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Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, kindly referred to me, I feel that I should respond, even as "an autumnal radical". I believe that that is the description that the noble Lord wants me to take. Of course, the phrase sounds even better in Welsh, radical hydrefol. The noble Lord cited three reasons why Mr. Ron Davies should not be a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party in the national assembly and possibly its first secretary--those positions do not necessarily follow on from each other; it depends on the electorate--while still being Secretary of State. The reasons were political, practical and constitutional. I shall consider all three, encompassing them in the one word "political".
We are dealing with a unique political process in the history of the United Kingdom and of Wales. That is why those of us who have been concerned about devolutionary processes within this kingdom, the balance of forces between nationalities in this kingdom, and the economic and regional inequalities within this
That is why I personally and, indeed, politically see it as essential that if Mr. Ron Davies wishes to take a political decision to make a leap in the dark, as it were, or even a leap into Cardiff Bay, that should be his political decision. Indeed, it should be left to him and to the processes of party politics and the electorate to determine such matters. It is not for Parliament to start legislating on whether politicians should be allowed to stand for public office at different levels of government within this kingdom.
I feel this personally because--the noble Lord kindly advertised this fact--I have recently been selected as a candidate for the assembly. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support in these matters. Clearly, Parliament could have legislated in this Bill to debar Peers from standing for election. What then would have happened to me or to any other noble Lord of any party in this House wishing to be a candidate for the Scottish parliament, for the Northern Ireland assembly, which has already been established, or for the national assembly for Wales? These are not matters for Parliament to decide in that way. They are matters on which politicians should make their own difficult judgments, their own decisions, with the support of their parties and the electorate.
As regards the alleged constitutional difficulties, as I said in Committee, the ability of politicians to move between different levels of government is part of normal life on mainland Europe. In the United Kingdom, we are suffering the legacy of a unitary state--of a union state operating as a unitary state rather than as a devolved state. Where it is operating as a devolved state, it should not be unusual that politicians might decide at certain stages of their careers to opt for different levels of government. It is not for Members of this House or of another place to debar politicians from so doing.
As regards the proposals in the amendment, what about the alternative? Let us imagine that there was a major crisis in the United Kingdom--indeed, that there was a crisis within the current hegemony of new Labour, a deep division inside the United Kingdom Labour Party. Let us imagine that the call went up from the United Kingdom Labour Party, "Send for Ron!". The first secretary of the national assembly for Wales might be summoned to Downing Street, if not to the Palace, to save the Union. That may sound rather fanciful to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, but his amendment would debar that from happening. It would debar a person serving simultaneously as a Minister of the Crown of the United Kingdom Parliament and Government and within the national assembly. That applies particularly to the position of other Ministers. I see no objection to a Minister of the Crown who is serving as a Minister of State or as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in a Whitehall department also being a member of the national assembly--and an active
I come now to the most fanciful point of all. I refer to the noble Lord's analysis of the internal affairs of the Labour Party. It is well known that I have a self-denying ordinance. I never comment in public on the internal affairs of the Labour Party. However, I find it absolutely amazing that the noble Lord should suggest that my right honourable friend in another place, Mr. Ron Davies, is somehow new Labour. I have engaged in political debate with Ron on these issues over many years. Mr. Ron Davies is certainly new Wales Labour but new Wales Labour is not the same as new Labour, Islington variety. Ron Davies represents a combination of the national aspirations of Wales and what used to be called socialism. He is committed to what I would describe as community socialism--if that makes both of us radicals, so be it--but that is not in any sense the same as new Labour. If Mr. Ron Davies has been successful in securing the support of Cabinet colleagues for his application for, and nomination and election to, the post of first secretary, good luck to him.
I want to see an effective leader of the national assembly, from any party. Obviously, as I have done throughout my political life, I stand by my colleague, the right honourable Dafydd Wigley to lead the Party of Wales in the assembly. He may well yet lead us to be a party in governance in one form or another in that assembly. These are matters for the electorate. I also want to see effective leadership of the Labour Party in Wales, and Mr. Ron Davies is the person to deliver that. I also want to see effective leadership of the Liberal Party in Wales. I should like to see Green and Independent members--and even some Conservatives--in order to reflect diversity in the national assembly.
However, it is entirely inappropriate for us in this House to take it upon ourselves to debar Mr. Ron Davies from taking that political risk for himself. I am surprised that that suggestion comes from a former Secretary of State for Wales who understands the politics of these issues. To suggest that I have ulterior motives and that I intend to denounce Mr. Ron Davies is to fail to understand the nature of the alliance that established the assembly. The national assembly was established by a consensus between the Labour Party of Wales or from Wales, the Liberal Party of Wales, and Plaid Cymru as the Party of Wales. It was endorsed by the electorate by a small majority. Our intention is to make it work--and if Ron is the man to lead us and to make it work, we shall support him, if the electorate so decides. If it is to be Mr. Wigley, so much the better. If it is to be whoever leads the Welsh Liberal Party--it might even be the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford--that is also fine by me.
Trying to debar people from actively participating in this great moment of national liberation for the people of Wales because a former Secretary of State does not like it would be a political disaster on the part of this
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, totally fails to distinguish between the position of a Member of Parliament--of this House or of the other House--and the position of a Minister in the United Kingdom Government, and their relationship with the assembly. There seems to be very little objection generally to the dual mandate idea for assembly members. The Bill provides for their election. Similar provision is made in the Scotland Bill. There are also provisions governing consequential adjustments in salary and so on.
There are obvious advantages and, indeed, disadvantages to dual membership of, say, this Parliament and the Welsh assembly, or of this Parliament and the Scottish parliament--or, indeed, any other body. The advantage is clear. A Member of the European Parliament, for example, would bring much experience to the assembly. The disadvantage is the question raised by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. I refer to whether a person has enough time to do both jobs properly. However, that is not the issue here.
In this amendment we are concerned with a Minister of the Crown--a member of the United Kingdom Government whose first allegiance is to that Government--becoming a member of the assembly. In general Ministers are required to give up outside interests of all kinds that may conflict with their ministerial duties. I have heard of Members of Parliament with dual mandates in that they are members of other directly elected bodies, such as local authorities, regional parliaments like Stormont, the European Parliament and so on, but I have never heard of Ministers being members of such bodies. I am sure that somehow the guidelines to Ministers must apply.
There are also practical difficulties of dual membership for Ministers who may be seeking election to the assembly. Ordinary Members of Parliament of either House may cope, but I do not believe that Ministers are capable of performing both functions adequately because of the difficulties of time and the practicalities. If one looks at this from a practical standpoint, it is a reasonable assumption that if a Minister--
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