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Lord Hooson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Earlier in his speech he drew the distinction between devolution and federalism. He said that devolution is not federalism. That is right. No one suggests that it is. But devolution means that the only power a Scottish parliament will have is power devolved to it by Westminster. Westminster can recover that power. Therefore the arrangements for the approval of Scottish legislation, and so on, will all be governed by the Bill that devolves power.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, that may well be the case. My argument is that we have not yet seen the Bill that devolves the power. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, may be opening another flank to attack. He is now suggesting that, after all, it does not matter. Give the Scots and the Welsh what they want. If we do not like it, the UK Parliament will repeal all the legislation. That does not seem to me to be an argument in favour of stability.

I know that nothing we say at the moment in the way of trying to amend the Bill will make a great deal of difference. I fear that my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour was much too kind in believing that Her Majesty's current Ministers will take any notice of what we say, because they made sure that the House of Parliament in which they have a majority was not allowed to make any difference. They are determined to push this measure through. The people of Scotland and Wales, as well as of England, will pay for these errors. One can only pray that this situation does not last for too long.

7.47 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, I, too, have listened to 20 speeches, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and it strikes me that there is a huge gap between the thinking of Members of the Conservative Party in this House and that of the Government, the Liberals, and the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. The Government can take great comfort from the support which the noble Lords, Lord Hooson and Lord Elis-Thomas, have given to the Bill. There is this huge gap between ourselves and the Conservative Party.

I am not entirely surprised at that, but I have to say that most of the speeches from the other side of the House seem to be an anthology of assertions, and sometimes prejudices. Anyone who is familiar with the history of Wales will not be in the least surprised by that response.

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On the third day of the debate on the Address, the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, made an interesting reference to a debate between F.E. Smith and Mr. Asquith just before the First World War, if I may quote history. However, the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, could also have mentioned how in 1912, 1913 and 1914 Conservative Members, led by Mr. F.E. Smith, fought strongly to reject the Established Church (Wales) Bill. That battle has become part of Welsh folklore. Of course it has passed into history, but it is not forgotten.

In its attitude to Welsh aspirations, apart from the support given to the Welsh language over the past 15 years, which I gladly acknowledge, the Conservative Party has not changed. I would not be foolish enough to ask the Conservative Party to make atonement for its shortcomings in Wales in the past, but I would urge Welsh Conservatives to follow the example of the noble Viscount, Lord St Davids, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, and others who have adopted a constructive policy towards the Government's devolution policy for Wales, and who are obviously anxious that the Conservative Party should play a positive role in the affairs of Wales and the assembly.

I wish to confine myself to the Welsh background to the Bill and to concentrate on the proposed White Paper. Many Conservative Peers have complained that they have not seen the Bill or the White Paper, but, apart from one Peer, no one has told me what he wants to see in the White Paper. I believe that I can best help the Government and the devolution argument by indicating to my noble friend on the Front Bench the matters which I believe ought to be thoroughly defined and clarified in the White Paper.

I urge the Government to ensure that they deal in detail with certain matters which I shall mention so there is no doubt as to what is proposed. I understand that there may be difficulties between that stage and the presentation of the Bill, but at least let us be clear what the Government are proposing in the White Paper.

The Welsh assembly has been presented as a means of evolving a more democratic control of the actions of both the Welsh Office and the nominated bodies which have power to spend public money in Wales. There is strong expectation in some quarters that, following devolution, nominated bodies in devolved fields will disappear to be replaced by the assembly, or possibly by the local authorities in the case of some functions. In the debate on the humble Address on 19th May, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said that the assembly:

    "will exercise control over the web of quangos ... and ensure that appointments to them are fair and open".--[Official Report, 19/5/97; col. 148.]

Those words suggest to me that there will be no reduction in the number of quangos operating in Wales. Therefore, while the Government are working on the White Paper, will they consider transferring to the assembly the functions of some of the all-Wales nominated bodies, such as the Sports Council and the Tourist Board? Those bodies have the power to spend public money. I believe that readers of the White Paper in my part of Wales will also want to know how the

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health authorities and trusts are to be more accountable to the public. Therefore, I plead for less generality and more detail on these particular issues.

I turn to the need to define the relationship between the assembly and the Welsh local authorities. Some of your Lordships will remember that the issue was raised in emotional terms in the debate on the constitution last July. It was again raised in the debate in the humble Address when the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said from her position on the official Opposition Front Bench that she believed that devolution:

    "would ... weaken the powers of local government".--[Official Report, 19/5/97; col. 153.]
What is the authority for that assertion? I know of no justification for the statement. It was made again today by the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Stanley.

That assertion, that allegation, is contrary to the evidence which the Welsh Local Government Association gave last year to the Select Committee on the relations between central and local government, which is published in volume 2 of the proceedings. Moreover, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, mentioned, two or three weeks ago the Welsh Local Government Association published a 26 page document. At page 16 it concluded:

    "Welsh local government looks forward to working in partnership with a Welsh assembly".
I would like to believe that the criticism which has been addressed to the Welsh assembly--that it will undermine the powers of Welsh local government--are made in ignorance and are not based on an intention to misrepresent.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way--he did refer to me. I find some of his remarks strange. The majority of Members on this side of the House have been trying to find out all this information. I did not say that powers should be taken away from local authorities; I merely asked from where they would get their powers. To accuse us of wrecking the Bill, which I believe he was trying to do, is totally unfair. We were merely asking how it will work and what powers the local authorities will have.

Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, we must wait until we see tomorrow's Hansard. If I have misrepresented the position, obviously I shall withdraw my remarks. However, in view of the uncertainty and the criticism that has been made, I hope that the White Paper will refute what I believe to be the unfounded criticism that the assembly will undermine the Welsh local authorities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in her speech on 19th May claimed that the assembly would impair the Welsh economy. To the best of my knowledge, that too is an unfounded allegation. It is a bit rich, coming from a former Minister in the previous administration, which left the valleys of South Wales and many of the communities of north and west Wales sadly impoverished. The Labour Party may well have its faults, but of all parties it is not in the business of impairing the Welsh economy. Nevertheless, the White

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Paper should note that the allegation has been made and I hope that it will go on to demonstrate how the assembly will provide a stimulus to the new industrial investment that we need.

I was pleased to hear my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor say that the assembly would ensure that the Welsh interest would henceforth be more clearly heard in Europe. I sincerely hope that the White Paper will provide further and better particulars of the new procedures or machinery to achieve that desired end.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He invoked some of the comments that I made on the gracious Speech and I entirely defer to him to have his own views about what I said. However, two points arise. The first is that the crux of today's debate is in the absence of any detail whatever. We do not know what powers will move from Westminster to the assembly or what powers will move from local government to the assembly. For example, if it is responsible for education, clearly that will impact on local government in Wales. Secondly, I seriously take issue with the noble Lord's comment about Wales being impoverished as a result of the actions of the previous government. The prosperity which developed and the inward investment which went into Wales during the lifetime of the previous government are irrefutable, and it is a proud record.

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