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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 85 to 92 inclusive. The amendments seek to change the list of bodies that would be within the assembly's power in Clause 29, to take functions away from them, and ultimately to abolish them.

Reform of public bodies in Wales is one of the key planks of the Bill. Part VI provides for the winding up of the Development Board for Rural Wales, the Land Authority for Wales, Tai Cymru and the Residuary Body for Wales. We have announced plans for the

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winding up of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. Under existing powers in NHS legislation, we are abolishing the two special health authorities in Wales and are consulting on a significant reduction in the number of NHS trusts. The number of training and enterprise councils is to be reduced from six to four.

As we made plain in the White Paper, decisions on most of the remaining bodies would be for the assembly itself. While we will have made a very significant start--by reducing the number of unelected bodies and making all those that are left fully accountable to the assembly--it would be for the assembly to take other decisions under its powers in Clause 29. That is entirely consistent with the logic of the Bill. It is a matter for Wales to decide, through its assembly, what should be done. However, even if the assembly decided to abolish further bodies, the work that they do would still need to be done.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, proposes in Amendments Nos. 85 to 87 that the three agricultural committees mentioned in Schedule 3 should not be subject to the assembly's reform power except to the extent that they might gain functions. The Government do not accept that analysis. The effect of Clause 149 is that the assembly could merge the agricultural wages committees in Wales into a single committee for the whole of Wales, and the pattern of agricultural dwelling house advisory committees would follow suit. But the Government believe that the assembly should, if it wishes, be able to go further and transfer the functions of these committees to other bodies and abolish them.

As for the sub-committee for Wales on hill farming, the Government's position is that all the advisory bodies bar one--the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales--should be within the assembly's reform power. That is the logic of the Government's position. In my view, it is entirely consistent with the whole purpose of the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 88 and 92, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, propose that the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales should be brought fully within the assembly's reform power in Clause 29. As a result the assembly would be able to transfer functions from the funding council to a range of other public bodies in Wales, including to the assembly itself; and if it transferred all the functions from the funding council, the assembly would have the power to abolish it. The Government's view is that the Higher Education Funding Council should not be within the category of bodies which can have their functions taken away from them, or be abolished, by the assembly.

The traditional independence of the universities has meant that successive governments have, for decades, left decisions on their funding to specialised, arm's length bodies; the Universities Grants Committee and now the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

The proposal that the Further Education Funding Council for Wales should be within the assembly's reform power does not mean that the independence of further education institutions is under threat. The function of funding further education will remain. But there are options for reform which the assembly may

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wish to consider, taking account of the increasing links between the higher and further education sectors and the position of vocational training, which is currently funded by the training and enterprise councils.

We have to bear in mind that there is a significant difference between further education institutions on the one hand and the higher education sector on the other. The latter operates in a UK-wide and international market for students, whereas further education meets mainly local needs. A total of 38 per cent. of students at Welsh higher education institutions come from elsewhere in the United Kingdom and 9 per cent. from abroad. Therefore, there is a case for the sector to be funded and monitored on a similar basis to other parts of the UK and in the new arrangements differently from the further education sector. In the light of the explanations that I have given, I hope that the noble Lords will withdraw their amendments.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas: Perhaps I may respond to one point. Does the Minister's analysis of the relationship between higher and further education preclude further close collaboration and cross-funding by the assembly? It seems to me that his argument is that the TECs and the FE sector are for one market and HE is for another. That fails to take into account the Government's own strategy in terms of continuous and life-long learning. I ask the Minister to reconsider that.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: There are options for reform which the assembly can take which will have the effect of increasing links between the higher and further education sectors. So the proposal does not lead to the separation of the two.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: As my noble friend Lord Roberts said, the particular bodies that I mentioned as regards my amendment are not unelected. They are advisory bodies, which is rather different from the point that they were quangos. I hope that that is borne in mind.

I have to say to the noble and learned Lord that this is the first time that I have been quite concerned by his reply. He said that these bodies could be abolished. Being the cynic that I am, I can see a fully urbanised assembly and therefore I shall vote with the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, to make sure that it is not. But he might be in a minority of one. I can see the tremendous agricultural value that these three bodies have not being appreciated. I hope that the Minister understands why I am so suspicious.

I shall think about this amendment and take advice. I am not happy about the bodies being subsumed into some organisation which has no agricultural or rural background. It matters very much in Wales. No doubt all we fellow farmers suspect each other, but we suspect those who are not farmers even more than each other. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendments Nos. 86 to 92 not moved.]

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Implementation of Community law]:

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 19, line 25, at end insert--
("( ) The power of the assembly to make regulations under this section shall not include power to make any regulations which result in, or are likely to result in, any diminution of European Community support measures for agriculture or rural communities in Wales, or which result in, or are likely to result in, any discrimination against agriculture or rural communities in Wales in comparison to other parts of the United Kingdom.").

The noble Lord said: I am sorry to upset the Committee, but I must take this amendment separately. I have warned the Minister and my Front Bench. I am sorry that I did not realise before that it was rather different from the other seven or eight amendments. If I dealt with them altogether I would not only get the Committee in a muddle but, more importantly, I would get myself into one.

Clause 30 of the Bill is concerned with the implementation of European Community law where the assembly has been designated in relation to particular matters or for particular purposes. To do so it may exercise powers currently used by Ministers to make regulations under the European Communities Act 1972. The purpose of this amendment is to find out how this proposed power for the assembly might operate in relation to agriculture in Wales. In particular, farmers would wish to be assured that there is no risk that the assembly could pass regulations which resulted in a reduction in support measures for agriculture or rural communities or which would result in discrimination against farmers in Wales as compared to farmers in other parts of the United Kingdom. I know that the Minister will say that I am being suspicious, but, as drafted, the Bill does not appear to contain any safeguard which would deliver that assurance.

I have a number of specific questions which need clarification. They are as follows. First, will the assembly have any power to alter European Union agricultural grants? Secondly, will it have powers to alter national agricultural top-up money? As the Minister no doubt knows, there is a national element in the HLCA payments. Could the assembly be given powers to divert that into, say, the beef special premium or, as the spirit moved it, into some other part of agriculture, or elsewhere? Thirdly, will the assembly be in charge financially and administratively of any agri-environmental scheme and could agri-environmental payments for similar schemes be paid at different rates by the assembly from the rest of the United Kingdom? That is a particularly important point because, as we know, Agenda 2000 proposes alterations in such schemes. It is thought, for instance, that the HLCA payment could become an agri-environmental payment. Would the assembly receive such payments direct from Brussels, to do as Brussels says, or would such payments go into the Welsh block grant?

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I realise that the Minister may find my questions rather confusing. I thought of them only last night. They are certainly confusing to me. However, I wonder whether the noble Lord will be able to get his officials to prepare a statement on how the Government intend to approach these problems and queries, plus others which I have no doubt forgotten or failed to see, and whether he can place such a statement in the Library before Report stage so that we may try to understand this. I beg to move.

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