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Lord Geraint: Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord one question. Would it not be better for the people of Wales to have a Prime Minister, a Prif Weinidog? Can he explain why he is not in favour of that proposal?
Lord Roberts of Conwy: Simply because I do not want there to be any confusion. "Premier" is a totally different title from that of Prime Minister. The noble Lord will know that there could be some difficulty with the translation of both pieces of nomenclature. We translate "Prime Minister" as "Prif Weinidog". I suggest that we translate a "Premier" as a "Pen Weinidog". Therefore there is a difference in the terminology which I hope is found to be acceptable.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I doubt it. It is certainly not an abbreviation that occurs to me. He might be know as a "Pen", which means "chief", and is a possible abbreviation. However, I doubt that he would be known by any other title.
I believe that the Secretary of State for Wales has said that he will approve only standing orders which establish a Cabinet-style system, and that the assembly will not therefore have much choice in the matter--initially at any rate, until it is perhaps able to change standing orders with a two-thirds majority.
The change of titles that we propose might be helpful to the Secretary of State in establishing his Cabinet-style government. I do not intend to argue at any length as to why assembly Secretaries should be called Ministers, except to say simply that they replace Ministers in the United Kingdom Government. At present there are three Ministers in the Welsh Office: the Secretary of State and two Under-Secretaries of State. At least their functions are being transferred to the assembly, and I see no reason why at least their ministerial titles should not go along as well. They are currently called Secretaries of State of various kinds. But a ministerial title is commonly in use and commonly applies to different kinds of Ministers. Therefore I think that the ministerial title is more appropriate to cabinet government and the nomenclature proposed has a coherence and familiarity which should make it both understandable and acceptable to the majority of people.
There is no doubt that the changed, Cabinet-style government will affect the role of the subject committees. Our view is that they will be small enough to adopt the approach of a Select Committee rather than a Standing Committee, where set speeches are the order of the day. Most of us who have had experience of both kinds of committee would generally prefer the Select Committee as the more workmanlike and effective option. The main function of the assembly committees is to hold Ministers and others to account. Therefore, again, I think it will be agreed that the Select Committee mode of procedure is to be preferred.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: We are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, for raising the interesting issue of nomenclature, on which I am sure we shall not agree among ourselves in this Committee. Our view from these Benches is that it should be for the assembly to decide in due course what to call their Ministers. The assembly, the Welsh press and the Welsh people may well come up with different names for the person who holds that position. We have an official in the Westminster Parliament who is known officially as the First Lord of the Treasury. He is customarily called the Prime Minister, the press call him the PM and the people call him by a variety of names, depending upon who is the holder of the office at any particular time.
This is not a matter which we believe should be incorporated in primary legislation, fixed and immutable, as is proposed by the amendment. We hope that the Government will give an assurance that, whatever there may be in the Bill, the people of Wales and the members of the assembly will be able to call the chief executive or prime minister whatever they think is fitting and suitable. We would prefer a single Welsh name which would become identified with the holder of that office, just as the Taoiseach has become identified with the holder of the office of Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland. When the word "Taoiseach" is used, there is no need to describe which country he comes from. We would hope that a term such as that would become common usage, part of the accepted vocabulary throughout the United Kingdom, so that no more need be said on that topic.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I have not intervened before on this Bill, but I am listening to this discussion with great interest because I think it also relates to the Scotland Bill, which we shall be discussing shortly and in which I shall take particular interest.
I think that what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, said from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench is a mistake. There are many things which the Welsh assembly should be left to decide for itself, as should the Scots parliament. But anything which might lead people into misunderstanding the relationship of the Welsh assembly or the Scots parliament with the Westminster
I like the idea promulgated in the amendment. I think that the word "premier" could become very acceptable in both countries. It would mean that there would be no confusion between Westminster and the subsidiary parliaments. At the same time, it sounds a bit less un-British than "First Secretary", which is a rather strange concept to introduce into our constitution. The name should come naturally but should make a differentiation between the subsidiary parliaments and the Westminster Parliament. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment or at least look at it. It is very interesting and could make a big difference to the feel that there will be about these two parliaments among the peoples on behalf of whom they will operate.
Lord Elis-Thomas: I do not want to get into a linguistic argument in the Committee, but I think that I might. I understand the motivation behind these amendments, but I believe it will lead to a linguistic and political morass. Here I beg to differ--if that is permitted--with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. One tywysog in Wales is enough, and that person is a Member of this House, the Prince of Wales. Members of the Committee who are skilled in the Celtic languages will know that "taoiseach" is cognate with "tywysog", and that is the Prince, and therefore "tywysog" would not be an appropriate translation.
I have just taken a short leave of absence to check the Welsh Academy dictionary in the Library and I find that my former academic colleagues, Dr. Bruce Griffiths and Dr. Dafydd Glyn Jones, both translate "premier" as "prif weinidog". There is no mention of pen weinidog, pen bandit or any other pen in that dictionary. I am sorry, that is a bilingual joke. Pen bandit is the head bandit. I could go on. There is a public house not far from where I live occasionally in Caernarfon at Groeslon called Pen Nionyn, which could be roughly translated as "Onionhead". The possibilities are endless for the great Welsh public to construe a pen weinidog in all kinds of ways.
I should also like to speak against the notion, suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, that we should have names only in the Welsh language. I keep stressing this point, and it is becoming an obsession, as it was very early this morning. This is a bilingual institution. Everyone in Wales should have two names. Why should we have one when we can have two? I believe it is important that there should be a direct translation of each title, for each job, for each position, for each role, as there should be a clear, concise and direct translation between Welsh and English and English and Welsh of every other term that will be used in the work of the assembly.
That brings me to my final point, which relates to the structure of the committees. These are not select committees, neither are they subject committees. They are a combination of both and something else; they are a pwyllgor, a special kind of committee which will combine the roles of scrutiny, of legislating in certain aspects, of ensuring accountability, which we shall come to later in the Bill, as part of the duty laid upon secretaries to be accountable to the first secretary and to the assembly. I rejoice in these titles of ysgrifennydd and secretary as they stand in the Bill and strongly urge the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to resist any other linguistic arguments which may appear, from whatever quarter of the Chamber, to prevent us celebrating our bilingualism in "secretary/ysgrifennydd".
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