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Noble Lords: No!

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, if it was not a change of view, I must have misread regularly over the past nine months. But if it was not a change of view, in this spirit of conciliatory inclusiveness which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, and I share, I welcome the reaffirmation of the Conservative Party's stance. I do

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believe that it will be a genuine benefit to the assembly in Wales and to the parliament in Scotland if the Conservative Party--if the referendums go our way--fully involves itself in the elections for the parliament and the assembly and is successful in having candidates elected.

We want variety. We do not wish to have the monolithic control of any single party, which is bad for democracy in principle and it has been proved bad in theory in large parts of our country, whatever controlling group has been in charge perhaps in a particular local government area, although I would not of course wish to pick Westminster as against South Wales. I do not dispute that it was true in South Wales. I spent about seven years of my life prosecuting corrupt local councillors who were originally Labour and when they were defeated by the ratepayers, next year it was the ratepayers as well. It is not a good idea to have too great a control in a single party. It is bad. I do not need to dissent from that because I shall carry on saying it until my dying day, however tedious it may be.

In our view, the establishment of the assembly and the parliament will not break up the United Kingdom. We believe that it will strengthen it because it will give moral validity and political purpose to the different workings of the Union. After all, defence, foreign affairs, national security, immigration controls, macro-economic policy and social security are all to be dealt with on the United Kingdom level. In negotiations between member states, as my noble friend Lord Sewel said, there is to be a single voice for the whole of the United Kingdom.

It is true that if one wants to be Lord Faintheart of Doom, of course one can find difficulties and one can say, as people did, that civilisation as we knew it would come to an end if women got the vote. Some people still complain about the passage of the great Reform Act of 1832. In any constitutional arrangements there are bound to be some anomalies. I believe that our task and duty are to reduce the anomalies and work towards a common purpose if, and only if, the people of Scotland have said that they wish for their own parliament and the people of Wales have said that they want their assembly.

Let us look for a second or two at the experience in Europe. Regional governments of various sorts have not led to the break-up of states in Europe; quite the reverse.

A number of your Lordships said that the cost of the establishment and the running of the assembly and the parliament is too high a price to pay. I profoundly disagree. I refuse to accept that democracy is to be acceptable only if it is free. It will cost money to run an elected assembly of 60 salaried members--more than for three Welsh Office Ministers--and more to run a Scottish parliament of 129 members than to pay the salaries, modest though they are, of six Scottish Office Ministers. I hear the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, saying "Very true" behind me. I shall not intrude into private grief about what opposition spokesmen are paid, since I bore it long enough myself.

These sums are in the round quite significant: in the sum, they are not. It will be about £6 per head in the Welsh assembly and it will be spending £2,400 per

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head. The question is this to the people of Scotland: do you wish to pay this price? The question will be the same to the people of Wales. If they do, then they will know, but if they do not, we shall know the verdict of the people and ultimately that of the history of our time.

We believe that Scottish MPs have a full part to play in the Westminster parliament. A number of your Lordships have pointed out how many Scots there are in the Cabinet at the moment. That is true because Scotland is a talented as well as a disputatious nation, not dissimilar in many ways to the Welsh nation. But I dimly remember the names of Lang, Rifkind and Forsyth. Were they not Scottish Members for Scottish seats in the Cabinet? I would not wish to see any form of disqualificatory writ run against people simply because they have the infinite benefit of coming from Scotland. Indeed, I cast my eye across to my noble colleagues opposite. Quite a few of them seem to be from Scotland one way or another, do they not? Much of the higher judiciary in this country is Scottish originally. The rest seem to be South African now, but many of the judiciary are Scottish. Those were amusing points, but perhaps they were not at the significant heart of this constitutional disputation.

The Secretaries of State are not simply to be postboys. Their functions will diminish and I pay every credit to Donald Dewar and Ron Davies for that. I believe that they are unique as politicians in Cabinet posts who willingly wish to see their personal powers reduce. Why? The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, is right. It is because Ron Davies in particular has come to a view, as has Donald Dewar, who has laboured in the vineyard for so long, that personal political advantage for the moment is not a determinant of all political action. All credit to them, even if one disagrees with their conclusions.

The Secretaries of State will have important functions to perform in our constitution. We are not proposing to give the Secretary of State for Scotland general powers of override on a day-to-day basis. We believe that that would conflict with our approach generally to the parliament in Edinburgh, which will be a mature parliament, as noble Lords have said.

The Secretary of State for Wales will not be travelling up and down on the InterCity from Cardiff to Paddington and back. He will be Wales's voice in Government. The Westminster Parliament will continue to pass primary legislation for Wales. It is right that the Secretary of State should be able to influence that. It is right that he should be able to argue financial considerations in respect of Wales. It is right that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be able to do the same in respect of Scotland. I see no difficulties here, except the painful realisation that present arrangements may not be set in stone for all time.

The Secretaries of State will also be contributing to policy-making at the UK level on reserved matters, such as defence, macro-economic policy, social security and national security. All of those matters are to be handled in common for the whole of the United Kingdom. It is right, suitable, proper and appropriate that the two Secretaries of State should take part in that.

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Given good will, a reflective imagination and the triumph of nerve that are required for all these things, I do not believe that there is any reason why the Scottish executive, the Welsh assembly and the United Kingdom Government cannot work together. If one believes that nothing can be done, so be it. However, because we believe in our fellow citizens and in the desire for prudent evolutionary change, we believe that these arrangements can work well.

I agree entirely that if there are second-rate members, we shall have a second-rate assembly. That is why we want to give proper power in Scotland. That power will be greater than that which is to be given to Wales, but we are still giving a significant raft of powers to Wales. We are giving the power to spend, to examine, to check and to account for £7 billion of public money in a country which has--I say this in parenthesis--been successful economically. I reiterate the tribute that I genuinely pay to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. But economic advance is not the sole criterion on which we determine political success. It is extremely important, particularly if otherwise someone would have been unemployed or in an unskilled job, but it is not the only determinant. It is not the only benchmark. I believe that the significant benchmarks are found in questions such as: do we know what our political representatives are doing? Are they our masters or our servants? Can we question them? Can we make them accountable for what is, after all, our power and our money?

I have already written to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I realise that the time available to me is limited and that I should be attempting to keep to a speech of 20 minutes according to the indication given earlier by the Chief Whip--

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but I am not sure whether he is going to deal with any of the questions that a number of us have asked, so I wonder whether he will try to answer my question on paragraph 7.13 of the Scottish White Paper which related to the £450 million plus or minus.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I was about to come to that point. It seems to me that I should try to deal with the more important questions, and I readily recognise that this is one of them. Before I begin, however, I want to put the record straight about the headline in today's Guardian which was repeated rather less boldly in the Western Mail. I regard it as a monstrous intrusion into Royal Family matters which has nothing properly to do with this political debate. I should put on record the press statement released by the Palace this morning at 11.55:

    "The Guardian story is nonsense. The wording of the White Paper on this issue"--
the Welsh White Paper--

    "means precisely what it says and The Queen was kept informed throughout its preparation. Far from The Queen not wanting to open the Welsh Assembly, it would be very much part of her constitutional role to do so".
I regard that story as a distinctly low blow and look for a prompt apology.

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The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, asked me a distinct question about taxation, to which I now turn. I believe that this matter is related to the question about domestic and non-domestic taxation. If it is convenient I shall deal with them together. The Scottish parliament will have full responsibility for the form and level of local domestic and non-domestic taxation, including non-domestic rates. The noble Lord also raised this question and I deal also with that. There will be practical constraints--for instance, the cost of collection--on the scope for new taxes but the Scottish parliament will be able to come to its own conclusions.

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