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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for those comments. Although I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, and I have ever been members of the same political party we still have our different regards and different views about Wales. He is right to make the point that the Welsh Language Board

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which has done so much good in Wales has moved with the times. As he rightly said, the fact that the board is now holding its meetings in public is a reflection of a changed world.

The assembly members with executive responsibilities, and officials, may have a role to play in delegations, for example to the Council of Ministers, as agreed by the UK Minister leading those negotiations. The Secretary of State will continue to be able to participate at meetings of the Council of Ministers and, where appropriate, represent the United Kingdom on certain matters on the same basis as now. The Welsh assembly will have at its disposal the staff of the Welsh Office. We believe that there will be sufficient back-up available properly to discharge duties in addressing these European issues. The Welsh assembly will be able to scrutinise EU documents and it will be able to convey its views to the Secretary of State and to the UK delegations in Brussels. It will therefore be able to ensure that those views are taken into account in United Kingdom policy formulation.

The Welsh assembly will have to ensure the implementation of EU obligations in Wales. We obviously want to play a full part in the United Kingdom--a United Kingdom which is part of the European Union, and a part of the European Union which we wish to see continue. I may not have made it sufficiently plain that the assembly will take over the current functions of the Welsh Office with respect to the structural fund programmes for Wales. That means that the assembly will be able to determine in agreement with the European Commission what should be the priorities for the structural funds in Wales; how they should be administered; and how the partnership of organisations which access structural funds should be involved in the process.

The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said it was important that there should be a devolutionary process which does not stop at Cardiff. I express that point more crudely than he did. I entirely agree with him. Devolution of powers will not be a single step. If the assembly is to do its work properly it will wish to have the closest liaison with local authorities, the business community, development agencies and public bodies. We do not wish there to be a monolithic devolution; if it is a monolith it will have no life and therefore it will not be successful.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. There are some matters in the Statement and in the White Paper which I welcome. For example, I welcome the fact that the White Paper confirms that Wales has been extremely successful in attracting inward investment and already enjoys a relatively favourable business climate. That is something one could not possibly have said 18 years ago. I also welcome the noble Lord's statement that over that same period it has developed a new confidence. Again I do not think one could have said that at the time I took over my responsibilities.

I agree with and welcome the decisions to merge the WDA, the Development Board for Rural Wales and the Land Authority for Wales. When I took over my

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responsibilities those bodies had been recently created by the preceding Labour Government. Clearly they had to be allowed to develop at that time. Indeed, I ensured the survival of the Land Authority for Wales. However, I think that the time has come to bring them together. It is a sensible proposal.

I also think it right that the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation should hand over its responsibilities around the year 2000. That is exactly what I intended when I set it up. I said at the time that it was there in order to hand over responsibilities to local governments. I agree with all that.

However, the Statement said that there is too little freedom for people in each part of the United Kingdom to decide their own priorities. In view of the fact that all the domestic responsibilities of the Secretary of State are to be handed over in Wales to an assembly, I must repeat the question to which I failed to receive an answer during our recent discussions. What then is to be done to ensure that the people in England have that same ability to decide their own affairs?

Perhaps I may address one group of issues: the relationship of the assembly to Parliament. The White Paper says that,

    "There will be a procedure for the speedy settlement of any disputes about the Assembly's use of its powers, and if it exceeds its powers the Government will be able to challenge it in the Courts".

Will the Minister tell us what is envisaged as procedure for the speedy settlement of any disputes? Disputes there inevitably will be. A body with control over £7 billion of expenditure which distributes money to local authorities will from time to time have disputes. I had nothing like that amount when I was Secretary of State, but I had to distribute money to local authorities, and about half that sum to other organisations. As Secretary of State I was faced from time to time with disputes. How are those disputes to be resolved?

The White Paper then states that,

    "The Secretary of State for Wales and Members of Parliament representing Welsh constituencies will have a continuing role, but one which will be based upon a new partnership with the Assembly".

Will the Minister tell us a little more about the nature of that new partnership? Unless they are members of the assembly, Welsh Members will no longer be able to raise questions in Parliament as they can at present about the health service, the education service and all the other matters that most interest Members of Parliament in their own constituencies.

The White Paper also states that,

    "The Secretary of State will continue to be accountable to Parliament for his actions through the normal mechanisms of Parliamentary Questions and debate. He will not however be accountable for the activities of the Welsh Assembly".

So what is he to be accountable for? Are Welsh Questions simply to address the nature of the messages that are passed by the Secretary of State up and down the conduit between the assembly in Wales and those few responsibilities that remain? Matters to deal with royalty are hardly likely to be the subject of frequent question. There are a small number of organisations, but it will be a pretty thin Question Time. What will the

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Secretary of State answer to Parliament about? We need some clarification on the future role of the Secretary of State and Members of Parliament in Parliament.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am reluctant to intervene, but we have had two interventions from Back-Benchers which have taken 11 minutes. I hope that the House will not take it unkindly from me if I draw attention to the Companion which says:

    "Ministerial statements are made for the information of the House, and although brief comments and questions for clarification from all quarters of the House are allowed, such statements should not be made the occasion for an immediate debate".

We seem to be verging on an immediate debate.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I did not mean to be discourteous to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir. However, I shall respond briefly to some matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, bearing in mind the injunctions of the Lord Privy Seal.

First, I shall deal with the fast track procedure to which the noble Lord referred. The question of a dispute between the assembly in terms of vires on secondary legislation and the Westminster Parliament will be capable of a fast track dispute resolution. The intention is that the matters shall be in some circumstances immediately referrable to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, asked about a new partnership. He asked about the accountability of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State for Wales will continue to have important functions. He will participate fully in the Government's policy formulation, in legislative and resource decisions. He will represent the needs of Wales in Cabinet and Cabinet committees. He will sit on relevant Standing Committees of the House of Commons considering legislation which affects Wales. The short answer to the noble Lord's question is this. Any retained responsibilities which still remain with the Secretary of State for Wales will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny in another place in the usual way.

Perhaps I may respectfully suggest that we are attempting a debate which has been set for a little later in your Lordships' House, I believe next week. I would prefer to deal with specific questions either by letter if noble Lords prefer, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, or by awaiting the general debate.

Lord Thomas of Gwydir: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a simple question. He referred to the functions of the Secretary of State. The White Paper makes it perfectly clear that it is the intention of the Government that almost all the functions of the Secretary of State will be transferred to the assembly. I believe that about 2,000 civil servants are attached to the Welsh Office. How many of those will be transferred to the assembly, and how many will be left to the service of the Secretary of State?

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