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Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 42:

Page 60, line 43, leave out ("it considers appropriate") and insert ("is reasonably required").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have two amendments grouped with this one. The first amendment, Amendment No. 42, again tries to bring wealth creation to the forefront of the assembly's mind because, having followed the Bill through, my feeling is that it is a second-class citizen to culture. Perhaps I may draw your Lordships' attention to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Roberts who said:

On Report the noble Lord, Lord Williams, tried to tell me that his amendment dealt with my concern, but I must point out that as the Bill is written there is no need for the assembly to consult business. Following the Government's amendment of the clause on Report, the assembly is now charged to:

    "carry out consultation with such organisations representative of business and such other organisations as it considers appropriate".

The clause as now worded appears to me to have some ambiguity as to whether the assembly's discretion relates now to the matter upon which it consults or whether its discretion relates to such other organisations. However, the Minister interpreted the wording as meaning discretion on the consultation rather than the organisation (Hansard col. 1458).

The purpose of the amendment is to give reassurance to business--as I have already learnt from the noble and learned Lord business includes agriculture--that the assembly will be under an unambiguous statutory obligation to consult business except where such requirement is patently unreasonable; for example, except in special cases no one would expect the assembly to consult the agricultural industry about policies or possible legislation which are remote from farming issues, such as the powers proposed to be devolved under legislation dealing with public museums and galleries.

On the other hand, the agricultural industry must be consulted not just on matters directly affecting it, but on such other issues which indirectly affect its interests such as planning, environmental protection, the compulsory purchase of land and housing policy. I co-operated with the noble Lord the Chief Whip on that matter.

On Report the Minister stated:

    "its decisions on how consultation should be organised will need it to be reasonable".

By importing the words "reasonably required" into the Bill the House would merely be giving statutory force and more certainty to what the Government had already clearly agreed should be the right way to proceed.

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The amendment would reassure business and of course agriculture that the Government were devolving discretion,

    "as well as avoiding over-prescription".--[Official Report, 9/7/98; cols. 1455-59.],

to use the Minister's words. If nothing else--I hope for more--I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will at least give my advisers credit for carefully studying his words, trying to ensure that they are clear and encouraging for business and agriculture.

Amendment No. 43 makes it possible for someone knowledgeable in agriculture and rural development to be considered as a member of the Welsh Development Agency. Again, I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for his letter, a copy of which is in the Library. It helped me to understand the Government's views. However, needless to say, I feel that too much emphasis in the Bill is placed on culture to the detriment of wealth creation.

On Report at col. 1472 of the Official Report of 9th July, the noble and learned Lord said that the criteria for appointing members to the Welsh Development Agency,

    "include industry which, of course, covers agriculture as well".

I was pleased to hear the noble and learned Lord say that and I thanked him when summing up. It would be difficult to define rural development. If the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, cannot do so, I shall not attempt to do so here, although I am sure that I could do so outside the Chamber.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, wrote in his letter of 13th July:

    "However, it has been the policy of successive governments not to add to the competency list as the view taken is that the existing provision already allows the Secretary of State to exercise a wide interpretation as to the extent of competences he should bring to the board of the Agency. In this way, the need for greater prescription as to the range of experiences sought--or having continually to add to that list--is avoided".

I have two matters to raise on the letter. First, in future the Welsh Development Agency will have only nine members. I approve of that. Indeed, it gives me heart that the Secretary of State and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, are determined to avoid the wish of my noble friend Lord St. Davids to have a waffle shop. I hope that he can assure me that the Secretary of State will make every effort to ensure that agriculture and rural development are taken fully into consideration.

Secondly--it is a technical point--I ask the Minister to explain what I call the Renton rule. My noble friend explained it to me many times during the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. I often wanted to add or subtract a species to a schedule. My noble friend warned me that if I then left any species out, lawyers would assume that it was, or was not, protected. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, understands what I say. I think that it is a well-known legal position.

Why will lawyers not assume that someone experienced in agriculture and rural development does not fall into what I call the Renton trap to which I have just referred, and therefore be assumed not to have a

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place on the Welsh Development Agency board? That is why I wish to have those words added to Section 2(3) of the Welsh Development Act 1975.

Finally, I repeat my plea that by accepting the amendments the Government will be drawing the attention of the assembly to the importance of wealth creation in the countryside. I beg to move.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I shall speak briefly against the amendment. I am able to confirm what I was not able to say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, on 9th July when I disappeared to Llangollen,--it being a more profitable that night to be at the centre of international Welsh culture than your Lordships' House.

I offer the noble Lord my support for Clause 115 as amended on Report. I express my satisfaction that the broad wording of the clause--and it is why I oppose the amendment--means that there will be a serious consultation with business, including consultation with trade unions as appropriate. I also welcome the fact that it will be for the assembly to decide in which ways that consultation is operated. I oppose the amendment and endorse the clause as it stands.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, Amendment No. 42 amended Clause 115, as the noble Lord kindly indicated. There is no doubt that

    "business and such other organisations as it considers appropriate"

includes agriculture and rural development. I am happy to affirm, as the noble Lord specifically asked, that the Secretary of State pays particular attention to the interests of agriculture and rural development. We believe that the amendment has got it about right, but, equally, I recognise, as I have on many occasions, the legitimate concerns expressed by the noble Lord. I hope that I have tried fully to recognise those in writing, as he indicated.

He is right that the list of competencies in the 1975 Act has not been extended. We do not believe that that is necessary and perhaps I may give an example. Recently, the Secretary of State instituted a public open competition for appointments to the board of the WDA, which is to be reconstituted later this year. We have received more than 200 applications. The WDA is to assume the responsibilities of the present land authority for Wales and the Development Board for Rural Wales. Within that total, 15 per cent. of the applications relate to individuals with direct experience of farming, tourism, food and catering and entrepreneurial skills in rural areas. Therefore, it is plain that the list of competencies does not discourage or dissuade people with relevant expertise in the area which the noble Lord has identified from putting themselves forward.

Furthermore, as I have indicated on earlier occasions--perhaps it is helpful to repeat it--the agency will set up a rural policy unit based in mid-Wales. There is no doubt that the agency, working under the strategic direction of the Secretary of State, will ensure that it pays careful attention to the vital contribution which is made to Welsh economic life by rural areas in Wales, rural development and the business of agriculture.

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I have said it before and I will say it again: it is not simply the economic aspects of rural life, agriculture, farming, rural development and rural activities which are important. As the Secretary of State has demonstrated abundantly, we believe that there is a very important social and cultural context to rural life in Wales, quite apart from its economic contribution which we all value and cherish.

I believe that the amendment has got it about right. I hope that the assurances I gave to the noble Lord in my letter and to your Lordships tonight will suffice for his present purposes.

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