HL Deb 10 December 1997 vol 584 cc163-96

3.57 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell: rose to call attention to economic and social progress in Wales and to consider the good governance of Wales within the United Kingdom; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving my Motion, I declare three interests which I think are relevant. I am a director of Associated British Ports, chairman of HTV and president of the university in Cardiff.

There is much talk at present in government circles about a new Britain and, by implication, a new Wales; and therefore it seems a good moment to consider the state of Wales and the remarkable transformation of Welsh economic and social conditions that has taken place over the past 30 years. We should be clear about where we have got to and what our priorities might be before we begin to transform the government of Wales.

This is not a Second Reading debate, but hope the Motion will provide an opportunity to identify some broad principles against which the Government's proposals can be judged. From soon after the end of the First World War Wales had suffered the devastating consequences of the decline of the old basic industries on which its economy depended. When I entered Welsh politics 30 years ago the final painful phase of that process was about to begin.

Just before the Conservatives came into office in 1979 the Labour Government had been forced to accept the closure of the steelworks at Ebbw Vale and at East Moors in Cardiff. Shotton, in North Wales, was under grave threat, and the two great strip mills at Port Talbot and Llanwern were part of one of the most inefficient and uncompetitive steel plants in the world. The hike in energy costs was to be the final knock-out blow for much of the heavy industry that remained. Today Port Talbot and Llanwern are among the most efficient plants of what is probably one of the three best steel companies in the world.

Wales, with about 5 per cent. of the UK's population. has, year after year, attracted about 20 per cent. of its inward investment. These foreign companies have formed a nucleus of modern, high tech. industry, around which the indigenous economy has grown. But the overwhelming majority of the workforce are still employed by British companies in the public service or self employment.

There has been an astonishing improvement in the unemployment statistics. For most of my lifetime unemployment in Wales has been among the highest anywhere in the United Kingdom. The October unemployment figures for parliamentary constituencies, which can be found in a publication in the Library, now paint a picture that I would have hardly dared to believe possible in the early 1980s. There is not one Welsh constituency in the top (that is the worst) 100 in the United Kingdom. The Rhondda, with male unemployment at 8.7 per cent., ranks 187th. In Alyn and Deeside, which in the 1980s suffered so heavily from the closure of the Courtauld plants and Shotton, it is only 4.9 per cent. Total unemployment at 5.7 per cent. is less than 1 per cent. above the UK average.

Black spots remain, particularly in west Wales and the north west. BP's lubricants plant near Swansea is now to be added to earlier oil refinery closures around Milford Haven. There is declining employment in agriculture now brutally hard hit by the Government's ban on the sale of beef on the bone. As we heard at Question Time. GDP per capita remains stubbornly below the UK average. In part, the difference is accounted for by the concentration of financial services in London and the south east and partly by the kind of vortex effect which seems to drag resources out of the peripheral regions. There is much still to be done in attracting financial services; in increasing the range of goods and services that can be obtained in Wales; and in raising skills and wages. But despite these real and significant problems, it is still a remarkable transformation.

It is not only the employment situation which has changed; but the transport infrastructure, the housing stock and the environment in the old industrial areas have had equally beneficial change. The M.4 across south Wales, including the second Severn crossing, and the A.55 in north Wales have been completed except for the final section across Anglesey. Modern roads from the M.4 into the south Wales valleys have replaced the old, tortuous lanes. The condition of the valley railways, which was also referred to at Question Time—the lines which run down to Cardiff—has been enormously improved. I believe that those were the right priorities over the past two decades or so to strengthen employment and economic conditions. But I note from the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that there are those who will now demand a great through road from north to south. I warn him of this: the new assembly will find that there are big financial and environmental obstacles in the way.

Those who knew the industrial valleys 30 years ago would hardly recognise many of them today. Tips and dereliction have largely disappeared as a result of the greatest programme of derelict land clearance in Europe. The urban landscape looks very different as a consequence of a succession of housing improvement schemes. Town centres which were run down and depressing have been much improved by a succession of valley's initiatives. In the lower Swansea valley and in Cardiff Bay other initiatives have turned once-polluted deserts into what is indeed a new world.

Nowhere has the transformation been so substantial as in the health service. There is a myth propagated about cuts; but the reality has been a huge programme of hospital and community health building. By the end of the 1980s there were six new general hospitals as well as several new community hospitals. There has been a growth in the facilities for heart surgery; the development of what is probably the best renal dialysis service in Europe; and a major initiative for better care in the community of mentally handicapped people. There was a large increase in the number of doctors and nurses in my time at the Welsh Office. When I turned up the statistics in the Library last week I found that once again there had been a substantial increase over the past five years.

I have talked about the infrastructure and social conditions. I could have talked about the language, so vigorously and successfully supported over 18 years by Conservative Governments, and the arts, which have also thrived. But I shall conclude what I have to say about the state of Wales by pointing to the transformation of morale and attitude. Not surprisingly, in the 1970s Wales lacked confidence. There was a sense of hopelessness. There was what I used to refer to as the "begging bowl" mentality. Today it is different. There is an atmosphere of confidence. It already feels like a new Wales.

It is at this moment that the effective instruments forged across the party barriers in the shape of the Welsh Office and the role of the Secretary of State, are to be smashed to smithereens and replaced. A huge responsibility rests on those who propose these changes. By no stretch of the imagination can they claim to have the wholehearted endorsement of the Welsh people. The referendum proved in many ways even more unsatisfactory than some of us had feared, and leaves behind a divided Wales.

However, I firmly believe that, narrow though the margin was, the verdict must be accepted. In my judgment this House and my own party would make a profound mistake if they sought to overthrow the Bill that is now before the Commons. It would be an action that would not be understood and would be resented by very many in Wales, and not just by those in favour of the assembly.

However, we are fully entitled to amend the Bill and to improve it, particularly in view of the unprecedented decision of the Government to take all but six of the 149 clauses and 14 schedules of this constitutional measure, off the Floor of the House of Commons and upstairs to a committee despite the Opposition's offer of an agreed timetable of seven days in Committee on the Floor of the House and two days on Report.

If we are to have an assembly, I believe that it is our job to make it work effectively. I hope that my own party will want to make it strong, not weak; and in due course will play a very active role in the work that is undertaken.

My Motion refers to the, good governance of Wales within the United Kingdom".

An assembly which is effective and whose functions and relationships are clearly defined, is much less likely to risk the unity of the Kingdom than one which has serious inadequacies that create tension and disillusionment.

So one principle that should guide us will be to create clarity about where responsibility lies. That is not just a matter of functions. We need to have an electoral system and a structure that leaves us with no doubt where executive responsibility lies; providing the electorate with the opportunity to form a judgment and deliver a verdict.

What is proposed at present—namely, an executive that consists of the leaders of the subject committees—essentially replicates a local government system that pretends to be inclusive, but which in reality obscures accountability and drives decision making underground to the party group. The most important single change that is needed, and for which this House should press, is for the kind of Cabinet model suggested in the 1996 Constitution Unit's report An Assembly for Wales. I welcome the indication given by the Secretary of State in his speech in another place at Second Reading that his mind is not closed on the issue. But it is odd that he should say that he does not want the Bill to be too prescriptive on this issue and that, That [matter] must he allowed to evolve".—[0fficiulReport, Commons, 8/12/97; col. 680.]

when the Bill appears to be precisely prescriptive.

It is odd as well that in setting up a national assembly advisory group to prepare guidance on the way in which the assembly should operate, the Secretary of State has personally selected the individual who is supposed to represent the Conservative Party, without proper consultation. That is not an acceptable basis for inter-party co-operation. The unfortunate individual so selected—we do not yet know who he is—cannot, in the circumstances, have authority to speak on behalf of the Conservative Party: he will speak only for himself. The committee is apparently to advise the Secretary of State who will, in his turn, advise the statutory committee. It is a pretty shabby charade.

We should not be lured either by the siren voices of the recent report from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Making the Assembly Work, which wants 80, not 60, members or by the Western Mail, which wants them to be full-time. Sixty members are quite enough; and if that means having fewer committees, so be it. Quality is of importance; and I shall argue on another occasion why it seems certain that an insistence on full-time membership would have a devastating impact on quality. In my view, the proposed party list system, even if it is confined to additional members, is unlikely to compensate in terms of quality for its other grave deficiencies.

Cabinet government; clarity of responsibility; and quality are my first three principles. There is a fourth: there must he practical means of involving the assembly in negotiations about policy with Westminster and Brussels, and of settling disputes. Already the warning shots are being fired over the Barnett formula and regional policy. It is not enough simply to refer to the Barnett formula as a sacred text. I sat through quite enough passionate discussions in Cabinet about possible over-funding for Scotland not to know that the outcome is essentially political. Indeed, it is clear from the Treasury note placed in the Library this week, which refers to the need for an in-depth study of reliable spending requirements and for full consultation before there are substantial revisions, that revision is possible and that we must be prepared to consider a situation in which they are proposed or imposed. Already the English are demanding them; already studies have begun and Select Committees are examining those issues.

Somehow, before the Bill becomes an Act, we have to find better means of resolving those fundamental problems—"better" that is than the Government's present scheme which places the Secretary of State in a wholly absurd and unsustainable role. The report of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, to which I have referred, is worth reading on that subject. Mr. Ted Rowlands in another place yesterday was right to concentrate on the relationships between the assembly and Parliament and between the respective civil servants because if those relationships break down, the unity of the kingdom will be at risk.

I have one final principle. We must effectively protect the interests of those institutions which span the border and which cannot be solely dependent on an assembly with a narrow Welsh interest. I can think immediately of two examples: the Environment Agency, where practical considerations and environmental impact demand a wider perspective; and the University of Wales. The majority of the university's students come from outside Wales. It has to compete on a level playing field with other British universities. We must be certain that the new arrangements do not weaken higher education in Wales.

An immense responsibility rests upon Parliament in the coming weeks. As we put aside the arrangements which have achieved so much, we must be certain that we build well and on solid foundations.

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

4.13 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, I should like first to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, to his place on the Official Opposition Front Bench where he is to speak on Welsh affairs. We know that the noble Lord comes to the Front Bench with immense experience of Wales and of the working of the Welsh Office.

I am sure that we can all unite in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for having launched us on this very wide-ranging debate, drawing in the need for economic progress, social progress and good governance. I believe that we can also all agree that we wish to see economic and social progress and the good governance of our society. I am sure that there is support for that principle in every part of the House.

The first aspect of the Motion addresses economic progress. The experience of the Welsh economy since the mid-1980s has been presented by the Conservative Party and again today as an unconditional economic success story. Nevertheless, it is correct to say that it has been the eastern corners of Wales which have mainly benefited from the economic success to which the noble Lord referred. I therefore welcome very much the Welsh Development Agency's recent evidence to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs that the WDA, is increasingly requiring results to be achieved outside the relatively more prosperous areas of the M4 and A55 corridors". The WDA has to encourage development right across Wales. That conclusion also emerges in the study, Winner or Loser in the New Europe, by Dennis Thomas of the Department of Economics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which was published early last year.

I shall not deal with the weaknesses in the Welsh economy, which were touched upon at Question Time today, but I should like to refer to two aspects of the Welsh economy. A number of speakers with profound knowledge and expertise of rural Wales will, I am sure, speak with considerable concern about the declining employment in agriculture, compounded by the BSE crisis and, in South West Wales, by the closure of refineries. I share those concerns and I shall, of course, welcome wholeheartedly any comfort which the Minister can give. Indeed, the answers given earlier by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn seemed most encouraging.

I should like to say something about the industrial valleys of South Wales. The report published last year by Mr. Dennis Thomas, to which I have referred. concluded: The circumstances of many valley districts in industrial south Wales are critical and their prospects are still bleak". I can recognise that scene. Indeed, last Saturday's weekend section of the Guardian identified one such district, the Gurnos Estate in Merthyr Tydfil. It is one of the largest housing estates in Europe. It was described as still suffering, the worst of the economic and social blight when the traditional industries of coal and steel were closed clown in the Eighties". I shall not pray in aid the facts relating to the estate, in so far as they were facts, found by Mr. Justice Sachs in the Cardiff Crown Court earlier this year, except to say that it seems to me that he was describing a grave social situation where hope had been all but extinguished. I have little doubt but that the WDA had such an estate in mind when it reported to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs that there, are individual areas of particularly high unemployment and socio-economic deprivation". When asked how the Government can cope with the massive economic and social problems at the Gurnos Estate, I hasten to add that there is prima facie evidence that there are other large housing estates in the valleys of South Wales where the problems are just as great. The new Government have inherited this problem. The Welsh Office is working hard and consulting on the proposed economic powerhouse and the economic strategy for Wales. I very much hope that the Government will urgently press forward with analysing the very real needs of the valley communities and produce a solution.

Many concerns have been voiced by industry about the failure of the education and training system to deliver workforce skills and qualifications. This problem has been on the agenda for years. In his paper, Mr. Dennis Thomas cites examples. One major international company reported that only three out of 200 applicants for apprenticeships in Cardiff were suitably qualified. That story speaks for itself. To a disproportionate extent the unskilled make up the long-term unemployed. We must concentrate on making the unskilled skilled. The pursuit of economic and social progress is a vital aid to good government. We want policies that produce greater employment, prosperity, fairness and unity.

This brings me to the third aspect of the Motion; namely, the good governance of Wales. I believe that that is one of the fundamental principles on which the rule of law depends. I believe that an elected Welsh assembly will strengthen progress towards the social and economic goals that all of us have in mind.

4.22 p.m.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has told me that he does not intend to take part in this debate. I mention it to indicate that there may be a little more time available to the remaining speakers. I reiterate the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, and congratulating him on his position on the Front Bench. A lifetime of political differences has never separated us in our personal friendship. We look forward very much to his contribution to this debate.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on his wisdom in finding such a wide subject for the Motion before the House today. After all, the House of Commons has spent the past two days considering the good governance of Wales within the UK. I do not intend to follow that line at this particular moment. I shall concentrate on the so-called economic and social progress in Wales particularly as regards rural areas.

I declare an interest. I am a hill farmer and I live in the heart of rural Wales. My area and similar areas in Wales have been plunged into despondency by the crisis in agriculture, the bedrock of the rural economy. In my judgment it has been aggravated by government measures that show little understanding of the real factors involved. If the present state of affairs is allowed to continue unalleviated there is a foreboding of disaster for areas such as my own in Montgomeryshire. One must remember that the slump in the 1920s, as opposed to the later slump, began in agriculture.

Farmers and their families, shopkeepers, butchers, those involved in the web of supportive and dependent industries like machinery manufacturers, suppliers of agricultural tractors, cars, etc.—all those whom I meet when I return home every weekend—tell me that they are feeling the pinch. Banks are restricting credit to farmers. In particular, younger farmers who have borrowed a great deal of money are up against it. They wonder whether this winter it will be possible for them even to feed their breeding stock because they do not have the resources to do it. From today's events in the other place and the lobbying and canvassing in Parliament Square as we came here, we know about the Government's much-vaunted policy of moving people from welfare into work. Unless the Government show greater appreciation of the nature and depth of the crisis in the rural economy, aggravated by the rumoured closure of rural manufacturing industry including that in my own area, they may soon be presiding over a programme in rural Wales of work-to-welfare. What people there require are not incentives to work—because the employment figures show that they always find employment if they can—but guarantees and safeguards to preserve the sources of work.

The basis of the current farming situation is, first, the BSE crisis. I expressed the view in the previous Parliament that this was dealt with in a hopelessly inept and unenlightened way by the previous government. They aggravated the problem that arose from that crisis. Secondly, because of the strength of sterling this year beef and lamb imports have been sucked into our country because it is a lucrative market to those who export to this country. It also means that lamb exports from our country to Spain, Italy, France and so on have become prohibitively expensive for importers in those countries. Recently, an exporter told me that a lamb had to be at least £12 cheaper in the market this year compared with last year for the foreign importer to have any hope of buying it at a reasonably economic price. Thirdly, the crisis has been aggravated by inept government reaction which has proved to be the final straw for the patience and hopes of many farmers and their dependants.

BSE was a great misfortune. A very strong pound—there are arguments against it—is something of which farmers like the rest of the business community must bear the brunt. Sometimes it works in your favour, sometimes against. But the other factors are brutal and unnecessary wounds inflicted without due thought or consideration by the Government's own action. BSE is experienced throughout Europe and in other countries to a greater or lesser degree. It is now accepted that probably only Australia and New Zealand do not have BSE. We are importing beef from those countries where the safeguards come nowhere near the standard applied in this country. For example, how much of the beef now imported into this country comes from animals under 30 months of age? There is no means of discovering how much of the beef goes into prepared hamburgers for supermarkets. For example, some of them are prepared in the Republic of Ireland. How much of that comes from cow meat as opposed to animals under 30 months of age? How do those countries deal with the offal that cannot be used at all in our country? We have no means of knowing.

The Government have not provided a level playing field for the home beef farmers as opposed to their foreign competitors. This lies at the heart of the angry reaction of farmers which we have witnessed in the past fortnight or so. Surely, the restriction on British beef is in the interests of health. That should apply also to the importation of beef. British hygiene requirements and so on should be followed to ensure that imported meat meets the standards imposed here.

The decision to ban all but boneless meat is the final nail in the coffin. It appears to be a knee-jerk reaction. I shall quote from an article in The Times today, which gives the estimates: The scientists estimated that no more than three out of the 2.2 million cattle slaughtered for consumption next year might carry infection … they said there was a 5 per cent. chance that one person in the entire population might be infected with BSE by eating beef from these animals". So the chance that anyone eating beef on the bone would contract BSE is roughly one in a billion! How does that justify the reaction of the Minister of Agriculture? What right has Big Brother to prevent British customers from exercising their traditional right to buy beef on the bone?

The additional costs of dealing with offal and paying for inspectors have been heaped on the farmer and the abattoir owner. Mr. Rooker recently made an announcement. The handout that accompanied that announcement claimed that British taxpayers would be relieved; that £40 million is to be provided by the farming industry to deal with the inspection of sheep, goats and cattle. That will amount to an extra cost of £1.44 per lamb next year and a similar increase for cattle. Of that £40 million, £26 million will cover the bill for sheep and £12 million for cattle. That is an extra cost.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord could keep to the time.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, I will. Next year the costs will be increased enormously. At the same time, there are no controls on imports to satisfy any of this country's public health requirements. I know that the Secretary of State saw a delegation of Welsh farmers recently. They were impressed by his reception of what they said. They suggested action that could be put into operation straightaway to try to help the farming community. In the interests of the Welsh rural community, something must be done to help very quickly.

4.32 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, the Motion of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell calls attention to economic and social progress in Wales and how good governance can be maintained. At the moment, in north Wales the latter is in disarray. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hooson—I agreed with 90 per cent. of what he said, especially when he talked about the pedigree of the Holyhead-landed beefburgers—I shall consider how the Motion will apply to the farming community in north west Wales. Before doing so, I have to admit to farming in Anglesey.

As opposed to the scenario of south and east Wales, painted by my noble friend, farming in north Wales and Anglesey has changed relatively little. Indeed, the economy and social life have changed relatively little compared with, say, Oxfordshire where I also farm. The farms are small. They are owner-occupied. That has resulted in a different social structure which has relied, and does rely, much more upon the farming community than occurs in England.

If that community collapses, which it looks like doing today, the Welsh culture and language will suffer a blow. The Government may say, "So what?" I should be sad. The Welsh farmers' present unrest has been brought to a head by the collapse of beef and sheep prices—the only farming commodities produced in Wales. That has been due to the UK Government refusing to take up EU rebates, whereas all other hard currency countries have. The Irish, for instance, are £50 per beast better off than Welsh producers. This is a UK Government self-inflicted wound. It is no wonder that feeling is running high.

Although 99 per cent. of farmers are against violent or unlawful action, there has inevitably been some. It would have been much worse but for the restraining action of farmers' leaders and the commendable action of the North Wales police. The Government should not continue to rely on their remaining patient forever. I fear that the situation will be further aggravated by today's announcement that bones must be removed from lamb over 12 months. That is a final nail, if I may say so. Some action must be taken to alleviate the immediate problem of the playing field being unlevel.

Noble Lords may feel that the Holyhead action resembles the Boston tea party. There has been a total failure to understand the long-term problem of Welsh farmers. The Government should understand the rural way of life. Their attitude does not lead to good governance. It is more likely to lead to the Highlands clearance scenario, which is most unpleasant.

We were told by the Prime Minister before the election, and he has reiterated time and time again since, that he would listen, act and create a one-nation society. Sadly, and I fully recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, does not fall into this category, the Government appear neither to listen nor to act when problems occur in the countryside. The Prime Minister sent no message to the countryside rally in Hyde Park, which was thoughtless to a degree bearing in mind that he had done so to homosexuals the week before. The Government appear to be taking a similarly thoughtless attitude to country sports. What is most important to me, they have deliberately made an unlevel playing field which gives the Irish producer £50 per beast more than the Welsh. They also, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said allow in 30 month-old beef. I cannot understand that.

The Government appear determined to make those who work in the countryside second class citizens, further setting town against country. That has resulted in militant action by my neighbours, which I regret but fully understand. What else can they do when driven up against the wall? Do they join the already long dole queues in Holyhead?

A sorry state of affairs has not been helped by the Government's huge majority which has allowed them to ignore those of us who work and try to earn a living in the countryside, and north west Wales in particular. The Government are showing the worst face of democracy. Such an attitude will lead only to impossible governance. I fear that as the Welsh assembly will inevitably be urban-dominated it will not help. We must bear in mind, as my noble friend said, that only 25 per cent. of the electorate voted for it. I agree with my noble friend that your Lordships should not reverse that narrow decision.

The present unrest and picketing may well continue. My neighbours say that it will. It may well spread; indeed, it has. It was instantaneous in Anglesey. When it ceases, the criticism, the suspicion and, yes, the hatred will remain unless the Government take action to show that they understand our rural problems, both financial and social, as the noble Lord said. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, understands that. I hope that he will be able to persuade his colleagues of our problems.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Aberdare

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for giving the House the opportunity to debate Welsh affairs. Happily, I agree with everything he said, in particular about our attitude to the assembly. We must accept that there will be an assembly, but I was alarmed when I read the report of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Making the Assembly Work. It did not sound as though itwould work in the way which the institute suggested.

The letter, published with the report, stated: The Assembly will operate through a complex network of committees. There will be at least nine Subject Committees… In addition the White Paper requires there will be a Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, an Audit Committee and an unspecified number of Regional Committees…there will be a European Committee and…a Finance Committee…there will undoubtedly he sub-committees…there might he as many as 30". I believe that we would be in danger of creating a juggernaut if we were to go down that path.

In my brief intervention, I wish to speak, under the social progress heading, in particular about the problems of young people in Wales. Although they suffer from the same problems as young people in this country, those in some localities suffer badly. I instance the former mining valleys of south Wales where youth unemployment is still at a totally unacceptable figure of almost 10 per cent. That is compounded by serious unemployment in the rural areas, as explained by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and my noble friend Lord Stanley. As a result, young people tend to move to the towns in search of work. The next problem that arises for them is that of homelessness. Even worse, they may take to drugs or alcohol in their disillusion.

A number of dedicated voluntary bodies in Wales are dealing with those problems. I do not wish to detract from their work but to point out that my interest is with the YMCA. I am honoured to be its president and I believe that it does an excellent job. Perhaps I may give an example. My nearest town in Wales is the small market town of Llandovery with a population of almost 1,400. It has 15 pubs. Until recently, they were about the only places where young people could go in their spare time. Now, thanks to the initiative of one young lady, Jill Tatman, there is a flourishing YMCA. She gathered around her a few young people meeting once a week in the school hall and formed a YMCA. It was immediately clear that she had hit on what was needed because many young people attended. Of course, one day a week in the school hall was not satisfactory. Now, thanks to generous sponsors and a grant from the National Lottery, she runs a very active YMCA with some 90 members three days a week in a refurbished church hall. There are many similar instances throughout Wales.

Nevertheless, the YMCA has considerable problems due, as always, to lack of funds. Each local YMCA is independent but is affiliated to the national council which offers advice and support. Each YMCA depends on one fully-trained youth worker who forms the catalyst around which there grows a circle of volunteers recruited and organised by him. Without such a central, full-time organiser, it is very difficult for volunteers to be recruited and used to the best purpose.

In some areas, we have found a helpful local authority to pay the salary of a full-time youth leader, but in others, unfortunately, we are not receiving the same level of support, in particular from the new unitary authorities. In fact, the Vale of Glamorgan and the Caerphilly councils have entirely withdrawn their support. That has resulted in the serious loss of four trained leaders.

Despite those difficulties, the YMCA is continuing to help young people. We have more affiliated clubs than at any time in the past 25 years and they are used by more members and regular users—approximately 32,000—which makes us the biggest organisation in Wales. We offer temporary homes for the homeless, training for the unemployed, no-alcohol bars to provide a social meeting place and a wide range of sports facilities.

Perhaps I may give Cardiff as an example. We run two direct access hostels near the city centre, providing accommodation, meals and support services, including job training. The YMCA caters for 120 men, women and children every day of the year and frequently receives referrals from social services, the Probation Service and other care agencies.

We are certainly not old-fashioned. In Llandrindod Wells, a grant from the National Lottery has resulted in a no-alcohol bar, fully equipped with information technology. There are four computers and ancillary equipment so that young people can browse the Internet for information on training, travel, jobs and leisure pursuits and can be linked with other young people "on the net". Some 35 young people use the facility four evenings every week.

A recent innovation which shows considerable signs of success is a YMCA partnership with the South Glamorgan Probation Service, originally funded for three years by the Welsh Office. The YMCA's participation is to provide an accommodation officer to develop a network of private landlords or landladies willing to offer accommodation to young people on probation. More than 100 vulnerable young people have been successfully re-integrated into the community by this means and, I am happy to say, the South Glamorgan Probation Service has now agreed to fund the continuation of the scheme from April next year.

In conclusion, I wish to express our gratitude to the Welsh Office for its help and support. I hope only that any new Welsh assembly will be fully conscious of its responsibility for young people in Wales and generous in its support of the voluntary sector.

4.48 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gwydir

My Lords, I do not claim to be up to date with the intricacies of Welsh affairs. Perhaps once upon a time I would have made that claim. It is now more than 27 years since I was appointed the first Conservative Secretary of State for Wales. My predecessors in that office were three great Welshmen. There was the redoubtable late Jim Griffiths; Cledwyn Hughes, now the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, who I was happy to see in his place; and George Thomas, who later became Viscount Tonypandy and who sadly died a short time ago.

I was in that office for four years. My Parliamentary Private Secretary was the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, who I am delighted to see sitting on the Opposition Front Bench of this House. Shortly after came several successors. One was my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, who for eight years held office with great distinction and success. I know that the House is grateful to him for having introduced this Motion and for the splendid speech which he made.

On the whole, the speeches have been on the economic and social side of this Motion. I intend to deal more with the good governance of Wales. I accept what my noble friend Lord Crickhowell said, that we must now accept that the Government are going ahead with the assembly. Nevertheless, I find difficulty in accepting the value of that and I think it is quite right that one should express one's worry.

The Welsh Office, headed by a Secretary of State with a seat in the Cabinet, is now 33 years old. It is a tried and tested system of government which has served Wales well, as my noble friend Lord Crickhowell pointed out. What is proposed by the Government of Wales Bill is not only a diminution of the standing of the Welsh Office and the service it provides to all parts of Wales, but also the obvious ultimate demise of the Secretary of State as a member of the Cabinet.

I do not intend to debate today the issues raised by the Welsh assembly Bill. The Second Reading debate over the past two days in the Commons indicates how very contentious its passage through Parliament will be. All I shall say now is that it proposes a major constitutional change and that no responsible government should endorse such a change unless satisfied that it is the wish of the majority of the people of Wales.

The Government appreciated that their overwhelming election result in Wales, with the assembly in their manifesto, was not a sufficient indication of such support. Therefore, they legislated for a referendum. As the House knows, that referendum took place on 18th September. Shortly before that, Scotland had voted on a similar referendum and the result in Scotland undoubtedly demonstrated the wish of the Scots for constitutional change. The Government have every right to proceed with a Bill for a Scottish parliament.

The referendum result in Wales, however, was starkly different: 75 per cent. of the electorate did not support a change. I remind the House of the details of that referendum. About one-quarter of the electorate voted yes; about one-quarter of the electorate voted no. The yes vote secured a derisory majority of 0.6 per cent. Eleven unitary authorities voted for the assembly; eleven unitary authorities voted against. The authorities which voted against included the important areas of Cardiff, Monmouthshire, Newport and Wrexham. There was an overwhelming no vote along the Borders with England.

No one can say that the referendum established a settled will of the Welsh people, and to claim that the result was a mandate for a proposed assembly is not only wrong but irresponsible. To force through an assembly which three out of four Welsh voters failed to endorse is not only undemocratic but, I repeat, irresponsible. The Government threw everything into their campaign for a yes vote. They ensured that there was inadequate debate. But their campaign lost steadily throughout the referendum. I am sure that the Government know that had there been a vote a week later, the result would almost certainly have been a no vote.

The morning after the referendum result, the Prime Minister admitted that the Welsh people had genuine concerns about the Government's proposal and he promised to address the fears that had been expressed. He appears to have broken that promise. The Government, with their large majority, are determined to force the Government of Wales Bill through Parliament. So be it. I forecast that in its passage through Parliament the imperfections of the Bill will be increasingly exposed and the concerns and fears of the Welsh people will be increasingly apparent. I predict that the Government may then be forced to do what happened in 1979 and have a post-legislative referendum. We shall then know what the people of Wales really think.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Geraint

My Lords, this is the first time that I have had an opportunity in this House to thank the Government. I am a proud Welshman and I am delighted that at last we are to have a Welsh assembly in Wales. Again I thank the Government for putting those proposals before us. I am delighted also that less than 25 per cent. of the people of Wales voted against the proposals at the referendum.

Before I turn to agriculture, I must declare my interest. As your Lordships will be aware, I am a worn out and tired farmer. However, I must blame the previous Conservative Government for their mishandling of the BSE crisis last year, which is the main cause of the disastrous decline in farmers' incomes. For the agriculture industry it was one of the greatest political blunders of all time.

The present Government are not very forthcoming either. What proposals do they have to help the industry in its current crisis? In my view, it is impossible for our farmers to compete on equal terms with their counterparts in Europe and I hope sincerely that the Government will see sense by taking immediate action to tackle the desperate situation.

First, I suggest that the Government should increase the price they pay per head of cattle under the cull scheme. Before BSE, a 10 hundredweight fat cow was worth approximately £520. Early this year the price dropped to £410. The present Government have seen fit to decrease the price further to a mere £310. Do the Government honestly believe that farmers can survive on such a paltry return?

In my view, leading supermarkets control the future destiny of Welsh agriculture. Many people may disagree with me, but, if I am right, I urge the Government to have more consultations with the chairmen of the leading supermarkets forthwith. Perhaps the Prime Minister inadvertently misinformed the other place last week when, in reply to the leader of my party, Paddy Ashdown, he said: This year, with the over-30-months scheme and other measures, some £1.4 billion will be spent on providing support". In my view that £1.4 billion does not support Welsh or British farmers at all. That is the amount of money paid to farmers for compulsory slaughtering of cattle over 30 months. Therefore, it is in no way a support or any measure of help to the industry.

I turn now to a few more facts. I have with me comparative figures for stock prices at auction sales in Wales for the first week in December for the past three years. It is no wonder that the farmers are going to the ports and rallying support. In 1995, beef cattle sold at 116.38 pence per kilo. By 1996, the price had decreased to 106.34 pence per kilo. Worryingly, by the end of last week, the price had gone down to 91.39 pence per kilo.

I shall move on to the price of fat lambs. In 1995, they fetched a price of 120.34 pence per kilo. In 1996, it was 135.46 per kilo. By last week, prices were down to 93.65 pence per kilo. Moreover, calf prices are down approximately £100 per calf on last year. At the farm gate, the milk price was 25 pence per litre whereas it is 19 pence today. On the other hand, milk doorstep delivery in rural Wales is approximately 70 pence per litre. Perhaps I may advise the Minister to have a word with the chairman of Milk Marque, and other organisations, regarding the big difference between the purchasing and the selling price of milk. I honestly believe that the dairy farmer will be squeezed out of business unless the Government intervene soon.

I should like to ask the Minister a few questions, which I hope he will be able to answer at the end of the debate. First, what steps are the Government taking to support the dairy industry in the short term? Secondly, have the Government made an assessment of the impact of both the strength of sterling and of the green pound on farm incomes? If so, what are the conclusions? Thirdly, what plans do the Government have to restore confidence in the sheep industry and among hill farmers in particular? Fourthly, what progress has been made, if any, on lifting the European ban on the export of British beef? Further—and this is a most important question—why have farm incomes dropped by nearly 40 per cent. this year? Do the Government intend to compensate British farmers from the EC fund? If not, why not? I have been told that the Government of the day have until 15th January to apply for that money.

In my view, the Government must take steps to compensate farmers for the adverse effect of the green pound. Every other European government have understood that it is necessary to compensate for movements in currencies. Why must our Government stand out against it? Why go to war against the farming industry when it is well known that the whole economy of rural areas, especially in Wales, depends on its survival?

I turn away from agriculture for a moment. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the excellent work carried out by the Development Board for Rural Wales. It has achieved so much in terms of jobs and investment in mid-Wales. I congratulate the current chairman, David Rowe Beddoe, on his contribution. I am still not convinced that the work of the board should be taken over by the WDA, or any other organisation. I regret the fact that the Government of Wales Bill sets out to transfer its powers. Why the hurry? I believe that it should be the job of the Welsh parliament to consider the future of the Development Board for Rural Wales and to evaluate its work in the context of the new government structure in Wales.

I have been involved in local government at national and local level. When I entered politics as a county councillor in 1952, we considered the disastrous figures regarding the population of Cardiganshire at that time. According to the census, in 1901 there were 61,078 people living in Cardiganshire. By 1951, the population had decreased to 53,278. However, because of the excellent work of the development board, by 1991 the population had increased to 63,940. By 1996 it had increased to 69,545 and today it is over 70,000. That is indeed an achievement on the part of the Development Board for Rural Wales. I honestly believe that the Government should consider leaving the board as it is until we have our own Welsh parliament.

I have a few further matters to raise. When first elected, I remember calling for the restoration of the railway line between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. I do not believe that it is too far fetched to reconsider the feasibility of that route. I also urge that government encouragement should be given to the improvement of the rail routes between Machynlleth, Tywyn and Pwllheli as well as the mid-Wales lines. There are also the Dollgellau-Bala, and Wrexham routes, all of which are particularly valuable to the tourist trade.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, perhaps I may remind your Lordships that there is insufficient time to allow noble Lords to overrun the eight-minute limit allocated to each speaker. I have carefully checked the position with the Clerk. However, while speaking, perhaps I may declare an interest as someone who would use one of the railway lines to which the noble Lord just referred.:

5.5 p.m.

Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in today's debate on Wales. It is indeed a timely debate and, like others who have spoken, I should like to express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for introducing the Motion. It is also a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Geraint, whose wisdom and knowledge of Wales I greatly admire. I know very little about farming. However, after listening to noble Lords this afternoon who do know something about it, the recent behaviour of farmers became readily understandable to me. One does not think of farmers behaving in that way.

As the Motion is so far ranging, I should like to confine my remarks to the good governance of Wales and, in particular, to some issues raised by the referendum vote on devolution and the proposed national assembly for Wales. The reason I said that it is such a pleasure to take part in the debate is that I strongly support the proposal to establish a national assembly for Wales. I must be frank and say that, in the past, I have had reservations on devolution: that is partly because it would he the creation of another tier of government; partly because it could easily become a body dominated by old Labour; and partly because I thought that it could put in jeopardy the ultimate sovereignty of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

However, I have changed my view, although I recognise that there are still issues which need to be addressed. In my judgment, the critical question which must be answered is: are the people of Wales better governed with an assembly than without one? I believe that they are for a number of reasons. First, the assembly will provide a better and more informed debate on Welsh issues because there will be more people involved in that debate with first-hand knowledge of Wales and there will also be more time than there is at present to discuss such issues. In addition, the assembly will also mean that all those unelected bodies in Wales will be required to be more transparent and accountable than they are at present. I cannot help but think that that was one prospect which spurred on the movement for devolution. Most important of all, I believe that the very existence of an assembly at the heart of Welsh political life must strengthen the identity of Wales and its language which, in my judgment, are important, if not critical, for the preservation of Welsh culture.

Like my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, I believe that we on this side of the House, despite the small size of the majority in favour of a Welsh assembly, should accept the result and not seek to re-open the debate over devolution. Naturally I would have been happier if the turnout had been higher and the majority greater. But in view of our poor showing in Wales at the previous general election, even if we thought it right to do so, we frankly have a rather weak basis on which to mount an opposition platform. I believe therefore that Wales has for too long been a kind of sidecar to England and has gone in a direction and at a speed which was not entirely reflective of the wishes of Welsh people. This, I believe, is an historic opportunity to put that right.

However, while I strongly support the Government in their proposals to create a national assembly for Wales, that does not mean that I do not have real concerns. One is that in the current euphoria over devolution it is important to recognise the limits of what the assembly can achieve according to what I have read in various documents and heard in debate. Take, for example, the issue of job creation. Jobs are most effectively created in free markets in which investors and business people are prepared to take risks and are allowed to make commercial decisions with minimum regulation, restriction, bureaucracy and so on. The evidence we have from the United States—the most successful economy in the world in terms of creating jobs—is a good example of that. Of course the Government—in this case Westminster—have an important role to play in maintaining low inflation, low interest rates and low taxes; but it is business left to itself which creates jobs.

However, as I read the White Paper, and the role it envisages for an enlarged WDA—what it calls "the new economic powerhouse"—and the role of the assembly in laying out the new economic agenda for Wales, I could not help feeling that it was government not private enterprise which was to be the engine to create jobs and prosperity in Wales. Frankly, I have to say that I am sceptical of that. It seems to me that the one thing which the Welsh Assembly can do is to raise standards in schools and to put something in place—which we have never succeeded in doing in these islands of ours—to replace the old apprenticeship system. There it could really help in job creation and wealth creation, but I feel that the role of the assembly is limited.

Another concern I have relates to other forms of devolution: grant-maintained schools, hospital trusts and housing action trusts, all of which I was intimately involved with when I was head of the Prime Minster's policy unit. With all their shortcomings, I nevertheless believe that they have great strengths at least partly because they were an exercise in devolving power and responsibility to local communities and those more closely involved in schools, hospitals and housing. However, I recognise also that striking the right balance between the powers of the assembly, the powers of local government and the powers of these other bodies is not easy. In the White Paper there is an absence of discussion of that; there is much too much emphasis on the power of the assembly in partnership with local government.

My final concern has to do with the impact of the assembly and the Scottish parliament on England. We dare not underestimate the historic significance of the effects of Scottish and Welsh devolution on the United Kingdom. These proposals mark a decisive step forward but it is into uncharted territory. The dangers of an English backlash need to be thought about seriously. I am not sure that I fully understand the Government's proposals to establish regional development agencies and regional chambers. To the extent that I do, I doubt whether they fully answer the problem I raise. The transparency in calculating the block grant is welcome; but answering the problem may well involve more radical proposals regarding England in which for the first time we may have to face up to the issue of federalism.

I conclude by saying that despite these reservations, I still see great value in the national assembly. I believe that Welsh people are naturally rather conservative. I fully expect that through the elections to the assembly we on this side of the House may be able to capture that sentiment not only in the interests of our own party but also in the interests of Wales.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas

My Lords, I, too, endorse the thanks that have already been conveyed to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for initiating this debate. We have had a wide-ranging discussion of social, economic and governance aspects. I shall throw in a few comments about sustainability and the environment because I think that relates to them all. Before I do so, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, as it was a great pleasure to be present at the public confirmation of his conversion. I mean that seriously because to have the head of the policy unit at No. 10 extol the virtues of the national assembly while also warning us of the practical problems that we face in relation to the role of Welsh business is an important contribution to the debate. I thank him for it.

It will be no surprise to your Lordships that I want to support what has been said on behalf of my older and newer neighbours in the farming industry in my previous constituency, Merionnydd Nant Conwy. I wish to support what has been said already in relation to agriculture. We are now of course back where we were 23 and 24 years ago with the crisis at Holyhead. Those of us who have been concerned at the development of commercial relationships between Ireland and mainland Europe across Wales are deeply saddened by these events. But we must understand that we must support our farming community which is suffering a reduction of 37 per cent. in farm incomes according to official figures last week. Indeed the reduction is 47 per cent. if we include the family labour within the industry. The Government must address this issue urgently.

We know what the problem is. It concerns the strength of the pound, the green pound mechanism and the UK rebate. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, when Prime Minister, negotiated rebate. What we now see is a direct consequence of those rebate arrangements. The UK Government cannot say, on the one hand, that they are proud of the rebate understanding achieved with other Community countries while at the same time denying British farmers the opportunity of competing on the same basis in terms of the level of income.

Currently the Irish Government are paying £25 million to their beef, dairy and cereal farmers, with a further £68 million coming through the European Union. Where is this Government's responsibility for one of our most important of managed industries? Agriculture, after all, is a managed market. The role of the public sector both at member state level and European Union level in managing this market is absolutely crucial. The member state of which we are a part—the United Kingdom Government—cannot deny its responsihility. Those Ministers, including the Prime Minister, who lecture Welsh farmers about their moral responsibility should look to their responsibility. There is no need for that kind of lecture. The people who work in agriculture in rural Wales are people of the highest moral calibre whose contribution to maintaining the integrity of our rural life should not be gainsaid by any government. The Government should realise the depth of this crisis.

I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Wales because he has tried to negotiate in Cabinet and certainly in discussion with farmers. Mr. Ron Davies, as Secretary of State, laid the foundation stone of the magnificent National Botanic Garden of Wales at Middleton Hall in Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire on Friday. While standing in the middle of that magnificent Carmarthenshire countryside, where I hail from, the Secretary of State said that the landscape was a symbol of the important contribution that Welsh agriculture has made to the environment. He indicated his commitment to the environmental contribution of the farming industry. I hope that his colleagues in Cabinet will respond in a similar way. I mention the National Botanic Gardens and the environment because they link with my other theme; namely, the need to look for sustainable development in the context of the Welsh economy and society. That is unfortunately missing from the Government of Wales Bill which has had its Second Reading in another place.

It is important for us to be clear on the issues of inward investment. We are concerned about the recent discussion in the media on the concordat between the industry department and the Welsh Office in relation to inward investment. There must be a strengthening of the existing COP procedures in terms of overseas promotion—we understand that—but there must also be a clear balance of regional interests in the whole field of inward investment. The role of the WDA in this area must not be reduced in any way as the new assembly progresses. That role of inward investment relates also to the whole question of sustainable development and the effective balance of such investment both geographically and in terms of sectors of industry. I emphasise the importance of the environment technology industries. We have recently seen the important growth at Bridgend of one of the industries related to solar cellular technology. Its importance to the future of the Welsh economy cannot be overemphasised.

Sustainability also includes the need to emphasise a general environmental duty on the assembly. When the assembly is established it must have a remit not only for the social, economic and cultural well-being of the Principality but also for those environmental overviews which relate clearly to the European Union and its increasing environmental obligation for the whole of Europe as we move towards enlargement.

That brings me neatly to the issue of governance. I was not a little pleased to see the form of words by which the assembly is now being christened. Noble Lords will remember our debate on the Third Reading of the referendum Bill on 29th July when we discussed the nomenclature of a national assembly. I received wide support from all sides of the House. I am grateful to noble Lords for their support. We now have such a description.

I move from the nomenclature to the reality. After long and careful consideration, I have decided to come down in favour of Swansea. That should not surprise many of your Lordships who know that I was born in Carmarthen. I believe that a national assembly has to be a national institution. I think of a national assembly in that magnificent Guildhall building, with the wonderful surrounding scenery of Swansea Bay, but with the important links of technology throughout Wales and other public centres. I am impressed by the case for Aberystwyth to be the on-line equivalent of the Library of Congress for the national assembly. I am impressed by the suggestion of the Secretary of State in the consultative document that there should be centres in Aberystwyth, Bangor and even Cardiff and Mold, to provide links with the assembly. All this is at a capital cost of £10 million and a running cost of £2 million to £2.5 million.

More than that, I am impressed by the commitment of Swansea. I walked through Swansea the other Friday, by accident or design, and there was Vivienne Sugar, the chief executive of the City of Swansea, signing people up for a petition to have the assembly in Swansea. Although I have great respect for both the chief executive and the leader of Cardiff, I cannot imagine them standing in shop doorways requesting signatures for petitions.

That indicates to me the enthusiasm of Swansea. Swansea is only 45 minutes by high speed train from Cardiff. It has all the necessary links and the building. It will be a sign that we are not about creating a 19th century nationalist state in the City Hall in Cardiff, with its magnificent statues of Llywellyn, Owain Glyndwr and the rest of them. I have no interest in creating a Wales of the 19th century. I want a Wales of the 21st century. Swansea seems to me to be its capital.

5.23 p.m.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for giving us this opportunity to debate Welsh matters this afternoon. I ask for your Lordships' indulgence if much of what I have to say lies outside the intended interpretation of the Motion, but I would not make this speech if I did not believe it to be of importance to Wales, and to one of its institutions in particular. I have to declare an interest as I am both a member of the Council of the University of Wales, Lampeter, and a governor of the Welsh College of Music and Drama.

The Prime Minister has put at the centre of government policy "education, education and education". The former Prime Minister, my right honourable friend Mr Major, wished to create a "classless society". In Wales we have long known that the classless society is born in the classroom; that the pathway to personal advancement and fulfilment is through education. Thus in Wales we have an education system in our primary and secondary schools and in our universities of which we are justifiably proud. Wales is, of course, also the land of song, of music. These two themes, education and music, take me into the heart of what I want to say today.

In the wake of the recent Oxford and Cambridge debate in your Lordships' House, no Member need be embarrassed by special pleading; and my plea this afternoon concerns one of our national institutions—a plea from poverty and not from wealth. I know that you will all share my dismay when I tell your Lordships that I have to call into question the financial viability of the Welsh College of Music and Drama. Unless the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has a radical change in its funding policy, the Welsh college will not survive beyond the period for which students have already been enrolled. As our national assembly opens its doors, so will the Welsh college close its doors and thus Wales will enter the new millennium with a new system for its government but without the ability to teach that for which it is most famed.

To start my story at its beginning requires a brief history of the college, for in that history lie the seeds of today's tragedy. Founded in 1949, the college was at first situated in Cardiff Castle and moved to its present purpose-built premises in 1974 when its administration passed from the City of Cardiff Education Authority to the County of South Glamorgan. During 1991–92 it was controlled directly by the Welsh Office, and since 1992 the college has been funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. It is from this period that our problems arise; they have their origin in the comparison that the funding council made when deciding upon the level of funding per student.

The cynical, or perhaps the realist, would say that the council chose the cheapest option when it decided upon Rose Bruford, drama, and Trinity College, music. The most direct comparison would have been with the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In the current year the Welsh college receives £4,600 per funded student; the Royal Scottish Academy, £5,989; the Royal College of Music, £8,230; and the Royal Academy of Music £10,327. The two London colleges have around 400 students each and the Welsh college 494. To be fair, the two London colleges do not also teach drama. Your Lordships will note that the Welsh college receives £1,389 per student less than the Royal Scottish Academy, equal to 30.2 per cent. of its present grant from the funding council.

The history of the college shows that at no time could any surplus fat have been built up. Over the past four years the college has achieved efficiencies against the RPI of 18 per cent., a period in which the income per student has fallen by 2.4 per cent. The total budget for the current year is £3,695,000 of which the funding council provides £2,268,000. If the funding council were to add £250,000 to its current grant and maintain the total in real terms, the Welsh College of Music and Drama would survive and flourish. Without that commitment, I would have to advise my fellow governors that the college should have no commitment to a student beyond the year 2000.

The first call by the accountants in the funding council to merge has been heard. Little do they understand the nature of an institution that teaches the playing of music or the teaching of the dramatic art. No merger of a conservatoire into a university has ever worked. If the funding council doubts this assertion, it should study the recent Australian experience and also talk to those who teach the performance of music and to those who teach the theory and history of music as an academic subject. No, I do not suffer from the Mandy Rice-Davies syndrome. If I thought that the college would survive within the framework of one of our Welsh universities, I would most certainly say so.

The loss of identity and the loss of mission will ensure a rapid decline in enrolment. Let us not forget that students are intelligent young people who will now have to make a substantial contribution to their study. Why should they choose to attend a college which is funded at a lower level than one in England or Scotland and one that a merger would define as a hybrid?

I pray that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, does not think for one moment that I blame the Government, for this is a problem which they have inherited. I know that what I have said about the college will cause him personal grief, and I wish to place on record the great service that the noble Lord has given to both the Welsh College of Music and Drama and the University of Wales. The service that I ask of him today is to bring these matters to the personal attention of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Your Lordships are among the foremost opinion formers in Wales. I ask you, too, for your aid.

I thank your Lordships for your indulgence and again apologise to my noble friend if I have used today's debate for a purpose other than that for which it was intended.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Harlech

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for initiating this most important of debates. The subject is one about which I care deeply. Before I continue, I should he most interested to know from the Minister whether the Welsh Office has intentions in progress of making cross-party appointments to the committee on the Welsh assembly; and if so, how advanced those plans might be. Perhaps he will write to me.

In principle, I shall restrict my contribution to the rural economy of Wales, my interest being declared as a farmer and landowner in the Principality. I was born there; I live there; and I shall probably die there.

The rural economy of Wales is, by definition, an inter-connected socio-economic structure consisting of farms, markets, towns, transport, goods and services. education and health. Enormous numbers of citizens are affected.

A sustainable economy—social progression—relies on an inherent sense of security that all businesses and the people affected thereby are reasonably assured of profitability as a result of a policy which initiates their long-term trust in the investment they make. Assured security and profitability, my Lords. Tentative support is not the right way.

Let us take, for example, the slow and tortuous decline of the British fishing industry, or of mining, and the effects on communities. I do not say that this would happen, but it could be argued that the removal of subsidies and support might give rise to an economic-driven effect of, for example, much larger agricultural units, cheaper land and property prices, and efficiency without support. Or it could be argued that a drip-fed system of support would not sustain, but would deplete, an economic system. If, for example, it had been judged prudent last century to invest in support of, for instance, the wheelwrights industry, then making tens of thousands of wooden wheels—the point is obvious; the metaphor is clear—it would now be an embittered and depleted profession, and therefore extinct.

I therefore urge that the jeopardy to profits and income, indeed to social cohesion, means that today we must, and will, make clear, workable policies which encourage human endeavour rather than defeat it by marginalisation, and which allow the investments of today to reap benefits tomorrow for a proud people and a beautiful country.

5.33 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for introducing this vital debate. I welcome his commitment to making the assembly work and to accepting the result of the referendum. I join with him in hoping that the assembly will be a strong assembly and that there will be clarity of responsibility and members of quality to serve in that assembly.

The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, made a pre-emptive strike for Swansea. The people of Cardiff should realise that if you do not live in, or come from, Cardiff, there is no particular emotive drive for the assembly to be situated there. They should bear that in mind. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, will put in a plea for Crickhowell House in the bay there, which I understand is one of the proposed sites.

I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir. It causes me some pain to do so since I have the same warm regard for the noble Lord as I am sure all noble Lords have, and I recognise his great contribution to Wales. He spoke about the value of the assembly. It occurred to me that had there been an assembly where the problems of Welsh farmers could have been openly discussed and openly aired months ago. where the crisis could have been foreseen, we should not all have been taken by surprise when farmers found that the only way in which they could draw their plight to the attention of the media in this country was to throw hamburgers into the harbour at Holyhead. I know that those farmers, led by a friend of mine, Peter Rogers, would not wish to behave in that way. It was a course to which they were driven. As the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, said, now it is readily understandable. Had there been an assembly the situation would have been understandable months ago and the problems faced by those farmers would have been aired to the public as a whole. They were discussed by the two hill farmers who surround me, the noble Lords, Lord Hooson and Lord Geraint. I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, on obtaining a first position at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show winter fair last week. I should tell your Lordships that a beast reared on the pastures of the noble Lord, Lord Geraint, also obtained a first. It will not surprise the House to know that the beast in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, was in the lightweight division while that of the noble Lord, Lord Geraint, was in the heavyweight division.

I do not share the picture presented by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, of the current situation in Wales. It is rather like reading in the English press an account of a Wales-England game: you wonder whether the writers were actually watching the same game! Unemployment is consistently higher in Wales than the UK average. As was stated earlier, the GDP per capita is 83 per cent. of the UK average, a decline of some 5 per cent. since the Barnett formula was fixed. There are areas of prosperity, but they are patchy. They are to be found along the M.4 and A.55 corridors. Job creation and the safeguarding of jobs is urgently needed outside those areas.

Inward investment has played a vital role. One must congratulate successive Secretaries of State, the Welsh Office and the Welsh Development Agency on the enormous work that they have done in projecting Wales and obtaining that inward investment. However, the focus must not always he on inward investment. Certainly, that is important, but it is unlikely to continue for the foreseeable future, and for two major reasons. The first is the collapse of the tiger economies in the Far East and the need for those economies to rebuild themselves at home. The knock-on effect of bank collapses in Japan and the demise of large corporations in Korea is certain to engender a more cautious approach in most countries to investment abroad in places such as Wales. Even in Hong Kong—I am travelling there tomorrow—small cake-shops and large multi-stores owned by the Japanese have recently closed. So let us not expect that the Far East will come to our rescue for ever and a day.

The second reason is the weak-kneed approach of this Government to the decision on European monetary union. Toyota denies that that is the reason it has chosen to move to northern France rather than to expand in Derby. But is that truly correct? We have got rid of trade barriers within the European Union; but are we not erecting currency barriers, with all the uncertainties that they create? The strong pound is a disincentive to industry just as much as it is to agriculture.

Hence the vital need for the future economic powerhouse is to take decisions which will improve indigenous industry and put the necessary investment into that field. Investment is essential for creating the framework for development of indigenous industry; for reclaiming derelict sites and dealing with hazards thereon; for preparing the physical and industrial infrastructure; for co-ordinating local organisations and assisting in the setting up of businesses; and for communicating with training organisations to ensure that there is a skilled and adaptable workforce. No doubt that work will be carried through with the merger of the Welsh Development Agency, the DBRW and the Land Authority for Wales. The exciting aspect is that there will be a national assembly for Wales which will be able to give further focus, direction and leadership to that work.

The major priority of the national assembly will be to improve the economic prosperity of Wales. GDP per capita will be the touchstone by which the success of the assembly in this field will be judged. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, need not fear. I believe that there will be a new self-confidence in Wales which will of itself encourage enterprising young people to come forward with ideas for the 21st century. But, as always with the entrepreneur, there must be support and guidance. They will need access to capital; they will need the help of the new economic powerhouse through its services, such as Business Connect, Source Wales, and so on. It is the creation of a new spirit of adventure in business in the economy which will enhance the identity of Wales and ensure a prosperous future for the Welsh people.

5.41 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, there is no doubt that the entire House is grateful to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for initiating this wide-ranging debate. I am personally very grateful to Members who welcomed me to the Front Bench and who participated in the debate.

Not surprisingly in view of recent events, and particularly today's news from Brussels, agriculture has loomed large in the debate, almost every speaker having raised the subject. As the Minister acknowledged earlier, the farming community is very important to the people of Wales. Over 90 per cent. of our farms are livestock, and our farmers face hard times, with falling incomes as a result of the strong pound and the continuation of the BSE crisis. I hope that the Minister, who is shortly to reply to the debate, in his own eximious fashion, will be able to enlighten the House as to why the Government do not draw on the substantial Community funds which are available to help those farmers in greatest need, among whom, surely, the farmers of the Welsh uplands must figure prominently.

The contribution of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell to the development of the economy of Wales and the life of its people during his tenure of office as Secretary of State was truly immense, as I know well, having had the honour to serve under him throughout that time. I doubt whether that honour would have been given to me had I not served my apprenticeship as a PPS to my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir when he was Secretary of State.

The initiatives which my noble friend Lord Crickhowell took and drove to fruition were astonishingly varied—social and cultural, as well as economic. But if I had to single out one achievement from the many to which he could properly lay claim, it would be the progress made during his time as Secretary of State in laying the foundations of the new Welsh economy and giving it the modern manufacturing base we are familiar with today. It was a difficult task, undertaken in difficult times, and Wales is greatly indebted to him for his indomitable zeal and spirited persistence in pursuit of his goal. Wales was the only region of the UK where the proportion of male employees in manufacturing rose and was higher in 1995 than it was in 1981.

No man can be paid a higher tribute than that his successors should follow in his footsteps, and that is what happened when my noble friend left office in 1987. My noble friend Lord Walker of Worcester, who brought his own inimitable talents, energy and flair to bear on the problems of Wales, was succeeded by my noble friend Lord Hunt of the Wirral, whom I am glad to see in his place. Both of them strongly promoted inward investment and sought to strengthen Welsh small and medium-sized businesses by encouraging their efforts to secure orders in export markets worldwide. Much the same policies were pursued by their successors, culminating in the huge Korean investment by LG in Newport. I very much hope that that projected investment is safe, in spite of the financial problems in Korea.

It is clear from the thumbnail sketch that I have given and from what others have said during the course of the debate that the main thrust of the Conservative government's policy in Wales over the past 18 years was to promote economic development on a sound and profitable basis. That was complemented by very substantial investment in infrastructure of all kinds.

We had some solid success in those endeavours. Wales no longer depended for its prosperity, as it did in 1979, on heavily subsidised, nationalised industries which, as the last Labour government realised only too well, were becoming unbearably uneconomic and more anachronistic by the day.

None of us who participated in government during that time would claim that the transformation which we had promoted was complete. There was and still is a great deal to be done to improve the condition of the Welsh people. What we now fear is that the priority which we attached to that task has somehow been displaced by constitutional reform.

We had a foretaste of the constitutional debate in some notable speeches—by my noble friends Lord Crickhowell, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, Lord Thomas of Fforestfach and others. All I shall say on that issue is that we surely have to accept the referendum result. Even though the majority in favour was small, there was a majority in favour. A majority of one is enough. If I may put the opposite point of view, one thing is certain: the decision arrived at by the Welsh people in that referendum cannot be overturned.

It is obvious that the Government of Wales Bill, which the other place has been discussing for the past two days, will be the subject of considerable discussion in this House. I am also impressed by the fact that it will fully preoccupy the Secretary of State for many months to come, and possibly for years. Even assuming the successful passage of the Bill through Parliament that a large Commons majority and a manifesto commitment usually ensure, the implementation of the Bill and getting the assembly bedded down in proactive, worthwhile work will take a great deal of time. I am not sure that that is time which the Welsh economy can afford if it is to be improved as we all wish.

Many issues arose during the course of the debate and I hope that the Minister will be able to enlighten us as to the nature of the competition for inward investment between the regions in future and the concordat under central control by the Department of Trade and Industry. The position is unclear, to say the least, as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, indicated.

We would also look for some comment on the future of the Barnett formula. Even the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, suggests that it may be time for Barnett formula mark II. I do not believe that he is totally inspired by an aspiration for political immortality when he calls for that formula. After 20 years the circumstances of the different regions have changed and the changes should be taken into account in any re-examination of the formula.

There is a great deal of talk about promoting the growth of indigenous business. I am all for that if it is done on a sound basis. We heard today at Question Time what the Government proposed to do about the comparatively low GDP in Wales. If this debate achieves nothing more than to instil a sense of urgency into the need to raise standards of living in Wales and the levels of prosperity among Welsh people, it will have been well worth while.

However, with a lower rate of economic growth anticipated in the United Kingdom as a whole over the next three years, the prospect of declining support from European structural funds following enlargement of the Community and reduced inward investment from the Far East, to which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, referred, I am not sanguine about our prospects. As ever, I remain hopeful that things will turn out better than I feared. But one thing is certain. Wales will be clearly dependent on its own endeavours, on its own efforts.

5.52 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, made a remarkable introductory speech. As always, it was disciplined, focused and rigorous. I say it was remarkable because I found much in the content with which I could agree, and these are not the usual cosmetic thanks I offer to the noble Lord. It occurred to me that if the Welsh assembly had one-tenth of the ability and quality reflected in the speeches this evening, it would be doing rather well in its first year or two.

I entirely agree with what has been said. This is an extraordinary opportunity for a country. I take the noble Lord's words: confident and optimistic. It is an opportunity for which many people in this House and outside have worked for far longer than I. Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the membership. Whatever regime is adopted, after whatever degree of scrutiny in both Houses, it is the nature of the members which will matter.

I must hark back to what was said on behalf of the Government in a constitutional debate two years ago; that is, that we deliberately set our minds not to produce a consequence which would have been monolithic Labour. We know perfectly well the disadvantages of what had virtually become in many parts of Wales a single party regime. As the noble Lord indicated, the Conservative Party, despite having 20 per cent. of the Welsh vote in the last election, has no Welsh MPs. Under the present scheme, on any sensible construction of the model, if the Conservative Party obtains 20 per cent. of the votes for the new assembly, it will have 12 seats; in other words, a perfect accommodation between the number of votes and the number of seats.

I do not want to dwell on this, but there was a time when the Conservative Opposition were rather niggardly in their acceptance of what was undoubtedly to happen. It is not only for this evening that I welcome what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy. As long ago as early October he and I were interviewed on the same programme on Welsh radio. He said in early October—not a late convert—"I want to see an effective assembly properly run, efficient and really responsive." It is a great benefit to the constitutional arrangements of new Wales that we have the official constitutional spokesman for the Conservative Opposition from the Front Bench making his support as unambiguously clear as he did.

We have an opportunity to run our affairs differently. We can use modern technology in the ways described generally by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. There is no reason to be static; to have a system to which we are all accustomed on the Westminster pattern. Some would say—whisper it low—that the Westminster pattern does not always produce perfect solutions.

The major aspect of this evening's debate focused on farming. I reiterate what I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, earlier at Question Time when time was short. We regard the interests of the farming community in Wales as extremely important. It is not the simplistic comment that jobs are involved; it is infinitely more important and subtle than that.

The farming community in Wales is a significant cultural underpinning; and the linguistic heartland of Wales in many areas depends on the farming community. They are decent and good people and one sympathises with what has driven them to their present unlawfulness. There is no one in government who does not sympathise. Your Lordships will rightly say that sympathy pays no bills.

I am obliged for the comment about the Secretary of State. He is taking forward discussions as vigorously as he can. The Secretary of State issued his statement deprecating unlawfulness. He met the farmers' unions and individual farmers. The discussions in relation to monetary compensation are still continuing. I am not in a position to give any conclusions. In any event, the Secretary of State for Wales, powerful though he is, has no open cheque book on every occasion. However, it is the fact, which I readily reiterate, that the Welsh farming community has an informed and engaged champion in Ron Davies. He is doing his utmost to see that a proper outcome is brought about.

Specific questions were asked in regard to transport links. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, raised one. Proposals have been made for improving rail links between the south and the north. I take his cautionary point about road developments being destructive in environmental terms and being extremely expensive. But we welcome the suggestions that there will be improved rail links between north and south Wales.

It is the fact that the BSE crisis has been long running and that that has not been the responsibility of the present Government. However, we must deal with matters as they stand. It has been mismanaged in the past. The situation has been compounded by the strength of sterling and the consequences on the green pound compensation payments to farmers have been adverse. None of those matters can be overlooked and I do not overlook them for a moment. Nor do I pretend that as of this evening-10th December—when negotiations between various government departments are still continuing, I can offer any solutions. All I can promise, yet again, is that we take it extremely seriously. It is not just pounds, shillings and pence. It is much more important than that.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, raised the specific question of the YMCA schemes, particularly in mid-Wales, south Wales and Glamorgan, of which I have more knowledge. He will be encouraged by two things. First, that type of voluntary scheme is one which we entirely endorse. The success rate—to put it in crude terms—is 98 per cent. plus in the sense that those who are assisted to receive the accommodation of which he spoke do not revert to crime and do not breach their probation orders.

I can give the noble Lord some comfort. We specifically took his point on board before he made it. In Clause 111 of the Bill the duty is laid upon the assembly to work with the relevant voluntary organisations and produce plans of the sort that he described. I hope that that is of relevance and of assistance to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, raised specific questions about employment prospects in west Wales. I am able to say that an offer has been accepted today from Omega Air in respect of the base at Trecynon which will probably result in 400 to 500 new jobs in aircraft maintenance. That is another piece of good news. The noble Lord also referred to skill shortages. That is extremely important. We want to work in partnership with courier service companies, employers locally, education authorities and local authorities. We have to work co-operatively to attack this problem.

The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, raised the question earlier, when my time was more limited, of indigenous small companies. That is dealt with in paragraph 4.6 of the consultative document, An Economic Strategy for Wales, published in October of this year, I think to general welcome. It states: Greater emphasis will … he put on developing indigenous small and medium sized enterprises". That point was touched on also by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. The document goes on: This will be important in strengthening economic development throughout Wales, including in the more peripheral and rural areas where it is inevitably harder to attract inward investment". As I understood the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, one cannot simply rely on the headline inward investment successes, many of which there have undoubtedly been. I paid tribute earlier, so I do not need to repeat it, to the work done by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell —

Lord Hooson

My Lords, I asked earlier whether there was a possibility of the development association, or whatever it is called, taking equity in those companies.

Lord Williams of Mostyn:

My Lords, if the noble Lord has an opportunity to read paragraph 4.6 in full he will see that various suggestions are set out. They deal with smaller businesses which are looking for less than £250,000 capital, particularly when those businesses are looking for equity and not debt. Paragraph 4.6 concludes: Views are invited on how best to strengthen Business Connect and more effectively focus support on developing the potential of indigenous SMEs". The answer to the noble Lord's question is that this is genuinely intended to be a consultative paper. Any experience which the noble Lord or anyone else wishes to contribute to the discussion will be more than welcome.

We have inherited, as is notorious because a number of noble Lords referred to it, a situation where we have a lower GDP per head, poor housing and poor health. There have been success stories, but I take as well made the point that there remain sad estates and that a child born there, it is literally true to say, has virtually no prospect of bettering himself. For parents too there is the gloomy consequence in their own minds that the normal ambition of their children having a decent opportunity for a better life than they have had does not exist. These are gross blots. We believe that they should be attended to in a Welsh context.

A good deal of Wales now, partly because of media concentration and partly because of film and entertainment, is modern. It is looking to the next century; it is confident and it is optimistic. It is confident and optimistic in a way—I entirely echo what the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said—which was absent perhaps 30 or 40 years ago when we were. to our own cost and ultimate detriment, far too inward looking. A good section of Wales now is looking outwards and is proud of itself—rightly proudly of itself I say without parenthesis—but is proud of itself in a way that is not aggressive, that is not harsh, and that does not say that because England is different England is worse and that because England is different England is harmful to us. We are convinced ourselves, and we believe that subsequent history will demonstrate our conviction to be soundly based, that the assembly will offer a new regime within the United Kingdom. If I had any doubts that it might lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom I would certainly not be standing here.

We believe that the United Kingdom—I have said this before but it bears repetition—is a civilised place to live. It is capable of accommodating understanding and encouraging diversity. What Wales is looking for is a different set of arrangements. We are different. Our history is different. As the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, said, our farming regime is different in part. Our landscape is different in part. Not least, our culture and language are different. No one who speaks Welsh or enjoys a conversation with the noble Lord, Lord Geraint, in the corridor in Welsh thinks that English is any the worse for that. All we look for is a decent recognition that diversity can often be good and can sometimes improve the human condition.

We have the extraordinary opportunity that many here thought would never come. If we lose it, and if in a notional referendum in 20 years' time we get less than 50.3 per cent., it will be all our own fault. I do not pretend that the majority in Wales was as redoundingly successful as it was in Scotland. That would be folly. But that is a challenge as well as an opportunity. We must make it work. If we do not, on our own head be it. We shall revert then to the backward and inward looking Wales which the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, so eloquently described.

All these things therefore mesh together—the grand headline inward developments, the financial opportunities that no one could have dreamt about and the physical regeneration of south Wales which I know well because I practised in Swansea. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, forgets that the real attraction of Swansea as the capital base would be that it is conveniently adjacent to Fforestfach. The fact is that five or 10 years ago we would never have contemplated that we might be having this discussion because it would all have been theoretical; almost surreal—shall it be Cardiff, or shall it be Swansea; shall we have a satellite spur, of the kind described by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, on a video link to Aberystwyth, that centre of excellence?

Talking of a centre of excellence, I must chide myself because I failed to declare interests which are well known and recorded and have been referred to. I am Pro-Chancellor of the University of Wales and I am president of the Welsh College of Music and Drama. Both of those positions are honorific. I retain them only on the basis that I make no contact between them and the Government. That is as well stated openly. All I can say in respect of the eloquent plea of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, is that what he said will be transmitted to the appropriate quarter. But he will recognise what I am about to say next with a sense of gloom, descending on his heart with a chill. The appropriate authority is really the HEFCW in the first instance. I shall see that that is transmitted, but I wish to make our own position perfectly plain.

Those are the strands: the headline developments, the centres of excellence at the university, the farming community, the language. I cannot entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that previous Conservative governments have always been at the forefront of protecting, developing and enhancing the position of the Welsh language. Occasionally, some of us fairly thought that it was too little, too grudging and too late. But there we are.

We have new opportunities now. Five hundred thousand people are speaking the language. Young people are interested in it and are producing pop music and films of the highest possible quality in it. S4C has done fine work, despite its unfair critics and despite its uninformed detractors. We have these opportunities not only to be Welsh but to be European, to recognise fully that we are not—I take this graphic word because I have not heard it before—the sidecar of England and we are not the sidecar of Europe either. We want to be what we can be—a full nation, attending to our own affairs within the proper parameters of them, grateful to be within the United Kingdom but recognising that we are part of a greater western civilisation which presently calls itself Europe.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, it would test the patience of this House considerably, particularly after the excessively long Statement that we had earlier in the afternoon, if I were to add very much to what has been said during the course of this debate, except that I would like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in it. In particular, I would like to thank the Minister for his courteous and considerate reply. I would add only one other comment. He spoke of his confidence in the future role of the assembly. He thanked those of us who said that we now accepted that there was to be an assembly. But it must be strong and effective. I beg him and his friends in government to listen most carefully to the criticisms and anxieties that we and others have expressed and will express further, because that assembly will only work and gain the confidence of the people of Wales if it is structured on the basis of full consultation with and consideration of all interests and with a willingness to listen and to amend. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.