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Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: I followed the references to our university made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on Second Reading and the discussion he said he had had during the past few months with his colleagues in Cardiff on the present situation of the university. I have a similar interest in the University of Bangor and before that as pro-chancellor of Aberystwyth. We are fortunate tonight that we have my noble friend the Minister, who is now pro-chancellor. I am sure he will agree that the people of Wales--north, mid and south--are very proud of their university. We must not forget that the university came into existence more than a century ago because the people of Wales wanted it and because they gave their limited money so that their children, like those in England and Scotland, might have their colleges. It is one of our greatest achievements, of which we are proud. We are aware that there is an intake into the Welsh universities from England and elsewhere, but that does not change the name of the University of Wales or its character.
The members of the assembly will see education as central in its priorities for Wales, and we shall all support that. We are concerned that the University of Wales should be properly funded on the same level as the universities of England and Scotland. I regret that we have run into real difficulties in recent years.
The assembly must be treated properly. It must be enabled to ensure that the colleges have the income to carry out their range of work at the appropriate level. The Welsh assembly can launch the University of Wales into a new era. That is what we intend should take place, and it is one of the reasons why we want an assembly. However, I must draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the general view, and the amendment, are in breach of the principle of devolution upon which the Bill has been constructed. My understanding is that the assembly must be able to determine its policies and its priorities of expenditure without being under a duty to consult a Whitehall Minister, who is unlikely to understand the Welsh background. I feel obliged to draw this to the attention of the Committee. We must be careful not to avoid one of the fundamentals of the Bill.
The Earl of Courtown: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 60 to 64 which stand in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley. First, I declare a former interest. I am a chartered surveyor, qualified in the rural practice division of that institution, and before taking part in your Lordships' House was for a number of years in practice in Wales as a land and estate manager.
I understand some of the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, but I do not believe that they are quite right. The issues covering agriculture are of prime importance. My noble friend and myself are not making an effort to throw a spanner in the works of the Bill but are trying to cover practical, important issues.
This group of amendments deals with the transfer of functions relating to agriculture, animal health and welfare, food safety, health and safety and pesticides. In connection with those issues, I am looking forward to hearing what the Minister has to say when he speaks to the new schedule proposed in Amendment No. 76A. It is not entirely clear to me whether that will solve the problems which concern me.
The draft order proposes to transfer those issues, particularly in the case of animal health and welfare legislation. Surely it would be sensible to have the same regulations each side of the border; for example, in the case of foot and mouth disease, which is no respecter of borders or boundaries. The same principle applies to food and safety. A quick and uniform approach to a worst possible scenario throughout the UK would be imperative. As regards pesticides, such duplication of highly specialised systems could be considered ill-advised and wasteful.
As regards Amendment No. 64, the subject of planning is often debated in your Lordships' House. Consistency in decisions must always be seen to be carried out. The Bill as currently drafted removes the requirement of functions being exercisable only by a Minister once he has consulted or secured the agreement of another Minister. Our amendment would require any town and country planning functions which were to be transferred to be exercised concurrently with a Minister of the Crown, so delivering consistency of decisions.
Lord Callaghan of Cardiff: It is unfortunate that these two debates are running together. Not having scrutinised the Marshalled List with great care, I did not realise that we were going to discuss education in the middle of discussing agriculture. Therefore, I shall not comment on what the noble Earl has just said. I shall simply revert to the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell.
I have some sympathy with what the noble Lord is trying to do, but I believe that the amendment goes much too far in specifying that "any function" of the assembly must only be "exercisable" after consultation with a Minister. I have a simple approach to university funding and education: the further the Government keep away from those things the better. I would be most concerned if the assembly were to take a more detailed interest in the various universities which make up the University of Wales than is taken at present by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Indeed, I believe that the present system is perfectly appropriate.
When I reflect upon the amount of research that is carried out jointly by Welsh and English universities and the interconnection that exists between them in pursuing those aims, I must say that I would much prefer to see such matters left as far as is possible to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and to the similar council in England. I hope that the assembly will not interfere too much in such matters. Therefore, rather than promote close ministerial collaboration between England and Wales, which will almost certainly lead to greater intervention, on the whole I would go in the other direction. I hope that my noble friend, the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Wales, will agree to do so in his capacity as a Minister of the Crown.
The Earl of Balfour: I have a few brief comments to make. First, Amendment No. 62 deals with health and safety in the workplace. I believe that the Health and Safety Executive should be a universal body within the United Kingdom to ensure that all standards are exactly the same. Secondly, the last two lines of Amendment No. 64C refer to,
After the word "human", I wish that we could add the word "animal". I shall explain why. I am quite certain that one of the main causes of BSE was that herbivores were given extracts from meat. I am sure that that is what triggered it off.
Thirdly, when you buy tinned food for a cat, a dog or any pet, it is most disturbing to read the wording on the tins which specifies that the contents contain derivatives of this, that or the other, without giving details of precisely what the can contains. I wish that we could cover both food for humans and food for animals in this provision. I am sure that that would help many a farmer with a dairy herd who wants to keep up his milk yields and who has, therefore, had to give his herd some artificial food. Most of them really do not have a clue what the food is made of.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: Members of the Committee heard an important speech from the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. It was obviously deeply researched and, indeed, was cogently argued. I shall make only one minor point. When we talk about the Barnett formula in relation to Wales, it should be known as the Barnett/Rees formula. I point that out to the Committee because it was as Chief Secretary that the noble Lord, Lord Rees, extended the scheme to Wales. Therefore, he should have the credit for doing so. It only goes to show that blood is thicker than bilge.
I turn now to the important intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. Since about the third quarter of the last century, the Government in this country have kept themselves separate--that is to say, at a distance--from the universities: the arm's length approach. Today there is a buffer between the Government and the universities; namely, the Higher Education Funding
I move on from those elevated matters to the more mundane subject of food safety. Amendment No. 61 and Amendment No. 64C, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, are in total conflict. The former would keep food safety matters as a responsibility of Westminster, while the proposal from the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, is that they should be handed over specifically to the assembly.
When Members of this Chamber discussed the matter in the context of the order of the Ministry of Agriculture, the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, appeared to be reduced to eating his dog's dinner. Therefore, on that ground, I should have thought that he would have much preferred Amendment No. 64C. For myself, I can see no reason why food safety, or indeed consumer protection as proposed in a later amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas, should not be the responsibility of the assembly. Indeed, I see every reason why they should be.
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