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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord is right that this is not a problem limited to south-east Wales, as was identified in the supplementary question. Manufacturing in Wales has done rather better than in the United Kingdom generally. Its productivity has risen by 12 per cent. since 1990 compared with only 4 per cent. for the United Kingdom. Undoubtedly, there are world adverse conditions which are notoriously well known to everyone in this House, but I believe that this Government, under the stern stewardship of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are doing rather well.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, welcome as the news is of inward investment, nevertheless does the Minister agree that one must bear in mind that the 6,000 jobs to which he referred are in fact promised jobs? Indeed, there are factory closures and redundancies, and some in rural areas. Coming on top of the crisis in agriculture, does the Minister agree that the fact is that there are very real difficulties in rural Wales?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not dispute that for a moment. Of course, every job is going to be announced and therefore capable of being described as a promised job. But I believe that question is rather ungracious. The fact is that the Welsh Development Agency from 1st May 1997 to 30th September 1998 has recorded 181 projects involving capital investment of over £1 billion, which forecasts 14,059 new jobs and 4,765 safeguarded jobs. Not for the first time I am happy to pay my tribute to the former Secretary of State, the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for the excellent work he did in stewarding the WDA.

Lord Islwyn: My Lords, does the Minister agree that whereas we welcome inward investment, nevertheless we are tending to rely too much on it?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, sometimes I feel that I really cannot win, but I soon discard that. The fact is that if employment is provided in areas of serious historic difficulty, we ought to be extremely pleased that we have a trained workforce and good commercial circumstances that encourage overseas investors to invest in Wales.

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Political Parties: Report on Funding

3.31 p.m.

Lord Newby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to respond to the 5th Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life: The Funding of Political Parties in the United Kingdom (Cm 4057).

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as I announced yesterday, the Government strongly welcome the Neill Committee's Report. We are committed to reforming and regulating the way political parties are funded. We will publish a draft Bill before next year's Summer Recess and ensure that robust and rigorous rules governing the funding of political parties are in place before the next general election.

Lord Newby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Given the very large series of elections that we face next spring, will the Government be seeking to get the voluntary agreement of the principal political parties that the recommendations of the Neill Committee in respect of party funding will be observed before legislation is in place and in time for next year's elections?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, if we were able to have voluntary agreement I certainly believe that that would be a very useful way forward. I cannot stress too strongly the Government's absolute commitment to the main thrust of the report. I believe that the party to which the noble Lord subscribes has a similar view. I am sure that we shall be able to look for the full-hearted support of and indeed the retrospective return of moneys by the Official Opposition.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a draft Bill by next summer sounds suspiciously like footdragging and the phrase that the "main thrust" of the recommendations sounds equally like footdragging? Will he not accept an offer from the Opposition to help in bringing forward legislation to enact as quickly as possible all 100 recommendations--no picking and mixing--including the ones that Her Majesty's Government do not like?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is a very constructive proposal and I shall address it in the spirit in which it was intended. So when I sit down in a second or two to allow the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, to assist, I expect that he will tell me about the footdragging as regards the return of one-third of a million pounds from the fugitive Mr. Nadir, or the even larger sum, which was mentioned specifically by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, from Mr. "White Powder" Marr. I am happy to answer the question. In about 60 speeches yesterday we were accused of being too precipitate but now that we want to consider things and have reform, we are accused of footdragging. This Government, unlike their predecessor, do not footdrag about anything.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I may remind the Minister that he is here to answer

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questions and not to ask them. Perhaps I may further remind him that when his colleagues sat on these Benches during the last Parliament they were pretty quick to say the same thing. Will the noble Lord now give me a guarantee that all 100 recommendations will be taken on board by the Government?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, of course I am here to answer questions, but I simply wanted to give a decent, courteous opportunity to the Official Opposition to scotch any suggestion that they might be footdragging about paying back moneys which appear to have been the proceeds of crime. It would be nonsensical, hardly having received the report and let alone studied it with care, to say that all 100 recommendations would be included in a draft Bill. However, if there were the opportunity in a draft Bill to ensure that contributions wrongfully gained over the past five years ought now to be returned, I would give that full and fair co-operation.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, as a former member of the Nolan Committee, is the Minister aware that I am rather astonished by what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench? I remember that some of us on that committee tried very hard to persuade the previous government to include political funding within their terms of reference but the suggestion met stubborn resistance.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, to be perfectly truthful, I am not at all astonished. In fact, it is par for the course.


3.35 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, it might be helpful if I remind the House that the usual channels have agreed that Back-Benchers should observe a time limit of eight minutes for speeches this afternoon. As there are 46 Back-Bench speakers today, if all Back-Benchers were to observe that limit, the debate would last about seven hours. I have also undertaken to remind your Lordships that the wind-up speeches tonight cover the whole debate. All noble Lords who have spoken in the two-day debate should be in the Chamber tonight to hear them.

House of Lords Reform

Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by the Baroness Jay of Paddington--namely, That this House take note of Her Majesty's Government's proposals for reform of the House of Lords, as set out in the Labour Party Manifesto.

3.36 p.m.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, noble Lords on the Government Benches will not be surprised to hear that I heard nothing in yesterday's debate which persuaded me to change my view that taking stage one before stage

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two of the reform of your Lordships' House is anything other than deeply and irredeemably flawed. By the end of the day and when he comes to sum up, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will have formed the same view. Of course, I do not expect him to admit it, but at least I hope that he will go away and reflect on what has been said in your Lordships' House before the Government take the next step of introducing the Bill.

I can see no rational grounds whatever for justifying the claims that are made for having stage one before stage two. I have heard claims of greater legitimacy; I have heard claims of greater democracy; I have heard claims of greater representativeness; and I have heard claims of greater constitutional logic. None of these claims seems to me to add up to something which would entitle the Government not to bring forward stage two at the same time. But perhaps I should not be surprised that the claims lack rationality because the whole of the Government's approach to constitutional reform seems to me to have been a story of shifting insincerities based on no reason at all.

Before I turn to the basis of the Bill I would like to say something about the Salisbury Convention. That seems to me to be appropriate because we are to face a Bill in the Queen's Speech on the reform of your Lordships' House and it is only right that we consider how the Opposition should react. In talking about the convention I am alert to the fact that my noble friend Lord Cranborne has a certain proprietorial interest in the matter. I shall not be surprised--and perhaps I ought to expect--that at the end of my remarks he might regard me as a trespasser. But despite that, I make the following propositions.

The Salisbury Convention states that if a proposed piece of legislation appears in the Government's manifesto, the Opposition are constrained in the way that they oppose it. That seems to me a proposition which does not apply to every situation. Perhaps I may give your Lordships an absurd example. Let us suppose in the Bill introduced by the Government in November, or perhaps even in December, there is a proposal that all hereditary Peers with blue eyes should be excluded from the House but all those with brown eyes should be allowed to remain.

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