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Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for spelling out the breadth of the meaning of the word "record". I am not sure whether I take his other remarks as an endorsement of my candidature or whether they are, as it were, hostages to fortune. However, I shall not take up the time of the House at this time of the morning to discuss that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1 Jul 1998 : Column 817

Lord Stanley of Alderley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 96:

After Clause 72, insert the following new clause--

Determination of planning appeals

(" . Where the determination of planning appeals on planning applications under town and country planning legislation has been transferred to the Assembly by an Order in Council under section 22 of this Act, the standing orders must include provision for this function to be exercisable by the presiding officer.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am in the hands of the House. This is a substantive amendment. I know that it is giving problems to NAAG. I shall certainly move it if that is the wish of the House. However, I think it may be better to delay it until the next stage. However, if the House wishes me to continue, so be it.

12.30 a.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I know the substance of the amendment. The noble Lord is absolutely right. It is a substantive amendment on which it might be appropriate to spend a little time, effort and energy earlier than half past twelve at night. I shall be content if we can finish the other amendments, but leave this one until next time. That seems sensible.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord. I shall not move the amendment, and I shall bring it back next time.

[Amendment No. 96 not moved.]

Schedule 5 [Bodies and offices covered by section 74]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 97:

Page 88, line 20, leave out ("in respect only") and insert ("only or mainly in respect").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 226 and 227.

Amendment No. 97 relates to Schedule 5 to the Bill, which lists bodies covered by Clause 74; that is, those whose members or staff are liable to be summoned by the assembly for the purpose of giving evidence, and so forth.

Schedule 5, as it currently appears, refers by name to certain special health authorities which perform functions in respect of both England and Wales. It also refers to any special health authority performing functions in respect only of Wales. However, it would not include any special health authority that performed functions mainly, but not solely, in respect of Wales. That would obviously be anomalous. Although such bodies exist now, that could change. The National Health Service in Wales is to remain part of the wider National Health Service. One can easily envisage a body established primarily to serve Wales nonetheless providing services to NHS bodies in England too.

With the schedule as drafted, a decision to apply services across the border for what might be perfectly sound operational reasons would have the unintended

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effect of exempting the body entirely from the power of summons. That could not be right. The intention of the amendment is to ensure that such bodies, if and when established, are included. It would allow the assembly to summon any special health authority which performed functions only, or mainly, in respect of Wales, thereby removing the anomaly.

Turning to the second and third of these amendments, I would draw the attention of the House to Part II of Schedule 17. That lists NHS bodies subject to the provisions of Clauses 144, 145 and 146, covering audit and examinations into the use of resources. In particular, Schedule 17 defines the bodies that are to come within the remit of the Auditor General for Wales.

NHS bodies form a major part of the public sector in Wales. It is important that they are subject to the power of the Auditor General for Wales under Clause 145 to carry out examinations into the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which they use the resources provided to them, and to report accordingly to the assembly. I might add that the current arrangements under which NHS bodies' accounts are audited by the Audit Commission appointees will not change.

However, the schedule as it currently stands may not adequately cover Welsh NHS bodies if they choose to operate in a particular way. The reason for that is that the schedule currently specifies that an NHS trust is subject to provisions only if all of its hospitals, establishments and facilities are situated in Wales, and a special health authority is subject to them only if it performs functions in respect only of Wales. As the Bill stands, Welsh NHS bodies with an English dimension, however marginal, are not subject to the Auditor General's powers; nor are they capable of being added to the list of bodies subject to those powers in Schedule 17 under the Secretary of State's powers in Clause 144(8)(a).

It is quite possible that a trust might acquire facilities just across the English border, perhaps to serve people living in parts of Wales near the border or to co-operate with an English-based NHS body in respect of certain patient services. As the Bill stands, it would then fall outside the remit of the Auditor General for Wales, as would a special health authority that started supplying services to a body in England or indeed elsewhere. That could not be right. Such bodies would remain predominantly Welsh and should be treated accordingly.

If noble Lords are minded to accept the amendments tabled, the schedule will refer to any NHS trust all or most of whose hospitals or facilities are situated in Wales, and to any special health authority performing functions only or mainly in respect of Wales.

I trust that your Lordships will be satisfied that it is wholly proper for bodies of such descriptions to come under the scrutiny of the Auditor General for Wales, so that he may report upon them to the assembly. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 76 [Role of Secretary of State for Wales]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 98:

Page 40, line 15, at end insert--
("( ) The Assembly may require the Secretary of State for Wales to attend any proceedings of the Assembly or a committee of the Assembly.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment involves the consideration of Clause 76 of the Bill. It is headed,

    "Role of Secretary of State for Wales".
It is worth looking at. In subsection (1) the Secretary of State for Wales has a broad power whereby he is,

    "entitled to attend and participate in any proceedings of the Assembly".
That having been stated as a general principle, subsection (2) immediately cuts his role down to virtually that of a figurehead. The right to vote is then removed, and a right to attend or participate in the proceedings of a committee or sub-committee is removed. So he cannot attend the executive committee, the subject committees, the regional committees, the audit and the subordinate legislation committees. The Secretary of State is excluded from participation in that important aspect of the assembly's work in any form.

What is left? It would appear that all he can do is, if he feels like going down to the assembly one day in order to tick off the members or give them a wigging about what they are doing, he can attend and talk; and that is the end of it. But that is at his own whim. Again this is another clause written from the point of view of the Secretary of State.

One should really be considering in this legislation the attitude of the assembly to the Secretary of State. How will it feel? How will it react to the link man between the Cardiff assembly and the Westminster Parliament? The minimum that it will require is a right to demand his attendance if the members wish to ask him questions; to ask him to explain policy; to ask him to express views that he can convey, as the link man between the assembly and Parliament, to Parliament itself.

Again, if one postulates the different parties in power in the Westminster Government and the Cardiff government, that link between the two may be completely lost. Under the clause as drafted the Secretary of State can say, "I am not going to go down there. They are all a bunch of politicians from a different party. I am not going to talk to them". The assembly will have no right to demand his attention. So there may be a complete breakdown in communication between assembly and Parliament.

I ask the Government to think again about this clause and to ask themselves whether the role of the Secretary of State is to be as limited as set out here; or whether

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he is to have a valid function of bringing the two bodies together and ensuring that communication is maintained. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, feels strongly about this. He made that clear at the Committee stage of the Bill and has made it clear again this evening.

We have thought about this matter and I regret that, notwithstanding his strength of feeling, we do not believe it would be right for a provision such as this to find its way into the Bill. A key role of the Secretary of State, after the assembly is created, will be to represent Welsh interests in the Government of the United Kingdom. In performing that function he will inevitably have to keep in close touch with the assembly. Of course, we provided for a specific obligation to apply requiring him to consult the assembly on the Government's legislative proposals.

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