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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House or to oppose these amendments. My noble friend on the Front Bench supports them; who am I to oppose them? But I should like to make one or two observations.

I have never had unbounded admiration for the wisdom of Secretaries of State in giving guidance or in consulting. I think that Secretaries of State are--more than most people--open to error. The amendment seeks to substitute the Assembly for the Secretary of State and I wonder whether--I mean no disrespect to the National Assembly for Wales--perhaps an assembly collectively giving guidance and being consulted would produce an even worse muddle than that produced by a Secretary of State.

I may have completely misunderstood the amendments but I should be obliged to the noble Baroness if she could set at rest my burgeoning anxieties on this subject.

4 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford wanted to be present and said that if we could keep going until 4.30 the debate on the first group of amendments, he would be. I decided that if I were to try to do that, it might not make these Benches entirely popular with the House. I know that my noble friend would like to have recorded his thanks to the Minister for the time he was able to spend with my noble friend discussing the Welsh amendments.

However, we must express our concern about improving the process. The Bill started life in this House not in the form in which the Government were

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promoting it. We debated a raft of amendments at the Committee stage to turn it into something more like the Government's preferred version. To treat the position of Wales as something of an add-on, whether to this Bill or to any other Bill, does not give proper acknowledgement to the role of Welsh government. I hope that we will very soon start regarding the involvement of our colleagues in Wales as integral to the initial process and not as something to be considered at a later stage. Wales is not an add-on. For Cardiff and the whole of Wales to have to sit back and wait for Westminster and Whitehall to sort out how they wish to express certain matters in legislation is not the right way to go forward. I am aware that the Government were consulting colleagues in Wales on how to express and deal with certain matters, but on this occasion I do not think that we have served them very well.

Like other noble Lords, I have had time only at a fairly unsocial hour to look at the amendments affecting Wales. Though they seem to be such as we would wish to see, I find it difficult to satisfy myself that they really are. I hope that longer consideration can be given if it is needed, as it may be. From these Benches we express our wish that Wales should be allowed to run its own affairs, as was the thrust of the legislation.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I begin by repeating the offer that I made with the knowledge of the Secretary of State for Wales to arrange a meeting after Easter to look at the procedure and the processes that need to be followed to cover the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. Such a meeting would then be able to look at the processes and procedure that have been used both for the Learning and Skills Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, referred, and the Care Standards Bill. I am grateful to the noble Lord. We, too, wish to ensure that in future the procedure that is adopted is one of proper consultation and proper time for full parliamentary scrutiny following that consultation.

Perhaps I may say, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, that the settlement and the devolution arrangements provide under the Government of Wales Act that the Assembly is a corporate body which has delegated executive power to the cabinet. Consultation will be with the cabinet. The appropriate Assembly Secretary will be the one to issue guidance where the issue is one of guidance.

I thank noble Lords who have taken part in the discussion. I remind the House that the Assembly started to work using the powers which transferred only on 1st July. We are having discussions with the Assembly about the future legislative process and the Assembly is clear on the matter. I understand that it has suggested to the Secretary of State for Wales a protocol.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I wonder why the arrangement as

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to who will give guidance and who will consult is not made clear on the face of the Bill. It looks so odd. We suddenly find guidance being given by an Assembly. Not even your Lordships' House would always give the most coherent advice. There might be a good deal of disagreement. I wonder at the idea of putting down an Assembly as the source of advice or guidance. If someone else is giving the advice or guidance, why not say so?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I can understand that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, would be concerned were we to be in a process of offering guidance from a gathering as large as your Lordships' House. But the devolution settlement makes it quite clear that it is the Assembly which must be consulted. The Assembly can give to the cabinet that power of consultation to go ahead. That is a matter for the Assembly. But it is the Assembly as a whole which must be consulted before changes are made that are rightly in its power to decide on.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 5:

    After Clause 4, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Every local authority in Wales is to have a duty to prepare a strategy for promoting or improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area.
(2) In preparing any strategy under this section, a local authority--
(a) may consult or seek the participation of such persons as they consider appropriate; and
(b) must have regard to any guidance for the time being issued by the National Assembly for Wales.
(3) Before issuing any guidance under this section, the National Assembly for Wales must consult the Partnership Council and such other persons (if any) as it considers appropriate.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I introduce this new clause with the support of the Welsh Local Government Association and of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, in absentia for the time being. The underlying principle has been previously discussed by your Lordships in an England and Wales context and rejected by the Government, but the new clause applies to Wales only.

As currently drafted, the Bill provides for each local authority in Wales and England to have a power to prepare a community strategy to promote well-being subject to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The proposed new clause replaces the power with a duty upon local authorities in Wales to be fulfilled with regard to guidance issued by the National Assembly for Wales. In my experience, it is not often that local authorities ask for duties, but here is an exceptional case. The effect of the new clause would be to ensure that every local authority in Wales prepared a community strategy according to a timetable and with scope and procedures defined in guidance by the National Assembly after widespread consultation in Wales.

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The Local Government Association wishes to develop an innovative and distinctive approach to the governance of Wales. The community strategy for each local government area is widely regarded within Wales as an essential part of the new governance, as is the partnership that is being constructed between the National Assembly and local government. It is urged that Wales needs a national framework for local community planning which can be achieved only by laying a duty on local authorities. It is envisaged that each local authority will work with local people, voluntary and business organisations and other public organisations to agree, in partnership, shared aims and strategies for the local community which can inform the more detailed planning and actions of each of the partner organisations. The National Assembly is currently developing a strategic plan for Wales through a process of partnership and consultation.

This national strategy proposes key priorities and targets for Wales in the medium and long term. The intention is that local government will collectively consider how its priorities match those of the Assembly, and where, as anticipated, there is congruence, the Assembly and local government will make a policy agreement, where both agree to pursue selected target outcomes. Local agreements will be informed by the national agreement as each local authority considers the circumstances of its community and its potential contribution to the national strategy. It is anticipated that the policy agreements, national and local, will inform the local partnerships that come together to develop a community strategy.

Much work has already been done on this innovative approach to partnership which has been developed in Wales through its unique statutory Partnership Council between the Assembly and local government. During the preparations, one of the key foundations was the Government's commitment in the Welsh Office White Paper, Local Voices, in 1998. They stated in the White Paper:

    "There is a need for greater policy cohesion and coherence at local level between the public, business and voluntary sectors. The new duty will include a requirement for authorities to prepare overarching strategies for promoting the well-being of their areas ... It is important that all authorities should carry out community planning in a strategic and comprehensive way. The Government considers it essential that there should be a strategy for every area".

So the Government themselves spoke then, in 1998, of a "duty" rather than a power.

In 1999, the Welsh Local Government Association undertook consultation on the purpose and form of community planning. There was a full response from local organisations. All responses were positive on the need for community strategies and all expressed the view that the National Assembly should provide guidance on community plans which balanced the need for local innovation and diversity with the need for some consistency.

The Partnership Council, comprising the National Assembly and local government representatives, has considered the Welsh Local Government Association's consultation and responses. It has

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established a working group between itself and partners in the voluntary and business sectors to begin the preparations for national guidance in anticipation of the Bill being amended. We shall see whether they were wise in their anticipation.

I understand that the Welsh Local Government Association persuaded its English colleagues in the LGA of the merits of this amendment. As I said earlier, the House has debated amendments on two occasions which sought to substitute the term "power" with "duty", but on both occasions the Government opposed the amendments. But clearly a special situation has developed in Wales. I hope that the Government are as sympathetic to the proposal as I am. I beg to move.

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