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Lord Beloff: Without going into the linguistic intricacies of a language that I do not know, I would point out that there is some danger in the use of the word "premier", in the sense that the analogies which have been called to our attention with Canadian provinces or Australian states refer to the chief executive in bodies which have a legislative capacity. Those are bodies which pass primary legislation. As I understand it, the Welsh assembly is not a body of that kind. If a chief executive were to be called "premier", it might cause confusion even beyond the confusion that already exists.

Lord Prys-Davies: I suggest that we should not pretend that we can change the character of an institution by changing nomenclature.

It seems rather ironic to me that, while the official Opposition have been keen to weaken, fetter or restrict the powers of the assembly, they are keen this afternoon to use terminology which seems to have a higher order of significance than what is used in the Bill. But why stop at "Minister"? Why not "Prime Minister"? Why not "Speaker"? Or indeed why not "Officer" or "Governor" to represent the ceremonial aspects of the Crown in Wales?

The National Assembly of Wales will be a completely new institution. It is described in the White Paper as being a "unique" institution; a "forum" for the Welsh nation. I suggest that we should have the self-confidence of hunan-barch, to use the terms which are new and

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which are appropriate to the new institution. I hope that the Government will think long and hard before they accept these beguiling amendments.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I hesitate to rise, particularly since I have a marginal difference of opinion with my noble friend sitting in front of me. As a mere Englishman I find it passing strange that we should wish to adopt a French word for the English title of a Welsh office.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: First, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, on his perfect pronunciation of Y Pen Weinidog. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said that the possibilities are endless. I thought that myself at one o'clock this morning! Certainly the debate was endless, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, points out.

I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, did not profess a knowledge of the Welsh language because I had always thought he came from a very old Welsh family--the ap Beloffs. Plainly I was wrong.

Various titles have been offered. When the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, offered "trefnydd", I thought that might be disagreeably translated as "dictator", but he would not have that. It is suggested that "First Minister" is too redolent of our dear former friends in the Kremlin. Floating into my mind--I felt I should not say it--was "Lord Protector". Now that I have said it, perhaps the Secretary of State will want to be Lord Protector.

One must pause to wonder about the importance of specific titles. In Clause 57 of the Bill we have said that there shall be a first secretary to chair the assembly and assembly secretaries. We set out in Clause 58 subject committees which, as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, points out, are not to be subject select committees. When it comes to an "assembly cabinet", we have left it to the assembly, by standing orders, to come to its own conclusion about nomenclature.

"Premier" is a foreign word. If I remember rightly, it came into popular being in this country after the last war when Mr. Churchill--later Sir Winston--commonly referred to himself as that and was popularly referred to as that. But there is not to be a premier or prime minister in the constitutional arrangements proposed for Wales. I believe the noble Baroness is right in saying that one wants to avoid titles which may bring about confusion.

We feel that the titles we have proposed in the Bill and the latitude that we rightly offered to the assembly by virtue of standing orders strike about the right balance. I endorse what my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies said. If the assembly wishes to develop an "assembly cabinet" system, we hope that it will work. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, again very generously, said that we listened to the arguments, which we thought powerful, put forward by the noble Lord and his colleagues and allowed the assembly to go its own way.

If the assembly wants to alter the name of the cabinet or the system, it will be able to do so on the basis that a two-thirds majority of the members voting on the

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motion to support the amendments will be required. We believe that we have the right balance--which will never be perfect--between stability of arrangements and a degree of decent flexibility to respond to new circumstances in a creature which, after all, has never existed, nor anything like it, in the constitutional arrangements of our country.

This amendment is grouped with a large number of other amendments, but the principle is the same and I do not propose to pre-reply to what may be said in every case. We want the arrangements to work. We have new titles for new arrangements. It would be misleading. It is true that one can do a panoramic sweep of provincial legislatures, state legislatures and national legislatures throughout the world and pluck titles from Canada, New Zealand, Scandinavia or from the Lander in Germany. I am not sure that that is anything other than an added exercise.

I respectfully suggest to the Committee that we have the balance about right. If that is so, it may be helpful to move on to matters of rather more substance and worth, recognising, as I do, that the possibilities, alas, are endless.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and for the great variety of comments that we had from different parts of the Chamber. One thing is clear. There are titles in the Bill. We cannot simply leave it to the assembly because those titles are already in the Bill. It may be that the assembly will wish to change them in due course and then it will express its views.

Our main aim in bringing forward these amendments was to follow through the Government's conversion to the Cabinet-style system. It seemed to us appropriate that, following that conversion, we should resort to Cabinet-style titling so that no one would be unfamiliar with the members of the cabinet executive.

The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, made a point which occurred to me; that is, that the difference between the assembly and Canadian or Australian counterparts is that for the most part those are legislative assemblies whereas the Welsh assembly is simply a body with secondary legislative powers.

I was not intending to beguile the Committee in any way by introducing the amendments. With all due respect, our debate has been valuable in that it has cleared the air and shown that there is a degree of satisfaction with the current titles employed in the Bill. I was not aware of that until now. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Chairman of Committees: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy. Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 115 to 119 not moved.]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 119A:

Page 28, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) The Assembly First Secretary, and each of the Assembly Secretaries, is a Crown servant for the purposes of the Official Secrets Act 1989.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 119A is grouped with Amendment No. 254A. Amendment No. 119A adds a new subsection to Clause 54, making it plain that members of the executive committee should be regarded as Crown servants for the purpose of the Official Secrets Act 1989. If the Committee was prepared to accept that amendment, then in due time I would invite the Committee to conclude that Clause 81 should not stand part of the Bill.

In moving the amendment I speak also to Amendment No. 254A, which includes within the definition of "government contractor", for the purposes of the 1989 Act, someone who provides goods and services to the assembly. There has been a good deal of debate, in another place and publicly, about how the Official Secrets Act ought to relate to the work of the assembly. We undertook to give further consideration to what were serious issues. Amendment No. 119A comes as the child of that further consideration.

We thought originally that all members of the assembly, as we see in what is presently Clause 81, ought to be covered by the Official Secrets Act 1989. The underlying reason for that was that there will be a transfer of ministerial functions from the Secretary of State to the assembly, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, rightly said. The Secretary of State is presently covered by the 1989 Act and we thought at that stage that so too should members of the assembly.

We have listened carefully to the arguments which were deployed at some persuasive length in another place. It was a valid point that if we adhered to our first position there might have been constraints on debate in the assembly in a way which was wrong. Some members of the assembly need to be covered by the Act, otherwise civil servants lawfully in possession of protected information would be able to make it available to assembly members only by imposing explicit conditions of confidentiality. That would not chime in with the relationship between civil servants and leading political figures.

Having thought about it, we consider the original proposal went too far; it was too draconian. The criticisms made by various public figures and in another place were properly based criticisms. This amendment is brought forward to strike a better balance between the proper maintenance of respectable confidentiality and free debate in the assembly.

We are assisted in this work by virtue of the shift that we have come to towards a Cabinet or quasi-Cabinet system, which I mentioned yesterday and which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, today. We are adjusting the applicability of the Official Secrets Act to those in the assembly who will exercise what I crudely call the Front Bench functions. If the Committee accepts this amendment it will improve the Bill.

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The nature of the devolved functions and the categories of information protected by the Act of 1989--security, intelligence, defence, international relations, crime, special investigation powers--means in practice that very few official secrets issues are likely to arise in the working context of the assembly. We believe that leading members of the assembly should be covered by the Act to permit a proper flow of information between civil servants and those with executive responsibilities.

Amendment No. 254A is perhaps of lesser importance. The effect of the amendment would be simple. Under the 1989 Act government contractors are placed under obligations analogous with those of Crown servants; that is, that they must not make unauthorised disclosure of information in protected categories. The definition of "government contractor" is broadly someone who supplies goods and services for the purpose of a Minister. Amendment No. 254A places contractors who provide goods and services to the assembly in the same position as those providing goods and services to a Minister; that is, protected information may not be revealed. I hope that explanation commends itself to the Committee.

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