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Clause 9, page 6, leave out lines 8 to 11 and insert--

("(a) is included on the same list as the last person to occupy the vacant seat,
(b) is willing to serve as an Assembly member for the Assembly electoral region, and
(c) is not a person to whom subsection (3A) applies.
(3A) This subsection applies to a person if--
(a) he is not a member of the party, and
(b) the party gives notice to the regional returning officer that his name is not to be notified to the presiding officer as the name of the person who is to fill the vacancy.").
The Commons agreed to this amendment, with the following amendment--



Line 2, leave out ("the same list as the last person to occupy the vacant seat") and insert ("that list").

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I beg to move that this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 21A to Lords Amendment No. 21.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 21A to Lords Amendment No. 21.--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.



Clause 9, page 6, line 20, leave out from beginning to ("there") in line 22.

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

Because it would unjustifiably restrict the right of voters to choose the persons who are to be members of the National Assembly for Wales for the electoral regions.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I beg to move that this House do not insist on their Amendment No. 22 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 22A.

Moved, That this House do not insist on their Amendment No. 22 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 22A.--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.



Clause 12, page 8, line 9, at end insert (", or

(e) he is a Minister of the Crown.").
The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

Because it is not appropriate for Ministers of the Crown to be disqualified from being members of the National Assembly for Wales.

Lord Crickhowell rose to move, That this House do not insist on their Amendment No. 27, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 27A, but do propose the following amendment in lieu thereof.



Clause 54, page 28, line 12, at end insert--

("( ) A Minister of the Crown may not serve as an Assembly First Secretary or as an Assembly Secretary for a period of more than 12 months from the first sitting of the Assembly.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. The amendment that we passed in this House at Report stage would have prevented a Minister of the Crown serving as an assembly member. In another place, it was argued that the amendment went far too wide and that there was no reason why ministers should not stand for election.

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However, Mr. Peter Hain, speaking for the Government at the start of the debate on 22nd July 1998, correctly identified the fact that in this House we were particularly concerned with the possibility that the Secretary of State wished to combine that office with that of first secretary of the assembly.

The debate that took place on 22nd July was remarkable. The arguments against the proposition that the Secretary of State might serve in both those offices simultaneously, which I had pressed so hard in this House, found support in all parts of another place. The concerns that I had voiced here were repeated again and again, none more powerfully than by the Minister himself. His contribution was in marked contrast to the words uttered by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, in his response at Report stage in this House.

As congratulations are the order of the day, it is time that I congratulated the noble Lord Williams on having edged his way a little further up the slippery pole. I hope that he hangs on to it well and may, in due course, even climb a little higher. We have enjoyed his contributions during the debate on this Bill. We have admired the way he has handled it and we wish him every success in the future.

Having said that, in moving to my new amendment I cannot possibly present a stronger case than was collectively put in another place. Mr. Hain both opened and concluded that debate. Right at the start, he said:

    "I freely acknowledge that quite different constitutional functions will be exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales and the First Secretary of the National Assembly".--[Official Report, Commons, 22/7/98; col. 1173.]

He added, at col. 1174:

    "We have never suggested that they could or should be exercised by the same person in perpetuity".

I emphasise "We have never suggested." I do not recall many suggestions from Ministers in this House or another place previously that he would time-limit his holding of the two offices. So that was a welcome step forward right at the beginning.

Mr. Opik, representing the Liberal Democrat Party, who, like his noble friends in this House, supports the dual mandate in general, was also kind enough to say at col. 1177 that the Conservative Party had raised legitimate concerns and that his party would be willing to try having both roles held briefly by one person. So the Liberal Democrats have now altered the argument and concluded that they were only pressing for the particular dual mandate to be held briefly.

Ms Julie Morgan, the Labour Member for Cardiff, North, had rather stronger feelings on the subject. She said that in her view any dual mandate should be for the shortest possible time. At col. 1178 she said:

    "There are strong feelings in the Labour party against any dual mandates".

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She observed, at col. 1179, that, as her honourable friend the Minister had said,

    "it is obvious that, in practical terms, a member of the British Cabinet could not be at the same time a Member of the Welsh Assembly or First Secretary for anything other than the shortest transitional period because of the conflicting loyalties that would arise. The First Secretary would be voted in as leader of the Assembly by Assembly Members or by her or his political party--it is a bottom-up approach. She or he would then represent those people. The Secretary of State for Wales is appointed by the Prime Minister and is bound by Cabinet collective responsibility. There is a clear conflict between the two roles, which could not be combined other than for the shortest possible transitional period".

So once again we have a clear statement that the only acceptable way to proceed would be on the basis that any dual mandate should be for the shortest possible transitional period.

Mr. Alan Williams, a well respected senior member of the Labour Party and the Member for Swansea, West, also had strong views on the subject. He regretted that there had been an attempt to dismiss the matter with what he called "some quite irrelevant comments" because he felt that it struck at the heart of the constitutional basis of Cabinet government. He added, at col. 1180:

    "Under Cabinet government, there is Cabinet responsibility and Cabinet accountability. If a Minister cannot accept what the Cabinet decides, he or she must leave the Cabinet. With all respect to my right hon. friend, how on earth can he give his full loyalty to a separate Assembly that may have different perspectives--although it may have the same political background--on policy, expenditure and so on. How could he give equal loyalty to each or full loyalty to either? When he steps out of No. 10, and is interviewed by the BBC and HTV, how will we know which hat he is wearing? When he disagrees, how will we know whether he is speaking for the Assembly and when he is speaking for the Assembly how will he preserve Cabinet responsibility and accountability?".

Those were all the questions which I have asked in this House on a number of occasions, being frequently chided by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, for having an obsession.

Then Mr. Hain, the Minister, came to wind up the debate. He started with a remarkable statement--I wish it had been made in this House; we might have saved time. He said,

    "Nobody seriously argues that the same person can be Secretary of State for Wales and Assembly First Secretary in perpetuity. It would be politically unacceptable and constitutionally undesirable".

He then went on,

    "There is a very strong case for a transitional period, particularly at the beginning when the Assembly is bedding down and the order transferring the functions of the Secretary of State has still to be implemented"--[col. 1118.]

He is talking there of a pretty short transitional period--only a few months at the outside. At this point I am bound to say that if we have something which is constitutionally undesirable, it seems to me that there is a case to alter the Bill to make sure that it cannot happen. The things that are politically unacceptable we can perhaps leave to others but, if they are constitutionally undesirable, it would be a mistake to pass a Bill that includes them and makes them possible. However, we shall see a little later how far the Minister is prepared to go in dealing with that matter.

29 Jul 1998 : Column 1520

The Minister having said that this should happen for only a short transitional period, he was then challenged by the leader of Plaid Cymru, the right honourable Dafydd Wigley, who asked whether he would accept an amendment limiting the period. Mr. Wigley expressed unhappiness that yet again the situation should be allowed to continue for anything but a transitional period. Mr. Hain said that he would not accept such an amendment, but did not give any explanation for his refusal.

We then had a situation in which all the spokesmen--the Conservative spokesman added his support for the proposition--for all the parties in another place had now said that what was proposed, what was possible in the Bill and the proposition to which I objected was undesirable and should be allowed to happen only for a transitional period.

We then reached the end of the debate on 22nd July in another place when the Minister, Mr. Peter Hain, yet again made a remarkable statement. He said of Mr. Ron Davies, to whom he paid tribute--he quoted my tribute too to Mr. Ron Davies, and reminded the House that I had paid such a tribute--that,

    "He is choosing willingly to leave a Cabinet post--one of the highest posts in the Government, to which most Members of Parliament aspire only in their dreams. He is giving that up--at some point in the future--and is prepared to take a salary cut and all the reductions in status that his self-removal from the Cabinet will entail in order to help give birth to Wales's new democracy".--[col. 1184.]

Having said all that, he referred to the assurances that he had given.

We now had the situation that there was general acceptance that the dual mandate should be allowed to happen only for a transitional period. We had a statement by the Minister that indicated that Mr. Ron Davies, after an unspecified period, intends to give up the office of Secretary of State and hold only one office.

I tabled an amendment--I believe generously and reasonably framed--to suggest that the transitional period should be no more than 12 months from the first sitting of the assembly. My noble friend Lord Roberts of Conwy takes a more stringent view and tabled amendments for shorter transitional periods, perhaps on the basis that the Government could make a choice. I know that Mr. Wigley in another place favours a shorter period than I do, but I do not want to be difficult at this stage. If we are going to have a transitional period, we do not need to tie it too tightly. All the things that have been argued for could be covered within 12 months.

I would much prefer to see this limitation put into the Bill. If it is then argued, "That is impossible at this stage. We must not prejudice the Bill. We must pass it and cannot risk losing it", I would say that that is not true. To begin with, even if the Bill was delayed until the overspill period, it would not be a disaster--we need only look at the stage which the Scotland Bill has reached. In any case, it would be possible to introduce an amendment. We do not have to spend days ping-ponging backwards and forwards. I well recall sitting in the House of Commons when we adjourned for a short period having sent an amendment down to this place and waited for it to be "ponged" back. That process could be carried out in a single day.

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Therefore, if the noble and learned Lord wished to accept an amendment, it could be done perfectly well and in many ways it would be highly desirable that it should be done. We should not allow things that are constitutionally unacceptable to be permitted by the Bills that we pass. However, I know that Mr. Ron Davies is giving a party this evening on the Terrace to celebrate the passing of this Bill. I would not want to upset his entertainment, though if he is there with all his supporters, they could come in, pass the amendment and then have even greater grounds for celebration.

However, the other place was given certain statements--he called them undertakings--by the Minister. They differ considerably from anything that has been said before in this House by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. I reread the speech that he made at Report stage. I do not know what my noble friend on the Front Bench will do with his amendments. However, if it is accepted that the period should be transitional--I acknowledge the argument that there may be other transfers with responsibility which might conceivably make it desirable for another Minister to come in with responsibility for, say, broadcasting and serve for a brief transitional period; so I am not limiting the argument to the Secretary of State--if we can obtain a clear statement from the Minister that it is the intention of the Government that any Minister coming in in this way will serve only for a transitional period, and if we can obtain a clear statement from the Minister as to what he thinks the maximum transitional period will be, this House may feel that we can leave the matter there. But we need some clear statements. We have some alternative amendments. I do not know what my noble friend will do with his amendments. If we can obtain categoric statements to satisfy the House, I may well be prepared to withdraw my amendment. But if we cannot, then we should go for one of the shorter periods rather than one of the longer. I would then withdraw my amendment with the suggestion that my noble friend should press his.

We have a situation where there is a clear expression of view in the other place. I am merely asking the House to endorse what Ministers and others have said in another place and to write it into the Bill. I await the Minister's response.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 27 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 27A, but propose Amendment No. 27C in lieu thereof.--(Lord Crickhowell.)

3.45 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, in my anxiety to assist the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, in the short debate we had on Amendment No. 3, I omitted to add my personal congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. His elevation is a matter of considerable personal pleasure; it is a pleasure to the people of Wales, to the Welsh circuit and, if I may say so, to the Members of this House who sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches for the way in which he has conducted this Bill.

29 Jul 1998 : Column 1522

I say also to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, that he discovered the way to promotion through attending to Welsh affairs. Your Lordships may recall that on one occasion, as a spectator, I referred to the contest that was taking place between "Taffy" Mackay of Ardbrecknish and "Iestyn" Falconer responding for the Government. It seemed to me that they had adopted Welsh identities in putting forward their respective cases.

I turn to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. Our position has been clear throughout. We are of the view that after the first assembly it would be right for the dual mandate to cease. The first Welsh assembly is due to last for a period of four years. We believe that during that period it would be sensible for the Secretary of State for Wales to give his great experience--should he be elected to that assembly and become the first secretary--to ensuring that the position of the first secretary is well bedded down.

I feel sometimes that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, is looking to the past and the days when he was the Secretary of State for Wales. I have paid tribute to the way he conducted that office during that time, when he did a great deal of good for Wales. I think that he sees the position through his eyes at that time, where the responsibilities that he held were so great that it would be impossible to take on other responsibilities. The important point is that the role of the Secretary of State in the Westminster Parliament under the devolution proposals will considerably change. No doubt there will be a period of adjustment in relation to the role that the Secretary of State has to fulfil and the role that the first secretary in the Welsh assembly has to fulfil. If the positions are to be held by one person during that period, it will be to the advantage of the people of Wales.

We cannot support the amendment of the noble Lord. We will vote against it if he presses it. We will do the same in respect of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy.

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