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Lord Prys-Davies: I support this amendment. I was in support of Amendments Nos. 95 and 97, although I did not speak due to the late hour. I am sure that the consultations under Clause 32 should be two way. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that in a system of executive devolution which requires the separation of primary legislation and execution, upon which this Bill is based, then the day-to-day management of the government of the assembly will certainly show from time to time the need for new primary legislation or for amendments to it. A matter which at the outset seems to be one calling for a minor adjustment of policy may grow into a question which requires primary legislation or the amendment of primary legislation.

The clause as it stands is defective because it proposes a duty on the Secretary of State only to consult the assembly upon the legislative programme which he has in mind. But the clause should impose a corresponding duty on the Secretary of State to have regard to the requirements of the assembly for new primary legislation or amendments to legislation. I very much hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas.

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11.15 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: In speaking to the previous group of amendments, I inadvertently gave my support to Amendment No. 98. It is being dealt with separately now but I reiterate that support. It seems to be perfectly legitimate for consultation to take place with regard to any legislative proposals that the assembly may have. Being a legislative body, albeit one concerned with secondary legislation, the assembly will be in a very good position to anticipate the need for primary legislation. That matter should be discussed with the Secretary of State.

It is quite clearly necessary for the Secretary of State to consult the assembly as soon as the Government's legislative programme has been outlined in the Queen's Speech. At that stage Bills have very often not been fully prepared and there may well be a need, which the assembly will recognise, for special provisions relating to Wales. It is surely proper that there should be an opportunity for the assembly to bring the need for such provisions to the attention of the Secretary of State.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The extent of the commitment made in the White Paper about the assembly was that the Secretary of State would be under a duty to consult about Parliament's legislative programme. That undertaking is delivered in the present draft of Clause 32. What the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, is proposing is that the Secretary of State should also be obliged, in effect, to consult about the assembly's proposals for legislation by Parliament. He is saying that it should be a two-way process, with the assembly coming forward with proposals for Parliament to legislate, whether by way of primary legislation or by way of primary legislation to amend existing Acts, or, presumably, Bills in the process of going through the Houses of Parliament. I do not quite know how one would know what amendments to propose if one did not know what the Bill proposed, but that is a moderately minor point.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, raised the prospect of a situation arising where the assembly in its deliberations--for example, in relation to secondary legislation--thinks it appropriate to propose amendments to primary legislation. I respectfully suggest that the appropriate way for the assembly to seek to influence legislation at Westminster in those circumstances would be for it to use its powers in Clause 34 of the Bill. It states:

    "The Assembly may consider, and make appropriate representations about, any matter affecting Wales".

The assembly could make appropriate representations to whomsoever it chose about any Bill before Parliament affecting Wales, whether or not that Bill related to the fields in Schedule 2. Those representations might include suggested amendments which could be published or sent to the Government Minister or to any Member of this House or the other place. Obviously, it would be for the Government or Parliament, as the case may be, to decide what, if anything, they wished to do in the light of the assembly's representations.

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As to the assembly drafting whole Bills, which appears to be contemplated by the amendments, if the assembly were seeking to argue that some specific, new legislative proposal provision should be enacted for Wales, that would most satisfactorily be put forward in a policy document, again using the powers in Clause 34 rather than in a draft Bill. If the government of the day were to take up such a suggestion from the assembly they would clearly wish to have their own Bill drafted by parliamentary counsel, as now.

In the light of this response I hope that I have persuaded the noble Lord that the assembly will be able to make its views heard on primary legislation and that he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas: The breadth of support for this amendment from the Conservative Benches and from the Party for Wales, from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and from the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, indicates that I should withdraw the amendment this evening. However, it seems to me that this matter needs to be explored in the context of both Clause 32 and Clause 34.

I do not believe it is satisfactory that legislative proposals coming from a body which itself will be producing delegated legislation should be regarded as appropriate representation about matters affecting Wales, as set out in Clause 34. Therefore, although I appreciate the point made by the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General that this represents a way in which the assembly can take action of this kind, it does not seem to me satisfactory. I thank Members of the Committee at this late hour for their support and I give notice that this is a topic we shall need to return to. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 97 to 101 not moved.]

Clause 32 agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 102:

After Clause 32, insert the following new clause--

Consultation on Community matters

(" .--(1) Before a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Communities, the Secretary of State shall undertake with the Assembly such consultation about the government's negotiating position as appears to him to be appropriate.
(2) As soon as is reasonably practical after the conclusion of a meeting of the Council of Ministers, the Secretary of State shall provide a report to the Assembly on any matters arising in such a meeting affecting Wales.
(3) This section does not require the Secretary of State to undertake consultation with the Assembly about the government's negotiating position if he considers that there are considerations relating to the negotiations which make it inappropriate for him to do so.").

The noble Lord said: I am sorry that we come to this important amendment so late in the evening, but I make no apology for moving it because it is very important. It is important for Wales, for Scotland and for other legislation. It will be important, in time, for Northern Ireland. It concerns the relationship between these

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subordinate legislatures and governments and the all-important, in many respects, Council of Ministers and meetings within the European Union.

Although the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell discusses any meeting of the Council of Ministers, I shall use as my worked example, so to speak--and the most important, too--the detail affecting everyday life of many people working in Wales. I refer to agriculture through the common agricultural policy and fishing through the common fisheries policy. These two subjects are to be devolved. We discussed them earlier. I have no problem about their being devolved in part. I have no problem about the assembly debating these matters. I am sure we could find certain parts of agriculture that could easily be devolved to the assembly which are not totally entwined with what the Council of Ministers decides in Brussels.

I am genuinely concerned that the most vital aspects affecting farmers and fishermen in Wales will be decided by a UK Government Minister responsible to the UK Parliament and its Members and without any answerability for policy outcomes in Wales. I understand that preliminary discussions can go on. They do at present between the Welsh Office and MAFF. Agreed positions are arrived at, often at official level. Often it is more the order of importance attached to each issue rather than the issues themselves which have to be decided at ministerial level and, just occasionally, at Cabinet level. Debates can be, and are, held in the other place, in which MPs from Wales and England can argue the case for their farming and fishing constituents with the Ministers who will negotiate in Brussels.

The MAFF ministerial team then goes to Brussels with or without a Minister from the Welsh Office. I grant that it is quite a long time ago now and my memory could be getting dim, but I cannot recall ever going to a Fisheries Council--I attended every one while I was a Minister at the Scottish Office--at which a Minister from Wales was part of the team. Therefore, I think that I can say that most frequently the ministerial team will go to Brussels without a Welsh Office Minister. That may not be the case so often with regard to agriculture. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will tell me how many times that happens, but I am pretty certain that it is a fact that they do not go very often.

Deals are done at those meetings; votes are taken; and the team has to decide whether or not to sign up to a package. Such deals are often done in the middle of the night. I must warn the Committee that in Brussels this hour would be considered quite early in the evening. There is seldom, if ever, any opportunity for elaborate consultation back home. Anybody one wishes to consult is fast asleep in bed back in Britain. Frequently, the real problem is that one has to judge the outcome against one's initial wish list. It is often a difficult balancing act to decide whether, if one continues negotiations, one will get any more and whether one has got the best deal possible, often judging the interests of one part of the country against another, with a little bit being given here and a little bit obtained there.

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I have no doubt that just occasionally over the years that this operation has gone on some Welsh Ministers have been less than satisfied with the outcome, but everyone in government had signed up to it. Ministers from MAFF and the Welsh Office backed the deal and usually said that it was an excellent outcome. I hear the same words from this Government as I remember that we used to use when we were in power. There must be a little dictionary giving the quotations used to explain, "This is the best possible deal in the best of all possible worlds". Ministers then stand shoulder to shoulder in defence of the deal.

As I understand the future, we are to have concordats which will mean that Welsh Ministers--Welsh "secretaries", as they are to be called--will have discussions with MAFF, no doubt preceded by discussions at official level. I have no doubt that most of the time agreed positions will be arrived at--but not always. Just occasionally there will be a difference on the policy or, more importantly, on the place of the policy objective in the order of priorities in the negotiations.

Who resolves those issues? Let us assume that the weight of MAFF carries the day. Is the Welsh assembly Minister bound by that decision? What about the MPs and the members of the Welsh assembly? I note that both can debate such matters, but will a Welsh MP be able to raise issues about agriculture, which is devolved, in the other place without Madam Speaker saying the equivalent of--not that she would ever be so common--"Nothing to do with us, guv"? Even if Madam Speaker allows the debate, will the MAFF Minister feel obliged to respond to a purely Welsh question or will he say, "Nothing to do with me, guv"?

Then there are the negotiations and the outcomes. The outcome will be decided by MAFF Ministers. A Welsh assembly official may be present. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, seeks that in his related amendment. The Welsh assembly official may complain, but the MAFF Minister could be forgiven for thinking, "So the Welsh won't be happy; see if I care. I don't have to answer for Welsh agriculture in the Commons. It is devolved. I don't have to go to Cardiff. The poor sod who answers in Cardiff will just have to like it or lump it"--and the poor sod who answers in Cardiff will have to do just that because if we are to believe the White Papers leading up to these Bills, the concordats will have bound him to a collective decision even if he had no real part to play in the last act in the drama in Brussels.

Noble Lords may be wondering about the Secretary of State for Wales, believing that because he is in the UK Government, he can influence decisions. I do not believe that he can because he has no responsibility for agriculture or fishing. The matter has been devolved, so even if he tries to intervene he does not have a locus standi.

I hope that I shall not be told that the Welsh assembly secretary may go to Brussels and negotiate in the Council of Ministers. I just do not believe that that can happen. No MAFF Minister will ever hand over the

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negotiating reins on behalf of the whole of the UK, in particular the large English agriculture interest, to someone with no responsibility for that interest who is not answerable to English MPs down the corridor. The Government Front Bench lives in Cloud-cuckoo-land if it holds that belief.

This amendment gives the Secretary of State a full role in those important matters. He consults and reports to the assembly but the details of the agreed position in the negotiations and the outcome are for him to discuss with his ministerial colleagues inside the same government. As he will have played a key part in the decision-making he will be answerable to Welsh MPs down the corridor and, through them, to the Welsh people. In addition, as subsection (2) makes clear, he will be responsible and answerable to the Welsh assembly.

Amendment No. 103B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, addresses much the same issues, although it widens the scope a little beyond the Council of Ministers. I shall be interested to hear the discussion on the Committee of the Regions. This is an important point. Up to now people who have been sent to the Committee of the Regions have come largely from local government. That is true in Scotland and Wales. Perhaps that is in part the reason for the noble Lord's amendment. One wonders what the Government believe will be the future there. Will people from the assembly go there while local government is cut out, or will it be a combination of the two? Looking at Amendment No. 103C, that appears to be what the noble Lord is after. He has my support in that objective.

I firmly believe that the Bill exposes Welsh agriculture and fishing to a situation in which those interests can very easily and quickly be sidelined unless they concur with the wider English interests represented by MAFF. Those noble Lords who have had dealings with MAFF will be aware that it is a very powerful Ministry, particularly its agricultural sector. It carries all the big cards in these negotiations irrespective of what government are in power. We cannot rely just on concordats to ensure that Welsh agriculture and fishing are properly looked after in critical negotiations on the CFP and CAP in Brussels. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, for introducing the European debate in what I understand to be the early afternoon in Brussels. Amendments Nos. 103B and 103C, the latter being a starred amendment which was a later thought on a similar theme, propose a way to ensure representation on ECOSOC and the Committee of the Regions based on a combination of representatives of the national assembly and local government and consultation arrangements between the Secretary of State and the assembly's secretary. I should like to hear from the Government how they foresee the consultation and nomination procedures. Although clearly the assembly will have the means of indirect election, I understand that the appointments will be a matter for member state governments. Therefore, the Government will have a

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view on the role of the Secretary of State in relation to nominations from the assembly and/or local government.

As the noble Lord has indicated, Amendment No. 103B has a wider remit. It deals with officials attending the Council of Ministers, representatives of ECOSOC and the Committee of the Regions and the scrutiny of assembly proposals by the assembly. We may return to the scrutiny issue at a later stage. Not this evening, but at another Brussels hour we will have the opportunity to debate the question of a European committee of the assembly.

On assembly representation in the EU, the National Advisory Group--I hesitate to criticise its reports because the distinguished noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, who sensibly is not with us at this late hour, is a member of that committee and no doubt is preparing for another meeting of that group--suggested that the first secretary should represent the assembly in EU matters. I should have thought that the first secretary would have plenty to do at home, answering the detailed questions of assembly members who are keen to find out what the executive committee is up to in its meetings.

There is a strong case--this brings me to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish--for example, for the agriculture, countryside and agri-environment secretary--whatever the title might be, because it might be the sustainable development secretary--of the assembly to be the regular European secretary who attends meetings of the Council of Ministers and other European meetings.

One could argue that other departments' secretaries, such as culture secretaries, might be able to perform a similar task. I believe that it is a task that the noble friend of the Lord, Lord Mackay, has performed at least once when the Welsh Office took the lead in a European Council meeting on the subject of minority languages. That is clear from the fourth report of the Welsh Affairs Committee of the other place 1994-95. I cannot believe that that person who was leading on minority languages could possibly have been other than the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy.

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