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Viscount Bledisloe: Into this extraordinary mixture of sheep and university students, I should like to add some brief comments on Amendments Nos. 60 and 63. As a part-time farmer, I confess that I find it a little strange to conceive that there should be different rules for tractor safety, or for pesticides, either side of the Border. However, if there really must be such differences, what would happen to a farm which straddles the Border? Animals move, tractors move and pesticides may be spread on any field on a farm. Will some poor farmer whose farm happens to straddle the Border really be obliged to obey different rules and thereby have his tractors differently equipped, while using different pesticides either side of the Border? Alternatively, will there be some provision whereby such a farm can be treated in its entirety as belonging one side of the Border and not the other, so that a farmer who has, say, hundred hectares in Wales and only 30 hectares in England can be treated as a Welsh farmer and not be obliged to change the cab of his tractor or the mix of his pesticides when he crosses the Border?
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I hope I can be of some small assistance to my noble friend. If he cares to visit the land frontier of the United Kingdom between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic he will find that cross-border traffic, particularly in livestock, is made easy by the construction of a long shed with doors at either end rather like an aircraft hangar. Not only do livestock progress from one end to the other on foot, but there are good tarmac roads leading from either end and whole lorries or sometimes four lorries come in and park there overnight when the Customs staff are not looking and out they go on the other side. Thanks to our wonderful common agricultural policy they manage to acquire subsidy at least six times a day on the same cattle.
I now turn to Amendment No. 82. I should declare an interest as currently I have the privilege to be a president of the University of Wales, Swansea. I have listened carefully to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the case which he has advanced. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the letter from the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General. Perhaps that is my fault. I draw comfort from a statement by the official historian of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Mr. E.L. Ellis, who noted in the official history of that university that,
I for my part do not think that the national assembly will easily depart from that tradition. I have a feeling that it will give investment in higher education a high priority indeed. If I am wrong, it seems to me that there is an objection in principle to the amendment which has been ably spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn has referred to that. The essence of devolution is that the national assembly is to be responsible for the devolved services and is to have the freedom to determine how that block grant is to be distributed between devolved services. I believe that that function should be exercised without consultation with another Whitehall-based department. For those reasons I am unable to accept the amendment which has been spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: This is indeed a curious mix of amendments. I am happy to endorse what was said by my noble friends Lord Stanley of Alderley and Lord Willoughby de Broke about their amendments. I see no reason to add to that. I thought that the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made a fair point in talking about farms that straddle the border. I know that this matter is of concern to the farming unions and of course to the farmers who are involved in "split farming" as we might call it, where some land is in Wales and some is outside it.
My noble friend Lord Courtown dealt clearly with the difficult issue of planning appeals. After all, given the fact that so many powers and responsibilities will remain at Westminster--for example, the primary legislation on which so much of planning legislation is based--it could be wiser to make the determination of planning appeals a joint function. I shall be anxious to hear the Minister's response to that point and to the quasi-judicial point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell has made a powerful plea on behalf of the University of Wales and the Higher Education Funding Council. Of
The concern about funding through the assembly is widespread and extends to other devolved fields. I must admit immediately that I think that higher education is in a special position in that, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, pointed out, the population of the university and higher education sector is not strictly speaking related to the population of Wales, and neither is its growth. I am sure that we shall undoubtedly return to this subject of funding of the higher education sector and other sectors when we reach Part IV of the Bill and Clause 82 which deals with the Secretary of State's power to make grants to the assembly. We look forward eagerly to receiving any kind of assurance that the Minister can give. I am sure that he will give of his best, bearing in mind his alter ego as pro-chancellor.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: These amendments point in different directions, as has already been observed. Those in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Stanley and Lord Crickhowell, seek to restrict the transfer of functions. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, seeks to require that other functions are transferred. Amendments Nos. 60 to 63 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, seek to prevent certain functions from being transferred to the assembly.
The noble Viscount asked what happens when you have a farm on both sides of the border. There are a few cases of a farm straddling both sides of the border. At present there are different regulations which obtain on Welsh land as opposed to English land. I shall give examples to assuage any scepticism about my proposition. The moorland livestock extensification (Wales) regulations and the Rural Development Grants Agriculture (Wales) pertain only to land on the Welsh side of the border.
Viscount Bledisloe: Surely those are regulations which relate to the land itself. The point I sought to make was that as regards regulations concerning health and animals, the same animal and the same tractor and the same pesticide may be used or stationed one day on one side of the border and another day on the other side. We all recognise that one may have land part of which is in an environmentally sensitive area and part of which is not, and different regulations apply. My concern is that extremely mobile things such as tractors and sheep may come under different regulations each time they push through a hedge.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful for that further illustration. Perhaps I may deal with it. Some of the amendments would prevent a transfer order transferring functions with respect to animal health and welfare, food safety, health and safety in the workplace and the regulation of pesticides, as the noble Lord,
As was pointed out by a number of noble Lords, the Secretary of State has functions with respect to animal health, welfare and food safety. We intend to transfer those to the assembly. In those cases, and therefore also in relation to the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, we are considering retaining the arrangements under which functions are exercised jointly with the Minister of Agriculture. I hope that deals with the specific question put by the noble Viscount.
To turn to the noble Earl's point, we believe that pesticides are in a different category. We are considering not transferring those to the assembly for the reasons given; namely, there is a substantial body of acquired expertise. The Welsh Office is entirely dependent on specialist advice from MAFF's Pesticides Safety Directorate and the Health and Safety Executive. We believe that there is a case, examining each case individually, for not transferring those.
We do not believe that there ought to be a limit in the way in which ministerial functions may be transferred in future. If a successor government do not wish to transfer functions, they will not bring forward an order; and if Parliament does not wish the functions to be transferred, then it will not approve such an order. We think that that is a sensible way of dealing with the matter.
Amendment No. 64 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, requires that the transfer order makes the determination of planning appeals a concurrent function, one which either the assembly or the Minister could exercise. We do not believe that that is practically workable for developers, local authorities or individuals. It would not be clear who was going to decide any particular planning appeal since either the assembly or the Minister could exercise that function. We do not think that there should be uncertainty about quasi-judicial functions. My noble friend Lord Prys-Davies asked that question specifically. The function will be transferred to the assembly, and I dare say in due time the assembly will wish to give careful attention, when considering its standing orders and methods of procedure, to how it will deal with the problems he identified.
Turning to Amendment No. 82, there is hardly any noble Lord who has spoken who does not seem to have some position of responsibility in the University of Wales. However, I stress, as your Lordships kindly have done already, that I am speaking on behalf of the Government and not the university.
The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, has also indicated to me that the University of Glamorgan has inexplicably been left out; but the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, has already confessed and avoided that error.
The points made by your Lordships, and in particular by my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, are extremely important. We have given a good deal of thought to the matter. We believe the solution we have arrived at to be a legitimate safeguard for the university's interests. We have specifically decided to retain the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.
The functions of that council will remain the same. All that the assembly can do is what is presently capable of being done by the Secretary of State for Wales. It is possible, of course, that the assembly might wish to give increased funding to HEFCW within its budgetary constraints. The assembly will not be able to abolish the funding council under Clause 29--though I appreciate that it may be that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will wish us to alter that. We have therefore decided to recognise the importance of academic institutions in the life of any community, not least on historical and cultural grounds in Wales, to maintain HEFCW and simply to keep intact its functions but transferring the functions that the Secretary of State for Wales has vis-a-vis HEFCW to the assembly. We believe that that is the right way to do it.
Other than that, the Secretary of State has a very limited function in respect of the University of Wales which I mention for the sake of completeness. It is advising Her Majesty from time to time on changes to the charter and statutes, as is seen in the White Paper. The assembly will not take over that role.
Apart from the historical attachment that has been mentioned, there is the enormous economic impact made by the University of Wales to the prosperity of Wales. To take the University of Wales at Cardiff as an example, papers have been produced making it plain that enormous economic benefit goes out to the community generally from institutions of high quality.
We do not see, however, that HEFCW should be treated any differently vis-a-vis assembly decisions, decisions with respect to the Welsh Development Agency, funding for local government or, for instance, plans for improving the trunk road network. The assembly is well placed, first, to identify, and, secondly, to protect the true interests of university education in Wales.