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Lord Crickhowell: There is no reason, except human nature and human experience. I can only tell the noble Lord that it is difficult enough sometimes, even within an own organisation, to get regions to co-operate. To have separate bodies involved and with the degree of co-operation that he urges is, I have to say sadly, against all my experience in dealing with these matters.
Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Lord may say that, but as the chairman of a quango myself in the past, I can say that it is possible to break through these barriers if you have the right type of management. It is just a question perhaps of having the right chairman or chief executive.
It seems to me odd that the argument for a separate organisation for Wales should rest on the grounds of legality. It seems odd that the argument that the Government adducenamely, that they need an advisory committee for Wales rather than a body which is of itself Welshshould be based purely on the fact that the Scots have a different legal system.
The Earl of Selborne: Perhaps I may intervene. I shall be very brief. I specifically want to say a word in addressing Amendments Nos. 128 and 129 on the Countryside Council for Wales. I declare an interest as chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, which, as Members of the Committee will know, is partially funded by the Countryside Council for Wales.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, in which he explained to us why it was in the interests of nature conservation in Wales to abolish the Countryside Council for Wales and make it effectively a subset of the proposed Welsh agency. Members from all sides of the Committeeas indeed they were at Question Timehave been highly supportive of the Countryside Council for Wales, and rightly so. That body has fulfilled all that Parliament expected of it when it was set up under the Environmental Protection Act.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, said that he was fully supportive of the Countryside Council for Wales. Therefore the word used by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell understated the issue. If this quangowhich it clearly isnevertheless fulfils precisely the role, and is held in such high regard not only in Wales but throughout the United Kingdom, and is recognised to have carried through many initiatives which have an application elsewhere, it seems unfortunate that, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvelperhaps I may just make this point and the noble Lord will have something to grasp on.
Lord Williams of Elvel: I would be grateful, if the noble Lord would allow me to intervene. It is because it is doing such a good job, and because the Welsh agency needs a critical mass. It is for that reason that we wish to put CCW into the new agency. It is not to abolish it.
The Earl of Selborne: I understood precisely what the noble Lord said the first time: he wanted to achieve critical mass in the new Welsh agency by putting the Countryside Council for Wales inside it. That seems to me to suggest that the interests of nature conservation in Waleswhich are being extremely efficiently fulfilled at the moment by the quango called the Countryside Council for Walesare to be put at risk by that organisation being subsumed into the Welsh agency which will otherwise lack critical mass. I use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Williams. He may not like the phrase "critical mass" but he has now used it twice. I urge the noble Lord to look at the record of the Countryside Council for Wales and judge the issue that is propounded in Amendments Nos. 128 and 129 on one very simple criterion: which body will best look after
Lord Moran: I, too, shall be very brief. I was a little surprised that both the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas should have said that they were looking forward to the reply from the Government about the funding of the Countryside Council for Wales, because the Government gave an interim reply at Question Time today. Having myself then gone into bat for the Countryside Council for Walesand I entirely share the views of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne about the excellence of the work that it doesI was, I must confess, surprised and disconcerted to see the wording of Amendment No. 129 on the Marshalled List beginning with the schedule:
It is a profound mistake constantly to tinker with organisations. One must think of the staff in them who are trying to do an important job. It is essential to leave them alone for a period of years and give them adequate funding so that they can work out their priorities and do their job effectively. The Countryside Council for Wales has existed for only a few years. It would be disastrous to dissolve it now and merge it with another organisation. There would be tremendous upheaval and great anxiety; and the work that it does would be seriously put back.
I should like to make just one other point. As the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said, I was associated with the Welsh region of the NRA in an advisory capacity for five years. I was a member of the Welsh Secretary's advisory committee. Therefore I had a very good opportunity to see how that organisation worked. In my judgment it worked extremely effectively. We felt very Welsh. We were very proud of what the staff were doing in the Welsh region. We very often felt that we were ahead of what was being done by the other regions (I expect that they felt the same). It worked well. I can think of no problems that arose during that five years from the fact that there was a single organisation. We felt in no sense that we were subject merely to blind direction from London or Bristol.
In conclusion, I should like to re-emphasise what I said at Second Reading. I said that it was essential in any reorganisation that we preserve the integrity of the river catchments and that the arrangements under which the Wye is run by the Welsh region and the Severn is run by Severn Trent have worked extremely well and give rise to no difficulties at all. To tinker with that, to try to alter it and, moreover, to try to divide those rivers and the Dee somewhere along their length in line with a political boundary would, I believe, be a profound mistake. I hope that we shall not for a moment contemplate doing that.
Lord Parry: In the decade or so since I ceased to be chairman of the Wales Tourist Board, I have had the opportunity and privilege of working very closely in environmental matters nationally and internationally
It is a fact that there are organisations set up nationally which work very effectively within Wales with their counterpartsfor example, the Wales Tourist Board. I served under the former Secretary of State for Wales, the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. The Wales Tourist Board found it very easy indeed to work within its own borders and with its own people, creating its own ethos and emphasis and at the same time representing Wales strongly within the British Tourist Authority.
Others have served even longer than I in the interests of Wales. They will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that it is true that the creation of the Wales Tourist Board unexpectedly took place as the result of an afterthought on a Friday afternoon in the other place. Yet that organisation has stood the test of time. It has been examined by Conservative Governments' investigating committees. It has been found to be effective and cost-effective and to work within the borders of Wales. Since I left the organisation, it has also extended its activities by winning the right to represent itself overseas. It does so individually and directly. At the same time it co-operates in the interests of Britain with the British Tourist Authority.
When my noble friend moved this amendment he said nothing that criticised or in any way suggested that the servants, executives or serving members on boards of existing organisations were incompetent. That is an unfortunate aspect introduced by accident into the debate. We know the competence of the people who serve those bodies within Wales Welsh and English immigrants. I sympathise with the noble Lord opposite who as an Englishman found himself baffled by some of the nuances of the debate. I have never lived anywhere other than in Wales and in the past hour or so have found myself baffled by some of the didactic views that have been taken.
But that cannot be separated from the unease within Wales about the fact that local government structures which have been long in place, are long respected and contribute so much to the evolution not only of Wales but of Great Britain have been misrepresented, have been insulted and have seen their powers taken away from them. It is also a fact that over the past 15 years an inordinate number of people have found their way into certain positions and have represented interests without having declared their own position. I have served on quangos and never thought that it was something that I should be ashamed of doing. I chaired the Wales Tourist Board with immense pride and joy. I did it because I believed that, as evolution occurs in a democracy, it is essential to create organisations which serve in a different way.
If it is possible to represent and develop a new and vital part of the Welsh economyand tourism is thatwith a body chosen deliberately to be properly able to represent Wales, what on earth is wrong with doing the same here? I know the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and know that it did not cross his mind that he was urging his case as chairman of the National Rivers Authority. That thought did not occur for a moment. But there is a group of National Rivers Authority people who work under his general guidance but most particularly in the interests of Wales.
I live on the River Cleddau. So did the noble Lord. It does not empty anywhere other than into the Irish Sea. I have no need to be emotional about the beauties of Wales, as though they were opposed to or contrary to the beauties of England. But I feel passionatelyat my age, which is now entering the last decade of the seven that I was promisedthat the people who represent their own nation should be understood when they express their unease.
The present Secretary of State for Wales is an Englishman. He is a highly intellectual and intelligent Englishman. But he has to learn about the nation over which he presides. He has to learn some of those things that are part of the blood. I support this amendment not because of any of the points that have been made but because I believe that at this time this Government should make a gesture toward Wales. They should say that, if there is unease about the way in which appointments are made, we will create here a body that will win the respect of Wales and be able to carry out the work without in any way contradicting the value of work done elsewhere.
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