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Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, having been a church warden in the diocese of Oxford for a number of years, I have to tell the right reverend Prelate that I did not always agree with my bishop: far from it. But on this occasion I am delighted to say that I agreed, I think, with all his ideas.

With regard to enumerating bodies, I have to agree with the noble Baroness because I have tried to enumerate before and I did not mention the Ministry of Agriculture. However, it is nearly always a mistake because they always remind you of the bits that you have missed. Of course I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate. He has made a very important point that I feel strongly about.

The noble Baroness started off very well, so far as I was concerned. She said that RDAs must consult with local and national organisations to be successful and she said that they must not be dictated to. However, my amendment is not dictating to the RDAs. In fact when the noble Baroness began I really thought I had hooked a fish for once, but sadly as she went on, as so often happens to me, the fish got away and I never landed it.

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I am not happy, for the following three reasons. First, I think it is vital, as I said earlier in connection with my first amendment, to have matters on the face of the Bill. My noble friend Lady Anelay pointed out how important it is. Governments change and things are forgotten. Secondly, I was reminded--I am beginning to feel very old--that the drafting of Bills now has become quite permissive, perhaps like our society. For instance, if the noble Baroness were to look up the Welsh Development Agency Act of 1975 she would see that it is written in a far less permissive way. It was laid down, left or right, and I think we have become too permissive.

I am sorry to pontificate, but it is important that your Lordships make sure that all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed: it is indeed the purpose of your Lordships' House. I must repeat something that I shall probably get into trouble about, because all the way through the Government of Wales Bill I was told, "Trust the Assembly, trust the Government". I do not trust the Assembly and I do not trust the Government--

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would forgive me? Perhaps it would be helpful if I could remind your Lordships of the precedent set by the Pepper v. Hart case. The commitment and the clear explanation that are given are, in a particularly important way, recorded because of what has been said in the course of the debate today. Certainly I did not wish to deny the noble Lord the opportunity to go fishing. All I was saying was that perhaps we had already caught a good fish, and that perhaps he would like to eat ours.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I have not caught the fish: it has wiggled off. But as far as Pepper v. Hart is concerned, if I got my noble friend Lord Renton on it he would say that, good though that case was, it is not as good as having it on the face of the Bill. I am still convinced that you have to argue it and the judge might say, "Well, Parliament did not quite say that". So I am not entirely convinced.

I will just conclude by saying why I do not trust any of these organisations. As I said earlier, I have farmed for nearly 50 years and have found that if a thing can go wrong it jolly well does go wrong. This will go wrong. My second reason is that, as I am sure the right reverend Prelate will agree, my name is Thomas. Thirdly, it is the job of your Lordships to make sure that everything is watertight. I am sorry to have to say this because the noble Baroness was very helpful, but I really will have to think about this point for Third Reading, because it really ought to be on the face of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Regional consultation]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 4, line 8, leave out from beginning to second ("to") and insert ("in the exercise of its functions under section 7(1)(a), to consult and have regard").

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 12 and to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 13. If there is any relationship between these two amendments it is perhaps to do with transparency. At the last stage I put down an amendment seeking to provide for consultation with the regional chambers on a non-optional basis: in other words, that the consultation be wider than as directed by the Secretary of State, since our potentially non-benign Secretary of State might give a very narrow direction. The Minister at that time said that this and related matters would be crucial in another Bill at some other time but it was not for this framework. I accept her point that perhaps I was trying to push the limits of this Bill a little further than they are intended to go.

However, reflecting on her words, I began to wonder about the operation of Clause 8(2)(a) and (b). Clause 8(2)(a) talks of the agency having regard to any views expressed by the regional chamber and, separately, consulting the chamber in relation to the exercise of its functions--but only those functions as are specified in the Secretary of State's direction.

Would it not be more helpful to the agency and the chamber if there were to be a more general consultation to give a framework to the views of the chamber to which the agency must have regard under Clause 8(2)(a)? No doubt a regional chamber, doing its job thoroughly and energetically, is going to express views on pretty well everything, but I believe that those views might be more helpfully expressed if they were in response to a structured consultation.

Amendment No. 13 deals with the agency's annual reports. This provides that the report must, among other things, set out directions which have been given to the agency during the relevant period. My amendment suggests that the agency should also report on how it has complied with the direction, since unless compliance with the direction is within the information which the Secretary of State specifies under Clause 17(2)(a), the reader of the report will be left to guess if and how there has been compliance with those directions.

I appreciate that this is a late stage at which to raise such a relatively small matter, and I assure your Lordships that I am not intending to try to score points off the drafters of this clause, because I know one can never achieve that result. However, there is an underlying query about how extensive the reports of the agencies are intended to be. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I rise to give general support to the amendments and to repeat a word of caution which was issued in Committee. The new body needs to be careful to concentrate on strategy (with a capital S) and to ensure that it is not seen to interfere with the functions of similar existing bodies. Of course, we know that each RDA will be unique. The remit of the RDAs is very broad. I doubt whether they would have the time to interfere. However, it is timely to remind the new bodies that we are talking about strategy and consultation on strategy. All of us

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understand that that is the broad picture; we are talking about general guidance and direction, but not about interfering with the activities of existing bodies.

In Committee, I raised a number of points on behalf of the Local Government Association, which, like many other bodies, awaited the publication of the document. Its initial response welcomes the guidance given, but raises several points which have already been fairly well covered. The main point is to ensure that we do not duplicate the effort, money and time that have already been devoted to this matter. We do not want turf wars in regions. We know that that can easily happen. This is the stage at which the embryo RDAs should be reminded that they are charged with dealing with strategy (with a capital S) and not with running the area, county or district. Good people have been placed in those organisations by the Minister or have been appointed by bodies, and they are every bit as capable of continuing to do that with which they were charged as are members of RDAs. I hope that the Minister and her colleagues will bear that in mind.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, Amendment No. 12 seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State has the power to issue directions to RDAs which would require them to consult with, and have regard to the views of, designated chambers when producing their regional strategies. Those powers are contained in the Bill as drafted. Subsection (2)(a) allows for directions to be issued by the Secretary of State requiring the RDAs, when formulating and reviewing their strategies, to have regard to any views expressed by the chamber.

In addition, subsection (2)(b) allows the Secretary of State to issue directions to RDAs requiring them to consult the chamber when exercising any functions specified in the directions. This could, of course, include the preparation of the RDAs' strategies, which is a function of RDAs under Clause 7 of the Bill.

In practice we hope that it will not come to that. As I have said on more than one occasion, the success of the RDAs' strategies will depend on the extent to which RDAs are able to build a consensus in their region, and their ability to secure regional ownership of the strategy, and regional commitment to delivering it. Clearly, the commitment of the regional chamber will be a key objective for the RDA. Arguably, therefore, the issue of a direction on the subject of consultation with the chamber would be a sign of the breakdown of this crucial relationship. My noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton referred to the sensitivity of that matter and the need for people to respect complementary roles.

However, I can assure the noble Baroness that her amendment is unnecessary and that the Secretary of State will have the necessary powers to require the RDAs to consult with the chambers in the formulation and review of their strategies should it ever be necessary. In those circumstances, I ask the noble Baroness not to press the amendment.

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Turning to Amendment No. 13, I recognise the good intentions that lie behind this amendment, which would require RDAs to include in their annual reports details of their compliance with directions issued by the Secretary of State. However, I believe that the amendment as drafted is not only unnecessary, but unfortunately is also flawed in some fundamental respects.

It is unnecessary, because under Clause 17(2)(a) the Secretary of State will have the power to give directions to the agency as to the contents of its annual report and this could be used to achieve the same effect. It is flawed, because if directions had been given towards the end of the period covered by the report, it might be too soon for the agency to report in any meaningful way on its compliance with them. Also, the clause requires the RDAs to include in their annual reports only directions made during the period covered by the report. In terms of compliance, it is at least--if not more--relevant to consider what action has been taken to comply with directions issued in previous years.

As I have said, under the Bill as drafted the Secretary of State already has powers to direct RDAs as to the contents of their reports. However, I very much hope that on a matter such as this RDAs would never need to be formally directed, before including details of their compliance in their reports. In view of what I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

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