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Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is probably a question for the Home Office rather than the Foreign Office. However, there is no current intention to change the position.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that what prevents scientology being recognised as a religion at present is a decision of the Court of Appeal?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that to be so; in which case I had better not comment any further.

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Baroness Young: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that many of us regard this issue as very serious indeed? It really is not good enough to say that it all depends on definition or that it all depends on trusting the decision at the time. There are inherent conflicts where there are two lots of anti-discrimination legislation--on religion and on sexual orientation--and where in some instances one would take priority over the other. The Government should look far more carefully at all of this before signing on the dotted line to something which could cause a great many difficulties.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that we will look very carefully at any propositions under this article. However, democracy and all law making are about resolving potential conflicts. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975, which is a model for the rest of Europe, excludes Church ministers and Church employees from its effects. I suspect that other countries besides ourselves would insist on a similar exclusion from any measure proposed under this article, which is simply a legal base at this point.

Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Lord Avebury.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill

3.7 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [Referendum in Wales]:

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 16, leave out ("Welsh Assembly") and insert ("National Assembly for Wales").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I find myself virtually sitting on the Labour Benches due to the crowding of the House. The purpose of the amendment is to replace the words "Welsh Assembly" with the words "National Assembly for Wales". Without anticipating tomorrow's debate on the White Paper, I wish to stress that this Third Reading amendment is generated by enthusiasm for the White Paper and for the wording within it.

The purpose of the amendment is to assert the fact that the proposed assembly is not a Welsh assembly, a Welsh nationalist assembly, a Welsh socialist assembly, a Welsh Liberal Democrat assembly or a Welsh Green assembly but that it is in all senses a national assembly.

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It is a national assembly in terms of its international relations to be effected through the European dimension of the White Paper; it is also a national assembly through its internal regional organisation within Wales.

The formulation "National Assembly for Wales" is a closer rendering of the actual White Paper than the wording at present on the face of the Bill. Indeed, within the White Paper itself the phrasing "an Assembly for Wales" occurs on a number of occasions. I notice that the Minister in another place, Mr. Peter Hain, in Friday's debate, in fact referred on a number of occasions to the assembly as being an assembly for Wales.

To be more specific, I shall briefly indulge in some linguistic argument. Welsh connotes both language and identity: Wales connotes both. An assembly for Wales indicates a national institution for all citizens of the Principality without reference to linguistic or ethnic affiliation. An assembly for Wales is not about national identity or affiliation; it is about all the residents of Wales who will be able to vote in the referendum. To specify the assembly as an assembly for Wales, as the Welsh language version does, it would be Cynulliad i Gymru rather than Cynulliad Cymreig. For a Welsh assembly, the adjective "Welsh" would be Cymreig whereas an assembly for Wales, as rendered in the Welsh language version, is of course an assembly for Wales. This is not merely a point of translation. It emphasises the inclusiveness of the proposals in the White Paper and the need for an inclusive debate in the referendum.

The use of the word "national" is also important. This is a European regional assembly. It is, and will be, a United Kingdom regional assembly. I, for my part, have no problem in describing Wales as a region and indeed a European region; an economic region of the United Kingdom. But to use the favourite expression of the BBC, it is also a national region, a phrase used by that organisation to apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is national in the sense that it represents the cultural aspirations of an historic nation, which are resolved politically through a regional structure within Europe. That is why I say that it is a national assembly and not a nationalist assembly.

I say that advisedly because I am a little tired, sitting on the Cross-Bench, to be chastised by opponents of the Bill for advocating Welsh independence or a nationalist solution and for being the advocate of a slippery slope. I support the White Paper because it represents a consensus of opinion in Wales. Any further development of the constitutional structure of Wales is a matter for the United Kingdom Parliament--it cannot be otherwise--and therefore it cannot be a slippery slope. It is not a nationalistic assembly proposal, but a national assembly. The national aspirations of Wales can be perfectly accommodated within the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The other purpose of the amendment is to assert that the national aspirations of Wales are no threat to the United Kingdom and its integrity. We can have within our union state of the United Kingdom--which is not any more, and never has been in any real sense, a unitary

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state--national assemblies which have a validity, speaking for the nations of that kingdom without creating any threat to the unity of the kingdom but propagating the national diversity which has always been the nature of this state.

For the life of me I cannot see why the Conservative Party has not tabled its support of this amendment. I understand that that party, in the person of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. William Hague, has declared unequivocally that it is now prepared to accept that if the people of Wales and Scotland vote for their parliament and assembly that decision shall remain on the statute book and unchallenged by the party. Clearly, if there is to be a Conservative intervention in this short debate, I hope that that assertion can be confirmed for it seems to me that we now need to build a consensus for the kind of constitutional change in which we are involved. If Conservative Members are to nominate candidates and to stand for the assembly and the parliament, then surely it is hypocritical of them to campaign--as apparently they are still doing--against the establishment of such an assembly and parliament. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, the noble Lord almost invites a challenge from these Benches. I have to tell him that I have a good deal of sympathy for his case that the assembly should be called a national assembly if the people of Wales decide that they want it. My criticism of the amendment is that it is moved at the wrong time and to the wrong Bill. In my view it is perfectly reasonable--an amendment having been won--for the Bill to come before this House again. If it helps the noble Lord I am happy to say that if the referendum is won I will accept the verdict, but it will not stop my pressing for examination of the Bill with care and possibly moving amendments and suggesting improvements. The moment for doing so is when we have a Bill bringing forward the legislative proposals.

Indeed, the noble Lord almost made the point when he began to elaborate on his case. He drew attention to the fact that, in his view, it will be a European assembly. He pointed to the internal arrangements. He says that it is all in the White Paper. We were only allowed to see the White Paper when we had virtually completed examination of the Bill. The noble Lord responding to our debates has stonewalled stalwartly throughout our consideration of the Bill on the grounds that the White Paper will be debated in due course and that these matters are not for the referendum Bill.

It is a pity in a way that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, spoilt his case when he argued that we were not going down a slippery slope and that there was no threat in the legislation to the unity of the United Kingdom. He began to spell out in some detail his party's view that the nation which is Wales was going to be a nation which was part of Europe rather than a nation which was part of the United Kingdom. He gave just a little bit away.

I maintain that what the noble Lord is really trying to do is to find another way of influencing the result of the referendum. He is trying to insert into the referendum

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Bill a particular point of view and to put into the Bill matters arising from the White Paper, which we have not yet debated. That is wrong in principle. If the people of Wales vote for an assembly, and we then have a Bill and the noble Lord comes forward with an amendment at that stage to call it a national assembly, I for one would be inclined to support him. There are so many Welsh institutions that we describe in those terms. I would find no difficulty in supporting his amendment at that time. However, I find the greatest difficulty in supporting it today.

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