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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I would not have spoken on this matter but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, makes a telling point which I cannot resist following up; that is, that the assembly will need the assent of a controlled majority of two-thirds before it changes standing orders. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, rightly pointed out, that is in great contrast to the Government's total inability to accept even the concept that there may be some qualified majority in the referendums we have had. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, does the Chamber a great service in bringing to our attention the need for vigilance as regards the majorities required for implementing great change.

The Bill before us was approved by the Welsh people on a narrow majority on a low poll. However, it was a huge poll in comparison with what happened subsequently in London. This Chamber and those in the other place will have to turn our attention to the whole question of majorities and turnouts in referendums. The noble and learned Lord has done us a service by pointing out that as regards the assembly we are discussing the Government accept the need for a qualified majority to change standing orders. I look forward to hearing the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn.

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Lord Thomas of Gresford: Before the noble Lord sits down, is he aware that more people voted in the Welsh referendum than in the Northern Ireland referendum recently?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The noble Lord makes my point for me as regards the need for qualified majorities and turnouts.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, commended the Government in respect of subsection (2). I am glad to join in that commendation. In respect of his further point, it is worth pondering. He said that subsection (3) comprises a useless, computer generated nonsense. I take his point about the two-thirds majority. However, circumstances differ. At the moment I cannot remember how many persons voted in the election for the present Leader of the Opposition.

Clause 47 agreed to.

Clause 48 [Equal treatment of English and Welsh languages]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 112A:

Page 26, line 36, leave out ("of the Assembly").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 112A and 247B are drafting amendments designed to secure consistency of language throughout the Bill in the references to the assembly's standing orders. At one part they are described as,

    "standing orders of the assembly",

and elsewhere simply as "standing orders". We seek consistency. I am sure the Committee will endorse and applaud that. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 49 to 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [The Commissioners]:

[Amendment No. 113 not moved.]

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Presiding officer and deputy]:

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 28, line 5, at end insert--("( ) The presiding officer and deputy presiding officer shall have a duty to provide members of the Assembly with such information as they may from time to time require in accordance with standing orders.").

The noble Lord said: In the early hours of this morning we debated the whole issue of how assembly information is to be made available to all its members. The amendment seeks to lay a duty on the presiding officer and deputy presiding officer to provide information. I tabled the amendment because of the concern expressed in our earlier debates that there should not be a division between the newly created Cabinet, which we shall discuss later--the executive,

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the government of Wales as set out in the Bill--and the other members of the assembly. My strongly held view may not be echoed by all Members of this Chamber or the other place, but I believe that we should not replicate the worst habits of Westminster in Cardiff Bay. We should adopt some of the better practices of this Chamber in terms of scrutiny in debate, but we should not adopt some of the practices of secrecy and lack of information and the frustration that is generated among Members not so much in this Chamber but certainly in another place who try to raise issues and obtain information but have difficulty in doing so.

The amendment to Clause 53 would lay a duty upon the presiding officer and deputy presiding officer to make relevant information available. Such a duty would be related to the standing orders. The standing orders would act as a guarantee that members would be able to participate actively in debate and in the flow of information. I beg to move.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: The noble Lord is quite right in his recollection of what occurred rather earlier this morning. This amendment is similar to the ones I moved on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, although it lays greater stress on the objective of providing information for members of the assembly. Even so, it is clear that a division of staff will inevitably be required. We made that point earlier today.

The amendment lays the duty of the provision of information on the presiding officer, whereas our amendments proposed that the division should occur along staffing lines and that it should be decided by the permanent secretary of staff. Some staff would owe their first loyalty to the executive whereas other staff would owe their first loyalty to the assembly and its members. But we come back to the basic point that some division of staff is necessary. I agree with the thrust of the noble Lord's amendment; namely, that there must be a duty defined in standing orders to ensure that assemblymen are provided with a proper flow of information.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Like the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, I am in agreement with the thrust of what has been said. We are not entirely clear as to what the drafting of this amendment is intended to achieve. I understand perfectly the point of substance behind the amendment. I take it to be the concern that all members of the assembly, not just members of the executive committee, should have proper support to enable them to do their work properly--and by definition, they need ready and efficient access to information. Noble Lords may have noted that the advisory group attaches a good deal of importance to that question in paragraphs 5.6 to 5.13 of its consultation paper. It refers in particular to effective central library facilities, information gained through use of information technology, and members' own support staff where appropriate.

There is a particular view in the consultation paper that

    "there should be regular factual briefings by senior officials of the assembly conducted under agreed arrangements".

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I believe that takes up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. If that suggestion comes forward as a recommendation, I do not believe that the Secretary of State will have any difficulty with it. We want an inclusive assembly, with everyone prepared to make a positive contribution--that is, on the basis of a full understanding and full information. Therefore, the provision of information and other means of support for members is being carefully considered now. I hope that the noble Lord finds that a sufficient response for his present purpose. As I said, the amendment is not perfect; however, the noble Lord's point is a very sound one.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for pointing out my imperfections but also my spiritual intentions. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 [Assembly First Secretary and Assembly Secretaries]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): In calling Amendment No. 114A, I should point out to the Committee that, if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 115.

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 114A:

Page 28, line 7, leave out from ("Assembly") to end of line and insert ("Premier or Y Pen Weinidog.").

The noble Lord said: The amendments in this series all hang together. They are designed to convert the executive into a Cabinet, with a premier at its head instead of a First Secretary; to change Secretaries into Ministers; and to convert the subject committees into Select Committees. On the face of it, those are all titular changes; however, I believe that they also carry further the change of style implicit in the change from local authority to Cabinet-style government. We pressed for that change, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, acknowledged more than once, in order to ensure decisive, effective and accountable government, which would not have emerged from an all-party subject committee system as originally proposed.

The Government have accepted the validity of that argument in Wales, as they appear to have done in Scotland from the start. I am sure they are right to have done so. I say that with some 15 years' experience behind me as a Minister in the Welsh Office. We are appreciative of the change that the Government have made.

Our first amendment, Amendment No. 114A, concerning the First Secretary, proposes that he be called "Premier" or, in Welsh, "Pen Weinidog". As Welsh speakers in the Chamber will readily acknowledge, that differentiates him or her from a Prif Weinidog, which is the title reserved for the Prime Minister. The title "Premier" is currently in use in the Canadian provincial legislatures and also in the Australian provincial legislatures. It therefore seems to us reasonable that it should be the title in use in the assembly. I hope that that proves generally acceptable to the Government, as I am sure it will to Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers alike.

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The Government, having accepted the change of style to a Cabinet system, cannot well argue that should not be recognised in a change of title for the executive--except that the ultimate decision is for the assembly itself. Unlike the Scotland Bill, which transfers power to the executive, this Bill transfers power to the assembly. So I recognise the difficulty that the Government face. I believe that the Secretary of State ought to have said--

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