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Mr. Ron Davies: If it quacks and barks, it will obviously be the product of a Ministry of Agriculture experimental farm.

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is that the Standing Orders under which the assembly will meet initially will prescribe a Cabinet system; however, it will subsequently be open to the assembly, if the two-thirds majority requirement is met, to change its method of operation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that is not unreasonable to allow the assembly to review and modernise its own internal procedures.

Mr. Ancram: I am grateful for that explanation, but it is precisely because the provision appears to be the product of an experimental farm that I am questioning it a little more closely. I am not sure that the product of an experimental farm is what the right hon. Gentleman intended in terms of devolution for Wales.

Perhaps the Secretary of State can enlighten me, or tell me whether I am wrong, but my understanding of new clause 23 is that it allows the assembly to delegate functions in a number of different directions, and it is on the basis of how those functions are delegated and in terms of the primary legislation allowing the assembly to so delegate, not on the basis of the Standing Orders by means of which they may be delegated, that the decision will be taken whether there will be a Cabinet structure or a Committee structure.

That appears to be what new clause 23 provides, so it leaves the whole question still to be resolved. What is does not do is create the clear position that we sought of a Cabinet structure of the sort that we find, for example, within the Scotland Bill.

It is worth reminding the House that "The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Science" defines a Cabinet as


If I read that right, one either has a Cabinet structure or one does not. One cannot have a series of functions being moved in different directions, which do not clearly meet those two points which are described as being central, and say, "On the balance of probabilities, this is

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a Cabinet." However, that seems to be what new clause 23 would achieve. I should like to hear the Minister's response on the ambiguity and doubt that could be created.

Mr. Dalyell: Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up some of his own ambiguity and doubt? When he made these proposals to the Government, did he have any clear idea, for example, to whom the civil servants would be responsible? Are they to be responsible to the Welsh Cabinet structure, or to the home civil service? What was his view on that?

5.30 pm

Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman knows that we asked that question in connection with the structure of the Scottish Parliament. It does not arise from new clause 23, however. We are now considering whether the civil service in Wales will be responsible to the assembly as a whole, as was the case under the original legislation, or whether it will now be responsible to a Cabinet.

In fact, that makes may point rather well, because, if I read new clause 23 aright, we may end up with it being responsible for some functions to the assembly as a whole, and for other functions to members of what would be, effectively, a Cabinet. That lack of clarity, which the hon. Gentleman rightly points out is inherent anyway in the Bill, is exacerbated by the new clause. I wish to hear a response from the Secretary of State on that.

Mr. Ron Davies: The right hon. Gentleman knows that there is no lack of clarity there. The assembly is a corporate body, and the functions that will be transferred will be transferred to it as a corporate body. It is then for the assembly to decide how it wishes those functions to be exercised.

Mr. Ancram: Intentionally or not, the right hon. Gentleman is again missing my point. I am saying that, if the assembly follows the route of new clause 23, and of what I understood him to say in his speech, it will not be a question of deciding whether there is a Cabinet; it will be a question of giving some functions to the Executive Committee, which would be along the lines of a Cabinet, and giving others to the subject Committees of the assembly, forming a Committee structure.

I say in all seriousness to the Secretary of State that that could be the undoing of the way the assembly works in future unless there is some more clarity on it.

Mr. Davies: I have made it clear to the right hon. Gentleman several times that I intend that the Standing Orders under the which the assembly meets for the first time will provide for a Cabinet system. It will be open, however, to the assembly, if it subsequently wishes, to revert to a different system. Nevertheless, I intend that, when the assembly meets for the first time, it will meet with a Cabinet system; that will be provided for in the standing orders.

Mr. Ancram: In that case, I ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. In new clause 23, which will be part of primary legislation, not the Standing Orders, does that mean that new clause 23(1)(a), which says:

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    "The Assembly may delegate functions of the Assembly . . . to any committee of the Assembly",

will be operable only if the Standing Orders have been changed by a two-thirds majority at that time? Is he saying that that provision, which will be in primary legislation, is already qualified and pre-empted by non-primary legislative decisions that he will have taken in relation to the original standing orders? That places a very serious question mark over the meaning of the new clause. Either it is there to provide powers, or it is not.

Mr. Davies: New clause 23 is perfectly clear, and new clause subsection (1)(a) provides for the assembly to delegate its functions to any Committee of the assembly if it so wishes. That provision will be allowed for in the Standing Orders.

Mr. Ancram: In that case, this argument goes round and round. My original suggestion that we might have a bit of this and a bit of that and not know whether it was a duck or a dog is likely to come true. I say to the right hon. Gentleman in all seriousness, because I believe he is moving in the right direction, that he has left things dangerously open. I am afraid that it creates another area of uncertainty.

I do not want to be unduly unkind to him, but we are becoming used to the non-decisions of this Secretary of State. Will it be Swansea or Cardiff? Will it be Pier head or Bute square? Will it be a Cabinet or a Committee? We do not know. If the people of Wales are to have confidence in the devolution proposals, they should have a clearer idea of the answers to all those questions.

Mr. Öpik: Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that his anxieties would seem groundless if we were discussing the setting up of a new business? The more progressive management consultants would adopt the approach that the Government are taking, and allowthe organisation to define its reporting structures. The Conservatives are advocating adherence to much more traditional, more rigid systems of government, more associated with old Westminster than with new Cardiff.

Mr. Ancram: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can relieve us both of our concerns, because I understand that, if the assembly is to operate as a business in this regard, it will first need a two-thirds majority to overcome the Standing Orders that he has said will direct it in a particular--what the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) would call "old-fashioned"--way. We need to know the answers to those questions. That is one reason--I shall not trespass on this, Mr. Deputy Speaker--why I was worried that we did not have enough time in which to discuss this group of amendments. These are not minor or straightforward--

Mr. Ron Davies: The right hon. Gentleman is going round and round.

Mr. Ancram: I am going round and round because the new clause is circular, and it will take us round and round in circles.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a further

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confusion, which illustrates this point, inherent in new clause 22, on the system of subject Committees? For the past two decades, Cabinet government in this House has been balanced by accountability to cross-party Select Committees, usually acting unanimously. The subject Committees can hardly operate in that way if the person whom they are scrutinising is sitting on that Committee, asking questions with them and scrutinising the same evidence as them. Is that not another example of a quacking dog?

Mr. Ancram: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that example. He is absolutely right. He will notice that the amendments that we have tabled to new clause 22--amendments (a) to (j)--seek to meet that objection by renaming the subject Committees "Select Committees", so that they will operate as a Committee should operate under a Cabinet structure, like the Select Committees of the House. We are trying to bring clarity to what we consider to be a move in the right direction, which is not achieving what it set out to achieve.

Having made those points, on which I hope that we shall receive clarification from the Secretary of State because they are important, I shall briefly explain the amendments in the names of myself and my hon. Friends.

Our amendment (a) to new clause 20 would require the First Secretary to appoint one person as Financial Secretary and another as Business Manager. Our amendment (d) to new clause 21 would provide that neither be given responsibility for a specific field of policy. That is another constructive attempt to make more sense of the Cabinet structure, because we believe that, if a Cabinet is to work, there should be Ministers in the Cabinet who are not departmental Ministers but can look after the financial side. We know that a large sum of money--about £7 billion--is likely to be within the purview of the assembly. We believe that one Minister should be responsible for that.

We believe that there should be a Business Manager--a post along the lines of the Leader of the House--to ensure that business is properly pursued. That will make clear sense in the Cabinet structure, which is why we favour a Cabinet structure.

Amendment (b) to new clause 20 would prevent the First Secretary from appointing more than eight other Secretaries, including those two. The Secretary of State said that he looked forward to hearing me explain why we chose that number. There is no magic formula. There are 60 Members of the assembly. It seems to us that six departmental Ministers--a tenth of them--is generous.

Ministers currently on the Treasury Bench are carrying out all the functions that the six Secretaries plus the First Secretary will carry out. If the Secretary of State is in the place of the First Secretary at the moment, there are two hard-worked Ministers sitting next to him on the Front Bench whose work will now be undertaken by three Ministers each. That seems to be quite generous.

Although we know the skill and hard-working capabilities of the hon. Members for Neath (Mr. Hain) and for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths), we believe that three other Welsh men or women should be able to undertake the work that they currently undertake. Therefore, it seems to us that the number six is about correct.

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I have referred already to amendments (a) and (c) to (j) to Government new clause 22. They are designed genuinely to make sense of the Cabinet structure by having the Committees as Select Committees--


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