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Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am somewhat disappointed by the noble Baroness's reply. I had hoped for a more sympathetic hearing, particularly to the argument about the size of the council proposed for Wales.
I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that those figures for membership of between 10 and 12 are written into this Bill, which is a piece of primary legislation. I am all for giving the Assembly as much scope as possible. But, here in Westminster, we are the people who are concerned with primary legislation. The powers of the Assembly relate only to secondary legislation, as we know. The membership figures appear on the face of this Bill.
With regard to the diversity of interests that will clearly be represented on the Welsh council, what we have heard about the composition of the Welsh council does not, as regards the business world and employers, compare favourably with what we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. She talked about the importance of the business/employer interest and, if I remember correctly, she said that the chairman of the English council would certainly have business experience. It is important for the National Assembly, and for us, to engage the support of the employers and the business people in Wales who, after all, will lose the training and enterprise councils to which they have looked in the past. However, it may well be that I shall return at a later stage to either or both of these issues.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. It is extremely important that one recognises exactly what the Assembly considered and the conclusion it reached. It considered that to set a percentage for any particular group or interest would be too narrow and would constrain the ability to make judgments. This is not primary legislation decided in London against the wishes of the Assembly; it is primary legislation that goes with the grain of the wishes of the people in Wales.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. Of course, I respect the consideration that the National Assembly gave to the issue, but I was careful not to include the 40 per cent in my amendment. However, I left scope in the amendment that I tabled, namely that there should be no fewer than four representatives drawn from the business and commercial world. Of course, that can be translated into a percentage of 10 or 12, or the larger figure that I also recommended. I intended to stress the importance of the employer/business element if we are to ensure the success of the council. With those remarks I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 156 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and others, falls within this group of amendments, and deals with persons with learning difficulties or disabilities above school age but below the age of 25. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that the Government,
Amendment No. 159 dealt with vocational and non-vocational learning for people with learning difficulties. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, made it clear that there should be no doubt that the education to be procured by the councils should include both vocational and non-vocational courses, not just for those with learning difficulties but for everyone. In that reply the noble Baroness covered the Welsh situation as well.
My noble friend Lord Pilkington spoke concisely to amendments which are of particular interest to us in Wales and other predominantly rural areas where sixth forms are often small and in competition for pupils with FE colleges. The Government's assurance on sixth form funding is conditional upon the maintenance of numbers, as we heard in the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, when he said, "as long as numbers do not fall". That begs a number of questions which may arise when we discuss Clause 36. What does a fall in numbers mean, and at what point in time?
I have sought to do justice to noble Lords who said I would refer to these amendments when we came to the Welsh part of the Bill. The final amendment to which I shall speak is Amendment No. 161, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, who asked me to move it formally. That I shall do at the appropriate time. I beg to move.
That is also why the Government made a firm commitment in the learning and skills council prospectus and said that they will expect the national and local LSCs to have members who understand the needs of people with learning difficulties and disabilities.
In terms of the particular structure within Wales, the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will be aware that many of the matters of detail as to the implementation of this policy will be a matter for the Assembly to consider. Since the functions clearly and explicitly include provision for disabled people, the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales must, under Clauses 1 and 30 respectively, have regard to the desirability of appointing members of their respective councils who have experience relevant to disability matters. With that reassurance I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. We have covered the ground as promised to noble Lords who spoke either earlier today or on the first day in Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: This probing amendment is designed to elicit which council members are to be salaried. It appears that they are all to be paid. If my reading of Schedule 4 is correct, the Assembly can only determine amount. I would be grateful for clarification and some information about the current situation in respect of the payment of quango members. Are all the members of the Welsh Development Agency, for example, currently paid salaries or fees?
I would like to know the total bill for salaries and fees but suspect that the easy answer is that that matter is for the National Assembly and figures have not yet been calculated. That begs the question of why it is necessary for the council to be under such close supervision by the Assembly--a recurring theme in my questioning. Would it not be wiser to give the council a measure of independence and responsibility, rather than have the Assembly involved in its detailed operations and second guessing at every turn?
Paragraph 8 of Schedule 4 details the requirements in respect of members' interests and their disclosure in particular circumstances. All the good seems to be undone in sub-paragraph (6), which allows the Assembly to remove a disability arising from any such disclosure--that disability being a prohibition on taking part in any deliberation or decision of the council or any committee of the council with respect to the matter. Laymen would not see much sense in that. The Secretary of State has a similar power in regard to the English council, but that does not justify giving the same power to the Assembly. I beg to move.
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