years. Amendment No. 33 authorises the board to obtain information from the public bodies. Unless the Minister can assure us that the power to monitor and to obtain statistics is implied, then I ask the Government to think again about Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 before they reject them.

Viscount St. Davids

On the amendment, first, one could say that the board could not carry out its function unless part of that function was of a reviewing nature. Secondly, the public have the means of complaint to the board if the schemes are not carried out in the manner which is laid down.

Lord Prys-Davies

Concerning the second point, assuming that the board writes to a public body for certain statistics, does it have the power to ask the body for those statistics? I see no reference to that power in the Bill. Secondly, if it has that implied power, what is the position if the public body refuses to comply?

Viscount St. Davids

The board is acting on behalf of the Secretary of State. The way I see it is that if an offender or potential offender did not comply with a request from the board, the Secretary of State could make the request himself.

Lord Prys-Davies

And thereafter?

Viscount St. Davids

If that fails, the Secretary of State can impose his own scheme.

Lord Prys-Davies

With great respect, we are not at the moment discussing the scheme, we are discussing the right of the board to obtain statistics from a public body. There is no specific authority in the Bill to enable the board to obtain that information. If Ministers confirm that it has an implied power to do so, and if the public body refuses to comply the board can ensure compliance, then I am satisfied. However, I am anxious that the board should he in a position to discharge its tasks. We believe that these amendments would buttress the board very much.

Viscount St. Davids

I am sure that the Bill enables the board to make these demands; but I shall go away and ensure that that is so.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the noble Viscount and to my noble friend for having wrung out of the noble Viscount slightly more than I managed. In the light of the reassurances that he has given and his willingness to have another look at what has been a slightly sticky wicket for him, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Viscount Goschen

This may be a convenient moment to take the Statement on transport. Therefore I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.