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Lord Willoughby de Broke: I speak to Amendment No. 64C which is intended to clarify the Government's intentions with regard to the devolvement to the assembly of food safety powers. The latest draft of the transfer of functions order lists the Food Safety Act as one of the pieces of legislation to be devolved to the assembly in respect of the powers currently exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales.
As the Minister will be aware, it was under the umbrella of the Food Safety Act 1990 that the beef bones regulations were laid. This is not the moment to rehash the arguments against those regulations which were so heavily criticised in a Motion debate in this place on 27th January last when an overwhelming majority of noble Lords voted that they be revoked.
It might be worth reminding the Committee that the only prosecution to date under those regulations was thrown out of court as they were held to be bad law and unworkable. Will the Minister confirm that through the devolved powers which are vested under the Food Safety Act, the Welsh assembly will have the power to revoke those oppressive and unnecessary regulations?
Lord Crickhowell: The Committee may wonder why Amendment No. 82, which concerns higher education in Wales, is grouped with amendments on agriculture. I believe that that has been done entirely to assist me. I have an engagement later this evening which I simply cannot miss. A debate now may also help a number of other noble Lords who have an interest in higher education in Wales.
My amendment contains a serious flaw. I drafted it entirely in terms of the University of Wales. As I shall elaborate later, my remarks apply equally to other higher education institutions in Wales. I shall set out some of the details of the possible impact on those institutions.
At Second Reading, I expressed anxieties about the future financial arrangements for the University of Wales. I referred to the matter in those terms in the Second Reading debate. The noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General sought to reassure me. Subsequently he wrote me a detailed and helpful letter. I have to say that it does not reassure me, but it may be helpful to quote from it. He sets out clearly the present structure under which higher education in Wales is financed. On 5th May, he wrote:
The problem about the Barnett formula is that it is population based. I cannot remember the exact percentage, but about 5.5 per cent. of the total spend is allocated to Wales. The university expenditure has no relationship with the population of Wales. The University of Wales and the other institutions to which I shall refer in detail in a moment are important and great Welsh institutions, but they are also great British institutions. Only a minority of the students come from Wales. Of the approximately 14,000 members of Cardiff University, of which I have the privilege to be president, a large number come from England and Scotland and at present about 1,300 from other parts of the world.
For legitimate and understandable reasons, the assembly may be seriously concerned about the level of expenditure which falls on its budget and which is required in effect to finance the education of people from other parts of the United Kingdom. The numbers are large. For 1998-99, Cardiff University will receive in grants over £52.5 million, nearly £36 million for teaching and over £16.5 million for research. The total for higher education in 1998-99 for all the Welsh higher education institutions amounts to over £240 million. For example, the University of Glamorgan receives over £31 million. The North-East Wales Institute receives £10 million and the Swansea Institute of Higher Education over £9 million. Those are large sums of money. The total is a large sum in relation to the total Welsh block of around £7 billion.
It is a legitimate anxiety which I share. It should give us all considerable grounds for concern. The university sector is now a highly competitive sector. Cardiff has recently leapt sharply up the assessment table for research institutions. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to put on the record the fact that the tables published recently in The Times and other journals unfairly treat the Welsh institutions. The teaching assessment basis is different; the marking is different; and the necessary adjustments have not been made. Therefore a number of the Welsh universities come lower down the table than they should do if the calculation were made on a proper basis.
However, that is not the central point. People are looking closely at the performance of the university sector and individual institutions in it. It is a highly competitive business. To use the old phrase, Welsh colleges and universities have to compete on a level playing field with those elsewhere in the United Kingdom. All I seek to do in my amendment is to provide a protection so that the funding arrangements will ensure that the universities are able to act as they have in the past.
When the present allocations were initiated by the Secretary of State for Wales they were not controlled by or decided on the basis of the Barnett formula. They were decided on a basis necessary for higher education in Wales after the responsibility had been transferred to the Welsh Office. It is highly unsatisfactory that we should look to the future in a situation where the Barnett formula may have a damaging impact on Welsh higher education.
The guide to the transfer of functions order, to which I and others referred when speaking to an earlier set of amendments, states that, where appropriate, Schedule 1 directs that certain functions are to be exercised concurrently by the assembly and a Minister of the Crown. That means that both the assembly and the Minister can exercise the power with respect to Wales. The examples given in the guidance notes are interesting. It goes on to state,
All I seek to do is to give such concurrent powers. Indeed, I have lifted the wording of my clause from Clause 21 of the Bill, which provides that concurrent powers can be granted. My object in moving the amendment is to protect the higher education
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