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Lord Hooson: It is an extraordinary proposition that one should embody in a Bill such as this a clause that would require that information be provided to the other place. The other place is a sovereign body. This is the devolution of powers to a Welsh assembly. The suggestion that the 40 elected Welsh MPs and the Secretary of State for Wales would not give the information to the other place is ludicrous.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I hesitate to intervene in something of a family discussion as an outsider, although one with a great deal of sympathy for the Principality and the new Welsh assembly. I would utter one word of caution, because we in Northern Ireland, until now, when the UK has started to break up, had what was called a separate Appropriation Fund debate, usually twice a year. Colleagues representing hard-pressed regions of England, such as the north-east and north-west, invariably inquired why the headage contribution for Northern Ireland schoolchildren, people in hospital and road expenditure was more than that for their region.

The Northern Ireland Members had to fight a rearguard action in which we said that it was not our fault that the housekeeping accounts were kept separately from those of Great Britain, whereas Northern Ireland had its own, wherein all was revealed. That might be an honest thing to do, but I issue one word of warning. It might bring down upon the heads of the Welsh representatives a degree of criticism from those areas of England which, as yet, do not have separate Secretaries of State.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 209A and 211A. Without amendment, the Bill provides that Supply will be dealt with by the other place; the other place can debate in extenso the amounts of money that will go to the Secretary of State for Wales in relation to the assembly. After Supply has been voted by the other place, the Secretary of State must then make deductions for the running of his own office and for the provision of the lord lieutenants of Wales.

The Secretary of State then provides the net balance to the assembly. In providing the net balance to the assembly, he must make the written statement required by the Bill. The statement will set out the amounts of money available to the assembly, including credit approvals. The statement will explain how those amounts have been calculated; the calculations will of course be based on the block and formula rules, including the Barnett formula which was debated earlier. That will provide a reassurance to assembly members that the grant made available to them has been calculated correctly.

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The statement will, for the first time, make publicly available details underlying the Welsh block grant, and goes well beyond the current Vote arrangements. Those are principally issues, after Supply has been voted, for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the assembly. When the assembly has prepared its expenditure plans, it is obliged to publish the written statement required by Clause 88.

As I understand them, the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, would provide that the Secretary of State would have to make his statement to the other place about the sums of money going to the Welsh assembly and, what is more, the Welsh assembly, before it tells itself what its expenditure proposals are, has to publish a statement to the other place, which, with the greatest of respect to the noble Lord, appears to involve a degree of not accepting devolution. Surely the Welsh assembly should publish to itself its expenditure programme rather than be forced to send it back to the House of Commons.

The noble Lord's amendment suggests that he does not accept the principle of devolution but presupposes that everything, including the most important element of the assembly, should be supervised by the House of Commons. That is not what devolution is about. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The noble and learned Lord introduces a red herring when he says that I want the House of Commons to supervise. If I had wished the House of Commons to supervise, I would have inserted the words "and approve". I did not insert those words but simply provided that the statement shall be laid before the House of Commons. If the order in Amendment No. 211A bothers the noble and learned Lord, I am happy to change it at the next stage of the Bill, to insert that,

    "A statement under this section shall be published by the Assembly and laid before the House of Commons".

I want the House of Commons to know what is happening to its money, rather than to approve or disapprove. The noble and learned Lord made it clear that supply would remain a matter for the House of Commons. Having accepted that, I do not see the problem with laying before the House of Commons the same statement that will be made to the Welsh assembly.

I was not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux of Killead, suggested that it was best to keep the matter so grey that no one can see through it, otherwise they will all start to complain. I can see some argument for that as regards the English regions. But we shall not get away with that. The noble and learned Lord could easily have argued that whether or not the statement is laid before the House of Commons, anyone who wants to know about it will find out. Unless the minutes of the Welsh assembly are to be secret--I do not believe that they will be--it will be easy for Members of another place to find out what has been laid before the assembly.

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I do not see the problem. I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. If the House of Commons raises the taxes, then it has a right to be at least informed of the expenditure.

Lord Hooson: If the noble Lord will give way, surely he is consistently confusing two issues. This is an act of devolution, not of abrogating the sovereignty of the House of Commons. The noble Lord has been a Member of another place, as I have. He knows that there would be no difficulty at any time in raising questions that would disclose all the information before the assembly.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not sure that there is much between the noble Lord and myself except that I wish the information to be placed publicly in the House of Commons and he sees no problem in the House of Commons devilling around and finding it out.

It is not a question of second guessing, as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, suggested. It is simply informing the House of Commons where the totality of money is and how the Welsh assembly proposes in the headlines of its statement to spend it.

We shall come to this issue. I find it impossible to believe that the same person can be the Secretary of State for Wales in one government, with Cabinet responsibility, and the first secretary of another entirely separate government. I believe that that is a constitutional impossibility. However, at present it is a red herring that the noble Lord introduced. No doubt we shall discuss it later.

Lord Elis-Thomas: The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, introduced it. It is becoming an obsession with him.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not sure that it has become an obsession with my noble friend, but it is a matter to which we shall have to return. I cannot see how such a system can work. If it works--I hate to say it--it suggests to me that the Secretary of State from Whitehall will run this devolved assembly. That is total contradiction of devolution. My little amendments are as nothing compared with the suggestion that the Secretary of State for Wales should run the assembly. It does not bear thinking about. If noble Lords want devolution, that is not the way to go about it.

The issue is complicated and difficult. Not only shall I study what the noble and learned Lord said, although I heard it clearly enough, I shall consider again in particular Clause 83(3). It refers to the total amount which the Secretary of State proposes to expend in that year out of the money provided by Parliament. The provision is vague as to whether the proposal is in global terms or in detail.

I shall return to the matter. I take on board some of the points made. I am reassured that the House of Commons will be able to discuss how its money is being spent. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 83 agreed to.

Clause 84 [Loans to Assembly by Secretary of State]:

6.45 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 210:

Page 42, line 26, after ("greater") insert ("or lesser").

The noble Earl said: Unfortunately, from time to time circumstances can change quite dramatically. In the course of this century we have had to go through two terrible wars to preserve our democracy; and in the 1930s we had the worst depression ever. My idea is to create some flexibility for the Secretary of State by allowing him to provide a greater or lesser amount of money. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Amendment No. 210 seeks to allow the Secretary of State, with the consent of the Treasury, to raise or lower the total amount of loans he might make available to the assembly from the National Loans Fund.

It may be helpful if I explain the purpose of Clause 84. The clause enables the Secretary of State to advance temporary loans from the National Loans Fund to the assembly. The Treasury will set the terms of the loans, including the repayment dates and interest rates. This power is necessary to meet such possibilities as a natural disaster in Wales, which requires the assembly suddenly to incur more expenditure than it had planned.

The option of issuing a temporary loan to the assembly gives the necessary flexibility to meet circumstances such as these where the assembly's outgoings are greater than its income. But I stress to the Committee that the decision on whether to advance a loan would rest with my right honourable friend and the Treasury, not the assembly. The upper limit of £500 million was decided by the Government, and also applies in the Scotland Bill. I stress that it is an upper limit, and a lower amount could be advanced in a particular case if the circumstances demanded.

The value of money rarely, if ever, goes down and I do not believe that it would be appropriate to lower the £500 million limit set down in Clause 84, which would be the effect of the noble Earl's amendment.

I hope that that reassures the noble Earl, and I therefore invite him to withdraw his amendment.

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