HL Deb 15 June 1999 vol 602 cc127-9

2.45 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What concordats have been agreed between the Welsh Assembly and government departments.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, none as yet. While concordats are at an advanced stage of drafting, it will be for the Assembly to agree them with the appropriate government department. I expect this process to occur in the relatively near future.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, does he have confidence that sufficient progress will be made with these concordats, which cover a considerable number of fields, to ensure that there will be smooth continuation of effective government in Wales with the transfer of powers to the Assembly on 1st July?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am confident that arrangements will be effectively in hand for the smooth continuation of government. I agree with what the noble Lord said. That is extremely important. We have to bear in mind that the Assembly had its first sitting only on 12th May. The noble Lord and I both know that Her Majesty opened the Assembly on 26th May. It is early days.

There is the additional complication, welcome to both the noble Lord and myself I hope, that before the Assembly can approve them the concordats have to be translated so that they are available in bilingual form.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, can I have the assurance of the Government that a register of concordats will be maintained in the Library?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am willing to give my noble friend's suggestion the most careful consideration. It is intended that the concordats will be published except perhaps in terms of commercial confidentiality which can be justified. I shall relay my noble friend's suggestion to the appropriate quarter.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, has the concept of a concordat been accepted by an important department; namely the Treasury? Will the Treasury recognise such agreements being made by other departments? That applies also to the situation in Scotland.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, we anticipate a memorandum of understanding between the United Kingdom Government and the three devolved bodies together setting out general post-evolutionary principles of operation. I have no doubt that our colleagues and well loved friends in the Treasury will play their necessary part in that.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington suggested placing the concordats in the Library. Might it be better to produce them as White Papers and to make them available through the Stationery Office to the public, and to Members of both Houses through the Printed Paper Office and the Vote Office?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I do not think that is necessary. These are agreements between the devolved bodies and central government. If, as a generality, they are to be published they are available for public scrutiny and comment.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, is it considered that concordats in Welsh placed in the Library will remain confidential?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, they will not be confidential because my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, and I will have read them.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, will the concordats to be made between the UK Government and the Welsh Assembly be debated in this House of Parliament?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, no, that is not the intention. The relevant territorial Secretary of State will be authorised on behalf of the UK Parliament to enter into those agreements. It is then a matter for the devolved bodies as to what they want to debate, in what detail and in what form. It is entirely a matter for the Assembly, but I would expect that some of the concordats or memoranda of understanding will be debated.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, the Minister has been most helpful, but can he tell the House a little more about what has been referred to in the other place as the overarching concordat dealing with the relationship between the Welsh Assembly and the UK representative in Brussels? What is the further scope of that concordat, and does it involve Scotland too?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am happy to assist your Lordships in answering that question. The overarching concordats—they are plural—relate to questions of Europe, international relations, statistics and inward investment between the United Kingdom Government and the devolved bodies. That is part of the continuing process of debate and negotiation taking place at the moment.