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Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his comments on these amendments. We realise that Clause 22 is pivotal in this Bill and that a mechanism has to be provided for transferring those functions which are currently exercised by the Secretary of State. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the point at which the transfers cease, so that Parliament can take a look at the situation and consider matters further. But we have been over this ground before and are familiar with this territory. I am satisfied with the Minister's reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 31 to 33 not moved.]

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Schedule 2 [Fields in which functions are to be transferred by first Order in Council]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 82, line 18, after ("Agriculture") insert ("(except functions relating to the Common Agricultural Policy)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 return us to the difficult question of the relationship between the assembly, the Government in Westminster and the European Union. Of all the subjects laid out in Schedule 2, agriculture and fisheries are the ones that concern me most when it comes to the devolved position. If we had not been members of the European Union, if we had not had a common agriculture and a common fisheries policy, then I would not have these anxieties. However, we have those policies and therefore I have those anxieties.

At Committee stage I explained the current situation; how agriculture and fisheries Ministers--I shall make the argument for agriculture to save me doubling up on terms each time, though the same argument applies to fishing--the MAFF Minister, the Welsh, the Northern Irish and the Scottish Ministers (or their officials) discuss between the departments the various issues that will arise at Council meetings. Often agreement can be reached between officials as to the British position of what the so-called "wish list" might be, with Ministers being copied the papers.

Occasionally, and perhaps more often than not, Ministers themselves meet fairly informally and make the final decisions and agreements. Then, rarely but it happens, Cabinet sub-committees are convened in order to resolve any major differences that arise between MAFF and what are called the territorial departments. The MAFF team then goes to Brussels and, currently, Ministers from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland can be part of the delegations because they are Ministers of the United Kingdom Government.

As I explained to your Lordships on a number of occasions, when I was the fisheries Minister at the Scottish Office I went to Brussels and on at least one occasion I can recall that I led for the United Kingdom on United Kingdom matters, not just on Scottish matters. I underline that point because I felt it was being missed in Committee by Government Ministers: that is, that I was there as a member of the United Kingdom Government, not as a member of any other government.

The situation will be different once devolution takes place. I fully accept that officials of the Welsh assembly involved in agriculture will be able to have discussions with their colleagues in MAFF to agree positions. I fully accept also that the agriculture secretary--I imagine that there will be one--will have discussions with his opposite numbers in MAFF and, because they will all be reasonable men and women of good will, they will probably be able to come to an agreed position. Sometimes it may be difficult to come to such an agreed position. I believe I am right in thinking that, if they cannot come to an agreed position, the position of MAFF will prevail. The Welsh agriculture secretary will

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have to agree with the MAFF position and in any debates in the Welsh assembly he will have to toe the line as agreed by the MAFF team.

The MAFF team then goes to Brussels. Very often issues are decided in the night on the basis of compromises--one gives a little and one takes a little. The wish list is not always ticked off. Though the last government, like this one, always managed to come back with great triumphs, the truth was that more often than not we had not obtained everything on which we set out minds. We had to make compromises; and that is part of the whole point of being members of the European Union--everyone has to make compromises to obtain agreement. They cannot leave without agreement because people depend on the decisions made under the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. Unlike almost every other policy, those policies are absolutely vital to the two industries.

While the Welsh agriculture secretary may be allowed to go to Brussels and may--I say "may" because I am not entirely sure about this--be able to get into the outer rooms and the room of the British delegation, and may be able to take part in the discussions during the night, the one place where he will not be able to go is to the table representing the United Kingdom. He will not be able to represent the United Kingdom; and I doubt that he will be able to represent issues which are wider than Wales but involve the whole of the United Kingdom.

At the end of all that, currently the agricultural Minister reports to Parliament and answers questions from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England. I should like to know (because it will help me to think through how all this will work) whether, in the new system, when the MAFF Minister comes back from a Council meeting--let us assume that the Council meeting is important enough for him to make a Statement in the other place--Welsh Members will be able to question him about Welsh aspects or whether the speaker will simply say, "These are matters which have been devolved and are the responsibility of the Welsh assembly". It would certainly help me if I could get a clear indication of how the Government think these matters will be discussed, both in the other place and here. If they are allowed for debate in the other place, I presume that they will be allowed here. If I am told that they will be allowed, it seems to me that almost any issue will therefore be allowed in the other place and that we are simply backtracking on what I understood to be the point of devolution--that these issues go to the assembly.

At the end of our previous debate on this matter I pleaded with the Minister to give me some examples of when ministers representing subsidiary governments, if I may so call them, were able to represent their countries at the Council of Ministers. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for sending me a letter, which he placed in the Library. At the risk of taking just a few moments, I should like to read it out. It states:

    "The more obvious instances which have been identified relate to the German Lander. Because of its particular expertise, Bavaria, for example, has represented the German government at EU meetings where cultural issues have been the main agenda item. Similarly, members of the Catalan autonomous government have attended

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    meetings on behalf of the Spanish, where language issues were under consideration. I trust this information goes some way to removing your scepticism that in practice it would not be possible for an assembly member to be part of a UK government delegation, nor indeed to lead such a delegation, if that was the view reached by the UK government".

With all due respect--I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will not be too irritated if I suggest this--I really do not think that cultural and language issues are the stuff of which the European Union is made up.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. As I understand it, on the occasions to which he referred--certainly, this was the information given in another place--although Lander ministers attended the Council meetings on four occasions, they were never the sole representatives of the German Government; and they certainly were not the lead ministers.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, my noble friend's information clearly underlines my reservations, reservations which the letter and the information my noble friend has given me in no way allay. In the letter the examples given are cultural and language issues. Those are a long way from the very serious issues of agriculture and fisheries which are conducted in Brussels and make up the very policy which determines the way farmers and fishermen work and live in this country. While I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for his letter, his examples confirm my concern on behalf of agriculture and fisheries. I am in no way satisfied that agricultural and fishing interests in Wales will be properly represented. My suspicions and fears are in no way allayed.

What I have done in my amendments is to say, "Yes, let's devolve agriculture except functions relating to the CAP and except functions relating to the CFP". I fully accept that the great bulk of the serious and major decisions will therefore not go to the Welsh assembly. They will stay here so that they can be properly represented in Brussels. I make no apology for that. My interest is not to puff up the assembly's position; it is to ensure that the position of Welsh agriculture and Welsh fishing is properly represented at the meetings which count. The meetings which count are not held in Cardiff and are no longer held in London; they are held in Brussels.

I am still full of reservations about handing over agriculture and fisheries to the Welsh assembly when the Welsh secretaries for these subjects will not be members of the United Kingdom Government and, in my view, despite the two examples given, will not get anywhere near the Council of Ministers to represent the UK when these serious matters, which inevitably cross the barriers inside our country, are discussed. The issues discussed are usually complex. They range from Welsh interests, Scottish interests, English interests and Northern Irish interests to whole-UK interests. The only time the Welsh position seems to be capable of being

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preserved will be when there is no difference between the needs of agriculture in Wales and the needs of agriculture in the rest of the United Kingdom.

My reservations remain. I offer my amendment in a positive spirit. I am interested in making sure that as much as possible is devolved. There are issues in agriculture and fisheries which can easily be devolved because they are not included in the CAP and the CFP. But when it comes to the CAP and the CFP, these issues should be reserved for the United Kingdom Government so that they can properly represent them in the Council of Ministers. I beg to move.

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