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Lord Thomas of Gresford: With the greatest respect to the careful and lengthy argument of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, from these Benches we disagree with the amendments. The noble Lord said that some may feel that the amendments are otiose and unnecessary; I include myself among that number. A principle not to include otiose and unnecessary language in any form of statute should be followed in all legislation.
The noble Lord referred to the analogy of the Northern Ireland legislation, in which similar clauses are included. It is a false analogy. It may be necessary to make statements of this sort in a community where a significant number of people question the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament, but that is not the case in Wales. Who are the people who worry, who need reassurance, who will not feel safe unless these words are included in the Bill? I do not meet them in the Wrexham Rugby Club or the pub in Gresford. I have never heard anybody express any worries of that nature.
The noble Lord also referred to anxieties about secondary legislation. He said that we show concern in this House because there is no adequacy of scrutiny. We on these Benches have always shown concern in relation to the lack of scrutiny of legislation that is brought before these Houses of Parliament. That is one of the reasons why over the past 30 or 40 years we have supported the need for devolution and for a domestic parliament where proper scrutiny can take place of legislation that affects the interests of the people of Wales. We oppose the amendment.
Viscount St. Davids: I have considerable sympathy, particularly for Amendment No. 1. I should like to pick up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, when he said that we do not need redundant or superfluous wording on the face of the Bill.
This Bill is unlike any other that has come before your Lordships' Chamber pertaining to the government of Wales for 426 years. It sets up a completely new form of administration for Wales for many aspects that govern the lives of Welsh people. It is different from the majority of Bills that will come before this Chamber. We should recognise--a point made by my noble friend--that half the people of Wales did not, for one reason or another, take part in the referendum. A great number voted against these proposals. They would be reassured by the wording in Amendment No. 1. I take that further and say that there are those of extreme tendency who need to be reminded that that is as far as these proposals go, and therefore we need Amendment No. 1.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: I spoke on the referendum Bill relating to Wales. I did not speak on the Second Reading of this Bill because many others whose connection with Wales was far closer could and did speak with great authority on the matter. But perhaps
The Government's manifesto was perfectly clear: they would hold a referendum and if that referendum, by a simple majority, answered yes, they would go ahead to legislate on the lines of the White Paper. That undoubtedly bound the Government to do what they said they would do, having obtained a majority, however exiguous. As has been pointed out, the majority was extremely narrow and that also gave cause for concern, even to those like myself who were in favour of devolution, partly on the ground of subsidiarity and partly because we found deeply moving the speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and many others.
What did that tell me? In addition to the narrow majority and the high degree of abstentions, the geographical division was disclosed by the voting, both economic and social. That narrow majority was secured after massive intervention and propaganda--by no means improper--by the Government and by the Prime Minister's great personal popularity being thrown into the struggle.
The answer being yes, the Government were bound to go ahead; but Parliament was not bound in any way, and no one can pretend that it was. Moreover, the position was difficult for the Government's supporters in the House of Commons. Even if they were less docile than they apparently seem to be, they too had endorsed the manifesto and it was very difficult for them to go against what the Government were proposing. But that means that the parliamentary responsibility falls with particular weight on your Lordships' House, and your Lordships are bound to go ahead, bearing in mind that there was, on analysis, no majority at all for the White Paper.
It was a great pity that an amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas and myself on a referendum was rejected by the Government. It would have shown quite clearly what proportion of the yes vote came from those who supported the White Paper and what proportion came from those who regarded the White Paper as merely a step forward to independence. The same problem arises in the Scottish case. However, the Government having chosen, as I am afraid they so often do, to fudge the question, we can only guess what majority was really against the White Paper. It certainly was a majority.
What are your Lordships to do in those circumstances? A few years ago there used to be talk of a manifesto mandate. There have been occasionally claims of that on devolution Bills but not very often. I think it is now accepted that a vote for a party does not endorse in any way constitutionally the contents of the manifesto. Therefore, the responsibility of your Lordships, as was pointed out at Second Reading, is primarily scrutiny, but on this Bill it goes very much further. All too often it seems to be taken that
It seems to me that your Lordships should incline to the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, but, on the whole, even though it seems to fit in with the approach that one would have to have regard to the interests of the minority, it does not really go far enough. In the first place, as has been said, this is a completely unnecessary amendment constitutionally. Your Lordships would not be legislating at all unless the legislative superiority rested at Westminster. However, there is another reason, which was referred to obliquely at Second Reading. This is an Act of devolution and it should not be ungenerously carried out. I fear that if the amendment were carried it would seem to be a niggling reservation on what I think by now is a consensus that the Bill should go ahead--that appeared clearly throughout the Second Reading debate--with any necessary amendment in order to preserve the true interests of the minority. The true interests of the minority are not in any way served by the amendment before the Committee. It seems to be an ungenerous gesture for your Lordships to be making. I hope that the noble Lord will not press it to a Division.
Lord Elis-Thomas: My noble and learned friend Lord Simon should not seek to apologise for intervening in this debate. After all, I believe he has a distinguished record of military service with the RWF. One cannot know of a more Welsh institution than that.
I agree with his remarks and wish to emphasise that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee refers in paragraph 5 of its report to the obvious fact that the Westminster Parliament will remain the supreme legislative body for Wales. Therefore, there is no need to rehearse that point on the face of the Bill. As my noble and learned friend indicated, there are issues here of subsidiarity. It is important to understand that a national assembly will have a responsibility for the whole of Wales in terms of delegated legislation and the administration of transferred functions. It is important that the granting of that subsidiary power to the national assembly should be done generously and without the dark sense of foreboding of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, who uncharacteristically lapsed into his worst Presbyterian past. He brings to the Committee dark hints of foreboding of a Welsh assembly in a state of collapse which might require rescue by Westminster.
The policy of subsidiarity, which I understand to be warmly endorsed by Christian Democrats throughout Europe, is one I warmly commend to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. Indeed, I thought he always believed in it. However, he is taking a particular line on the Bill and I suppose that we should be sympathetic to him because of that. What concerns me more than the words in the amendment that the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Lord Crickhowell: I did not intend to take part in this debate but when I heard the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, I thought I was making an error in doing so. I was tempted, to begin with, to rise to my feet, as on a number of occasions before, by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. He spoke about the redundancy of the proposed wording. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, quite correctly said that it was not necessary constitutionally.
However, I could not help remembering that not so very long ago when we were debating the Welsh Language Bill, I and, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas--and, I suspect, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and his colleagues--argued that there was a case for inserting some words in the Bill although they were not strictly required. It was thought to be right on that occasion to say something which was firm and clear about the status of the Welsh language. There are occasions when it may be helpful to say something that is not strictly necessary in order to inspire confidence.
Let us make no mistake about it. I am absolutely clear that this Bill deserves support now, for the reasons that I set out at Second Reading. We have to gain the confidence of the Welsh people, and in some respects it may be necessary to strengthen rather than weaken the legislation. But there are issues of confidence to be overcome. Therefore, there may well be a case for wording of this sort.
That good Anglican, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, spoke about my noble friend's Presbyterian sense of foreboding. As I came into the Chamber today I opened an envelope which contained a journal which I do not frequently read. Indeed, I am not at all sure that I have ever read it before. It is entitled welsh democracy review. Apparently, this is the third issue. In the first article, which speaks about this Bill giving responsibility without power, it says,
The first item on that shopping list is primary law-making powers. The magazine contains invitations to join a "Parliament for Wales" campaign. It seems to me that when there are others already actively campaigning for a parliament for Wales with extended powers of this kind--I need not weary the Committee with the further detailed demands of the campaigning group--it may be no bad thing to start this Bill by pointing to the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament.
That is so, particularly as this is a rather unusual Bill, in this sense. We begin by saying that we are going to set up an assembly in the first lines of page 1 of the Bill, but it is not until we reach Part II many pages later that we actually begin to say what the assembly is supposed to do. We have a great chunk of the Bill devoted to who shall represent it and the electoral system, but it is only when we get to Part II that there is a statement about the functions that are to be transferred by order.
For those reasons I do not believe that the wording of this amendment is quite so unnecessary as has been suggested. If we can give reassurance to the many of people in Wales who have worries about this Bill we will be rendering a service to Wales and those who favour an effective assembly.
Lord Prys-Davies: There are others in Wales who need reassurance that this law will not be unmade. Many years ago we were taught that Parliament can make a law and that it can unmake it. This Bill is the creature of Parliament and in future Parliament could repeal it or a part of it. I must also mention to the Committee that there is also concern in parts of Wales that the Bill, or a part of it, could be repealed. Indeed, I have been asked to consider whether an amendment can be designed that will protect the national assembly in such a way as to inhibit the repeal of this Bill when it is enacted. I am forced to concede that that is not possible under our present constitutional arrangements. The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty allows no legal limitation on that sovereignty. I am aware that many years ago a Commonwealth judge said, "Freedom, once conferred, cannot be revoked". I hope that this Bill will never be undone. However, I am conscious that that is possible by even a simple majority in Parliament.
I believe that the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, is pressing is unnecessary, uncalled for and, in my opinion and that of others, it is provocative and lacks generosity, as has been mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I very much hope that the Government will not accede to this amendment.
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