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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 269A and 269B:

Page 139, leave out lines 18 and 19.
Page 141, line 39, column 3, leave out ("91,").

The noble Lord said: Again, these are simple technical amendments. They are necessary because the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill, which is currently proceeding through Parliament, will repeal the Land Commission Act and the provisions in the Housing Act 1988. Therefore, there is no need for those references to appear in Schedule 15.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule, 15, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 153 agreed to.

Clause 154 [Orders and directions]:

[Amendment No. 270 not moved.]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 270A, 270B and 271:

Page 74, line 30, after ("147(1)") insert (", (Environment Agency)(1)").
Page 74, line 43, after ("147(1),") insert ("(Environment Agency)(1),").
Page 74, line 43, leave out ("or paragraph 1 of Schedule 6") and insert (", paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 or paragraph 16(9) of Schedule (Welsh Administration Ombudsman)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 154, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 155 [Interpretation]:

[Amendment No. 271A not moved.]

Clause 155 agreed to.

Clause 156 [Defined expressions]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 271B to 271E:

Page 76, line 7, column 1, leave out ("area") and insert ("body").
Page 76, line 7, leave out column 2 and insert ("paragraph 3(2) of Schedule (Transfer etc. of functions: further provisions)").
Page 76, line 12, at end insert--
("English border areaparagraph 3(2) of Schedule (Transfer etc. of functions: further provisions)")

Page 76, line 26, at end insert--
("relevant Parliamentary procedural provisionsection 45(3)")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 272:

Page 76, line 31, at end insert--
("Welsh Administration Ombudsman section (Welsh Administration Ombudsman)")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 156, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

In the Title

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 273:

Line 2, leave out ("office of Auditor General for Wales") and insert ("offices of Auditor General for Wales and Welsh Administration Ombudsman").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

15 Jun 1998 : Column 1376

National Minimum Wage Bill

6.44 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Clinton-Davis.)

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, before we move to a resolution on that Motion, there is an important matter which I feel I must raise at this time. It is a matter that I have raised in the past, and especially on the first day of Committee on the Bill. As the Minister will appreciate, we have repeatedly raised the issue of the publication of the report by the Low Pay Commission and the Government's reaction to it. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Miller mentioned it on Second Reading. When he responded to these matters on the first Committee day last Thursday, the Minister indicated (at col. 1199 of Hansard) that the Low Pay Commission would make a report of its findings. We sought to explain to him why we regarded it as important that we at least saw the report, preferably before the end of our time for consideration of the Bill, and also had sight of the Government's reaction to it.

The Minister (at col. 1203 of Hansard), rebuked me for having relied upon a report in the Daily Telegraph last Thursday, and for relying on "titbits of information" based on speculation. That was because there had been a report that Mr. John Monks of the TUC was writing to the Government offering his detailed views on the report. There are repeated references to the report and why we considered it desirable to have sight of it. The noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General wondered why we were so concerned to see the report. Again, it was repeated that there was no need for this and that we would be seeing it in due course.

However, early yesterday morning Mr. John Edmonds, who I understand is the General Secretary of the GMB, appeared on GMTV. During the course of an interview in that programme he indicated that not only did he have before him in the studio an executive summary of the report from the Low Pay Commission but also that he had a full copy of it. Clearly he had had it for some time. He indicated that it was large, dense and extensive but that he had, nevertheless, read it in its entirety.

The matter which is of real concern to us is the fact that it would now appear that there is direct evidence to show that senior members of the trade union movement have been given access to the report before Parliament has had any opportunity to consider it. We certainly have not seen the report, despite repeated requests in that respect. I do not blame the Minister personally for this, but he indicated that we would see the report before the end of last month. We are now halfway through June and we have not seen it; but others clearly have and they are not parliamentarians.

It seems to us to be yet another example of this Government's arrogance, their contempt for Parliament and their partiality. We continue to regard it as

15 Jun 1998 : Column 1377

extremely important that we see the report and, indeed, the Government's reaction to it before we complete consideration of this Bill. I hope that the Minister will not fob me off with some excuse that this must have been a leak. The demeanour of Mr. Edmonds on television and the way that he approached the matter made it perfectly clear that he was not a man in possession of a document which he believed he should not have. Indeed, he was quite open about having considered the report. He offered his detailed comments on it and, as I said, indicated that he had read it in its entirety.

Before we are prepared to make further progress on this Bill, we want to know when we will see this report. We really must see it. It is a matter of considerable concern to us that others should already have seen the report. The fact that Mr. John Monks was in a position to offer detailed comments to the Government on it, as revealed in the Daily Telegraph last Thursday, would indicate that he had seen it and that he had had knowledge of it for some time. Moreover, Mr. John Edmonds quite openly said on television yesterday morning that he had seen it.

Will the Minister tell us whether the report was issued to these senior trade unionists with the approval of the President of the Board of Trade, or with the approval of the Minister of State who has responsibility for the Bill in the Department of Trade and Industry? Who else has been privileged to see this report before anyone in either of the two Houses of Parliament has been permitted to see it? This is becoming an intolerable state of affairs.

A similar thing happened to my noble friend Lady Blatch with regard to the education Bill currently before the House. My noble friend discovered that a large number of reports and papers had been passed to other people, but she is still unable to obtain those publications. We must insist that we see this report immediately. We must also insist that it is disclosed to us who has seen this report and on what basis. What possible justification is there at a time when there is legislation going through Parliament for that report not to be made available to those who need to see it to enable them to consider the Bill? I hope that the Minister will give us a full and open response. We shall certainly not be fobbed off with the notion that this was in some way a simple leak. If the Minister had seen the television programme yesterday, he would know perfectly well that that is not the case. I hope he can offer me the answers that I seek.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving notice that this point would be raised. That is acting within the courtesies of the House. I can say little about Mr. Edmonds. First, I did not see GMTV. I do not think I have ever watched GMTV. Perhaps I should have done so on this occasion. It is said--it is an allegation that I neither corroborate nor refute--that Mr. Edmonds had a report of the executive summary and indeed a full copy of the report. All I can say is that the report has not been published. That, of course, is a matter for Ministers. No one has authorised the disclosure of the report to Mr. Edmonds, as far as I know.

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The noble and learned Lord asked who has seen the report. Relevant Ministers have, of course, seen it. As I said, we have not agreed the disclosure of the report to anyone outside, or indeed at this stage, within Parliament. The noble and learned Lord said that this is an act of partiality. He draws an inference therefore that we have given the report to Mr. Edmonds. That is not true. The noble and learned Lord referred to the demeanour of Mr. Edmonds. I know nothing about his demeanour because I did not see the programme. All I can say is that if Mr. Edmonds has received a copy of the report which was not authorised, I believe he would have been ill advised to have said so. But there we are.

The noble and learned Lord asked about the date of publication of the report. I can give him no additional information beyond that which I advised the House of on the previous occasion we met. The report will be published at the earliest opportunity. As regards whether Mr. Monks has seen the report, my remarks apropos Mr. Edmonds and others apply equally in that regard. We have not been partial and we have not disclosed the report officially or authoritatively to anyone. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will accept my bona fides in that regard. I would not make a statement to the House which attempted to mislead the House in any sense. The noble and learned Lord knows that. That is all I can say about the matter at this stage. I am perturbed that Mr. Edmonds appears--if the noble and learned Lord is right--to have received the report. I can go no further than that.

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