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Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 254:


Page 99, line 20, at end insert--

("The Finance Act 1987 (c. 16)

. In section 55(1) of the Finance Act 1987 (Crown exemption from stamp duty), after "Her Majesty's Treasury," insert "or to the National Assembly for Wales,".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

15 Jun 1998 : Column 1353

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 254A:


Page 99, line 38, at end insert--
("The Official Secrets Act 1989 (c. 6)
. In section 12(2) of the Official Secrets Act 1989 (which defines a "government contractor" as including a person who provides goods or services for the purposes of a Minister), before "or" at the end of paragraph (a) insert--
"(aa) for the purposes of the National Assembly for Wales;".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 255:


Page 99, line 38, at end insert--
("The Finance Act 1989 (c.26)
.--(1) Section 182 of the Finance Act 1989 (restrictions on disclosure of information about taxpayers) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (4)(a) (offence for Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and others to disclose information about taxpayers), after sub-paragraph (ii) insert--
"(iii) of the Auditor General for Wales and any member of his staff, or
(iv) of the Welsh Administration Ombudsman and any member of his staff,".
(3) In subsection (6) (authorised disclosures), in the words after paragraph (e), for "or the Parliamentary Commissioner," substitute ", the Parliamentary Commissioner, the Auditor General for Wales or the Welsh Administration Ombudsman,".

The Social Security Administration Act 1992 (c.5)

. In section 123(8) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (auditors and investigators of complaints who may not disclose social security information)--
(a) after paragraph (b) insert--
"(ba) the Auditor General for Wales and any member of his staff;", and.
(b) after paragraph (hc) insert--
"(hd) the Welsh Administration Ombudsman and any member of his staff;".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 256:


Page 99, line 38, at end insert--

("The Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 (c.53)

. In section 16(1) of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 (interpretation), in the definition of "Minister", after "includes" insert "the National Assembly for Wales and".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 257 to 259:


Page 100, leave out lines 3 to 28.
Page 100, line 28, at end insert--

("The Value Added Tax Act 1994 (c.23)

. In section 41(6) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 (meaning of government department), before "a Northern Ireland department," insert ", the National Assembly for Wales,".").

15 Jun 1998 : Column 1354


Page 100, line 28, at end insert--

("The Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 (c.40)


. In section 79(1) of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 (interpretation of Part II), in the definition of "office-holder"--
(a) after "officer of either House of Parliament," insert "the Auditor General for Wales," and
(b) after "the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration" insert ", the Welsh Administration Ombudsman".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 127 [Extension of functions]:

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 259A:


Page 62, line 29, at end insert--
("( ) for "may" substitute "shall",").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this group of amendments is to strengthen the commitment of the Welsh Development Agency to sustainable development. No doubt the Government will argue that in view of our earlier debates these particular amendments are redundant. However, I wish to emphasise that the wording of my Amendment No. 259B is,


    "to promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in the full range of its activities"

which relate to the WDA. It is drawn from the constitution and mission statement of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Because it is part of that bank's activities, I am certain that it should be similarly acceptable to the WDA. I now see that in the objectives and principles of the enlarged WDA, which the chairman, David Rowe-Beddowe, so kindly sent us, it is now committed to deliver a more strategic approach to sustainable development. Therefore, I suggest to the Government that my amendments are not only acceptable, but they would enhance the WDA in pursuing these objectives. I beg to move.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: We have not as yet had the opportunity to discuss the new Welsh Development Agency. The amendments that have just been spoken to would seem to be offering as good an opportunity as we are likely to get either with the next set of amendments or on clause stand part.

We are grateful for the assurance that we have had from the chairman of the existing Welsh Development Agency that sustainable development is close to its heart. As he is also the chairman of the Development Board for Rural Wales, I am sure that the commitment extends to that board also. The new development agency, with its all-Wales brief, was in a sense anticipated when the chairman of the WDA was asked to take over the chairmanship of the Development Board for Rural Wales and to bring the two bodies closer together. That he has done and I believe that Wales owes a debt of gratitude to the chairman, Mr. David Rowe-Beddowe, not just for this achievement but for other improvements that he has brought to the successful working of these two organisations in all the spheres in which they are involved.

15 Jun 1998 : Column 1355

There is no doubt that mid-Wales, which was the area primarily covered by the Development Board for Rural Wales, had very special problems and suffered from the constant haemorrhage of de-population for many years. That was as attributable to social conditions as to economic conditions. That is why the Development Board for Rural Wales had a social as well as an economic remit which turned out to be useful to the Government in Wales as a whole. Therefore, I welcome the fact that the Bill adds social development to the new WDA's remit. It is part of its inheritance from the Development Board for Rural Wales which is to be merged with the new body. Many will regret the passing of the Development Board for Rural Wales. It has served mid-Wales well. Unemployment rates remained comparatively low in mid-Wales towns at times of recession when they were high elsewhere.

The Welsh Development Agency has always had a rural remit outside the area of the Development Board for Rural Wales and the industrial areas of south and north-east Wales. It actively pursued improvement schemes of benefit to tourist areas and the general environment. But that work was inevitably overshadowed in the public mind by the agency's success in attracting inward investment and by its massive effort in the land reclamation field. At one stage it had the largest reclamation programme of its kind in Europe. That work is now drawing to an end and it makes sense to combine the land authority for Wales with the WDA because both have similar and complementary expertise in restoring land to commercial use.

There is another change in this Bill to the remit of the WDA and that is the change of function from promoting industrial efficiency to promoting efficiency in business. I am sure that there is more to the change than meets the eye. I shall be grateful if the Minister can spell that out in his reply. Does it mean that the agency is not confined to assisting industrial and manufacturing businesses and, if so, is it anticipated that there might be a matching change in industrial development grants--in other words, that the scope for such grants might be widened?

Incidentally, what is to happen to the industry department of the Welsh Office which managed the award of grants? I note that the amendment also refers to exports from Wales and proposes that the new agency should take part in their promotion. In fact, there is a special department or section of the Welsh Office which already promotes exports by small and medium-sized companies.

The new agency will be very large indeed, not only in size but in its scope. I am sure that that will create problems. The agency has already divided itself on a regional and functional basis and it appears to be ready to manage its new tasks.

However, one is bound to utter a word or two of warning. I doubt whether in future we can expect the same strong flow of inward investment as we have experienced in the past--and for a variety of reasons: Far Eastern sources of investment are not as buoyant as

15 Jun 1998 : Column 1356

they were and other markets are opening up, notably in Eastern Europe, which may tempt manufacturing investors to establish themselves there rather than here. Of course, one would like to see more inward investors going to the west of Wales, but ultimately the decision is theirs. Proximity to the strategic road network and an ample supply of appropriate labour are important to such investors. The western-most parts of Wales are not always well endowed in those respects.

As the amendments under discussion, and others, indicate, there will be many demands placed upon the new Welsh Development Agency, and high expectations of it. However, we must never forget that its main function is to further the development of the Welsh economy and to promote business so that our people have work and can prosper. There must not be too many distractions from those key tasks. I am sure that we are right to emphasise that, especially as we face an enormous problem in the agricultural industry, upon which rural life is so dependent. Who knows, we may well face problems in the industrial areas also in the not-too-distant future. Therefore, I say once again that the development agency must concentrate on its main task, which is the economic development of Wales.


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