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Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, although he was third in the Western Mail opinion poll. I do so because I am accused, yet again, by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, of accusing him of having an obsession with Mr. Ron Davies. The noble Lord has, once again, proved the point. He has spoken about Mr. Ron Davies for 15 minutes, I think for the third time. His speeches are now apparently written by Members of all parties in another place. Nothing that has been said in another place is different from what I have said in response to him in the debates here in relation to the matter of transition.
My objection to his amendment, yet again, is that he is legislating for one person in a particular circumstance to prevent the people of Wales from making a democratic choice; to prevent a political party and a certain politician from pursuing a career. That is not a matter for this House. This House is legislating for a new democracy in Wales. The former Secretary of State must understand, as my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, said, that we are in new circumstances.
As I have argued before, the transition that is taking place should enable Ministers of the Crown to move from Whitehall to Cardiff and vice versa. The noble Lord conceded that it might be possible that a DCMS Minister for broadcasting might find him or herself in Cardiff.
Let me remind the noble Lord of what I described in one debate as a "call for Ron" scenario. In other words, a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom might call for a very successful politician from Cardiff, of any party, to join a London administration. That is the order of the day as regards the way that democracies function throughout the European Union.
We are not yet in the Federation of the United Kingdom. Many of us wish we had been at the end of the 19th century. When we are making a democracy of the United Kingdom in its federal relations between nations within that kingdom at the end of the 20th century, let us do it properly. Let us not put on the face of Bills clauses which prevent successful politicians elected to one place from going to serve in another.
Let me declare a personal interest. If this were to become an elected House under a new administration, and if I were elected to Cardiff, I might decide, at the grand old age of 58, after two terms in Cardiff, to test the will of the Welsh electorate to be elected here. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, is against dual mandates, but that is the nature of the position in quasi-federal systems. We should not be trying to legislate again tonight for one person. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, is already on the record as inviting himself to Mr. Ron Davies' party. I would not want to delay his going.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I hesitate to intervene in this Bill. I have not done so before. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, is right. When we have a general election for a Parliament in the United Kingdom, it is a new parliament. When there is a general election for the Welsh assembly, it will be a new assembly. Will not this amendment cover each new assembly and not just the very first one?
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, has rather personalised this debate in a most unfortunate way. Nothing has been said against the question of a dual mandate and a Member being a Member of both the Welsh national assembly and a Member in the other place, or even, if he was fortunate enough--which might indeed become the case--being a Member in this place. The debate is about whether somebody in the Cabinet, with a very specific loyalty, can also serve as the head of the Welsh national assembly at the same time.
We are legislating at a particular point in time. There is only one constitution now involved. It is inevitable therefore that the context is in the context of one person. It is not personal at all. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell is correct: this is a constitutional issue and a matter that stands in its own right. There is no question of personalities being involved.
That does not deal with the problem as I see it. We are embarking on a completely new venture, a devolution of power and administration over the distribution of funds which are raised by Parliament here. It is important that the assembly should have the option of appointing as its first secretary a person, whoever he or she may be, who has had experience of administering the very powers that have been devolved to the Welsh assembly. That period will be a settling-in period.
If the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, had put down an amendment that after the first four years of the Welsh assembly nobody could hold a dual mandate, I would have supported it. Everybody generally is agreed that in the longer term it is undesirable, politically and constitutionally, that a person should hold both positions. I anticipate that at the end of four years the position will be very much clearer. I suspect that the Prime Minister will decide during that period whether it is politically acceptable; it depends on how things develop in the Welsh assembly. I think it will generally be thought of as constitutionally unacceptable. That does not mean to say that for the first four years, when we are establishing something entirely new, we should not have the option at least of the existing Secretary of State taking on, for a time, the responsibilities of the first secretary as well. I am not saying necessarily that will happen. It may be that the Prime Minister will not approve of it; one does not know, but the option should be there.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, these three amendments could perhaps be described as a "strategic retreat". Alternatively one could be complimentary and describe them as a "damage limitation exercise". However, I want to challenge the logic of the amendments because in his Motion (No. 27B) the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, states:
That reasoning, which has been accepted also by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, is applicable equally to these amendments because it categorically states that it is not appropriate for Ministers of the Crown to be disqualified from being members of the national assembly for Wales. In that wording, whether the period is three months, six months, nine months or four years is irrelevant.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that, but the amendment is not as important as the reasoning of the Commons. They have disagreed to the original amendment for exactly the same reason as they would disagree to the current amendments.
Having said that, I should like to take up the point about the new assembly for Wales. It will be a new democracy. That is what we want for the benefit of the Welsh people, and the assembly and the people of Wales can only benefit if, in the formative years of the development of the assembly, the first secretary is also a Minister. That is my view of the matter. I believe that the position will change within four years, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said. However, we need that time because the assembly, and particularly the first secretary, will face considerable difficulties. Those difficulties may be enormous and it can only be helpful if the first secretary is also a Minister of the Crown.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am sure that I shall be allowed to speak to all of these amendments now, including my own. I find intriguing, to say the least, the reason given by the other place for rejecting my noble friend's amendment. The Commons state:
That was a substantial part of the argument that was put forward by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mr. Peter Hain, when the Commons considered our amendments on 22nd July. He pleaded for the right of Ministers to stand for the assembly, as did the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General in this House and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, last night during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill in this House. Of course, he was speaking not of the Welsh assembly, but of the Scottish parliament.