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Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General for his reply. Nevertheless, he has not really answered the key

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point about these amendments, which seek ultimately to prevent the assembly from increasing taxation, albeit through local authorities, and in a sense by the backdoor. The key point that I was making to the noble and learned Lord was that the assembly can, as he has confirmed, reduce the rate support grant and thereby force local authorities to increase the level of council taxes.

As I said, I do not believe that that would be acceptable to us in Wales because of the circumstances of the population, low rateable values and so on and all that that entails. After all, it is the key reason why we have had the comparatively high level of rate support grant in past years in Wales. Quite apart from the uniform business rate, the direct rate support grant runs to about 70 per cent. of total local authority spending in Wales compared with about 48 per cent. in England in 1996-97. Therefore, it is very important to the people of Wales to ensure that the assembly does not have the power to increase taxation on them. It was never put to them in a referendum, as it was in Scotland, that the assembly should have such a power. That it should have such power exercised indirectly through the local authorities and an increase in council tax is totally unacceptable.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Does he accept the argument that was put forward in Committee; namely that the people of Wales have an opportunity to take a view as to whether the assembly should increase or decrease its support to local government by voting at elections both to local authorities in Wales and to the national assembly, probably for the same parties? Therefore, does not the noble Lord accept that this is part of a democratic political process and will be resolved in that way rather than through legislation and on the face of this Bill?

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, it is very seldom indeed that increases in taxation feature on any election platform. If they do, it is usually in a misleading way. We are well aware of pledges not to increase taxation which have been made and which have promptly been abandoned. Indeed, we have seen increases in taxation under the present Government which were certainly not referred to at the time of the last election.

I believe that the Minister has underestimated the concern in Wales about this issue and the anxiety there to ensure that the assembly should not have any influence over taxation. We believe that it would have such a power through the local authorities. Indeed, the Minister has confirmed that. It is with that very much in mind that I wish to take the opinion of the House on this amendment.

5.31 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 104) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 73; Not-Contents, 113.

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Division No. 1


Annaly, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Beloff, L.
Berners, B.
Biddulph, L.
Biffen, L.
Birdwood, L.
Bowness, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E. [Teller.]
De Freyne, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dilhorne, V.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Dundee, E.
Effingham, E.
Ellenborough, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Harlech, L.
Harrowby, E.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Howe, E.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kenyon, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Long, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Mersey, V.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Mottistone, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Prior, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rees, L.
Rennell, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Romney, E.
Rotherwick, L.
Rowallan, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Strathcarron, L.
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Vivian, L.
Young, B.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ailesbury, M.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Burlison, L.
Burton, L.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Dunleath, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Longford, E.
Lytton, E.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
McNair, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Milverton, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Russell, E.
St. Davids, V.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Serota, B.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Swinton, E.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thurso, V.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Weatherill, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9 Jul 1998 : Column 1397

5.40 p.m.

[Amendment No. 105 not moved.]

Clause 81 [Statement of estimated payments etc.]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 106 to 112:

Page 41, line 29, leave out ("of the Assembly").
Page 41, line 32, after ("that") insert ("financial").
Page 41, line 34, after ("that") insert ("financial").
Page 41, line 37, after ("that") insert ("financial").
Page 41, line 41, at end insert ("financial").
Page 42, line 7, after ("that") insert ("financial").
Page 42, line 11, leave out ("of the Assembly after the first") and insert ("after the first financial year of the Assembly").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 82 [Loans to Assembly by Secretary of State]:

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 42, line 32, leave out ("made with the consent of the Treasury").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 113 is the last in a series of amendments that I have tabled to leave out unnecessary verbiage in this already extensive Bill. With this amendment is grouped Amendments Nos. 114 and 115. In submitting that these are unnecessary expressions and provisions I would not like it to be thought that I am critical of the draftsman. I presume to believe that this is a very well drafted Bill, all the more so because in a number of respects it breaks entirely new ground. Where the draftsman has included unnecessary expressions it is because they have always been put in. One supposes that originally a clever young recruit to the office of the parliamentary draftsman inscribed something on a card index. That was transferred to a Hollerith and I do not doubt that today it is on a computer. It pops up quite unnecessarily. This is the clearest example because it is

9 Jul 1998 : Column 1398

not pretended that these words have any positive effect. If they are left out exactly the same happens. Nor on this occasion is it claimed that by leaving them out it may give rise to an argument, however far-fetched, based on the omission. It is simply a question of whether or not we are to countenance the continued inclusion of words that are entirely unnecessary.

Clause 82 deals with loans to the assembly by the Secretary of State. Subsection (2) provides:

    "The Treasury may issue to the Secretary of State out of the National Loans Fund such sums as he needs for making loans under this section".
Subsection (6) provides:

    "The Secretary of State may from time to time by order made with the consent of the Treasury substitute for the amount specified in subsection (5)"--
that limits the loan to £500 million--

    "such greater amount as is specified in the order".

Not only does the ordinary machinery of government make it absolutely certain that the Treasury's consent is required but, as the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General has himself pointed out, the Treasury stands on the route between the Secretary of State and the National Loans Commissioners so that his consent is all the more necessary in this particular case.

The present score in trying to purge this Bill of unnecessary provisions stands at one all. But things are rather better than that. My first amendment sought to leave out a provision that a vacancy in membership did not impair the operation of the assembly. That was quite unnecessary. Even though I counted that as minus one, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, moved a similar amendment to the Scottish Bill, which is outstanding, so by no means do I despair of the Government seeing some sense in this matter.

Moreover, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, asked me to withdraw yet another in this series of amendments so that he could consider it. That can mean one of two things. It may mean that there is an ongoing argument in Whitehall as to whether or not an obvious concession should be made. Alternatively, it may be a coded word to say that the amendment will in due course be favourably considered and may possibly be redrafted by the draftsman. Therefore, the score is rather better than one all. In addition, I count confidently on adding another one this time to the positive side.

The noble and learned Lord would not have attained the eminence that he has in his competitive profession if he had lacked forensic courage. It was particularly marked on this occasion when the matter was debated in Committee. He said that the words were entirely unnecessary and reinforced that by drawing attention to the fact that the Secretary of State could not get at the National Loans Commissioners except via the Treasury. He said that although the words were unnecessary, to include them would not be a subject for criticism; on the contrary, it would be a subject for congratulation. As I have said, there is forensic courage. I believe that I have accurately summarised what the noble and learned Lord has said, but if he wishes I shall quote his precise words. I understand that the noble and learned Lord does not require that.

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Therefore, the argument was that the words were unnecessary but that it was a matter for congratulation to include them because it made plain what was to happen. There is no limit to that argument. It is for that reason that I have tabled two further amendments to tease the noble and learned Lord. Subsection (6) would read:

    "The Secretary of State may from time to time ... with the written consent of the Treasury sought and granted during normal office hours",
and so on.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not say that that is frivolous. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who is in charge of the Bill, will not say that they are unnecessary, with which I entirely agree, because he would then be cutting the ground from under the feet of the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General who takes credit for including a completely unnecessary provision.

I do not know how the noble and learned Lord or the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will respond. If they oppose the amendment--their names have not been added to it--I hope that they will make it clear that it is not government policy invariably to include unnecessary expressions in order to make the meaning plain. I beg to move.

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