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Clause 50 --

Existing joint boards and committees and port health districts

Mr. Gwilym Jones : I beg to move amendment No. 67, in page 37, line 38, after councils' insert

in relation to such areas in Wales'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : With this, it will be convenient to discuss also Government amendments Nos. 68 to 70.

Mr. Jones : Clause 50 provides the mechanism for the transfer of property held by existing county councils in Wales and required to be applied in accordance with section 90 of the Welsh Church Act 1914. To avoid the division of a property into 22 funds--one for each council--it is to be vested in the lead authorities. The amendments make minor technical changes to clarify the provisions for apportionment of the funds, which will take effect on 1 April 1996.

Mr. Murphy : The Minister will recall that there was a lively debate in Committee on the 1914 Act, and I hope that he will be able to indicate which particular Welsh authorities will be designated lead authorities. We argued in Committee--but not today because the argument was concluded in Committee, if not in our favour--that every local authority should act as those authorities dealing with the Welsh church fund moneys.

My first point is one of definition. Page 38 of the 1914 Act, at line 24, uses a word that my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) asks to be interpreted by the Minister--"eleemosynary". The "Oxford English Dictionary" indicates that it pertains to alms giving. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower points out that one of the Bronte sisters wrote that

"eleemosynary relief never yet tranquillised the working classes." It seems that operation of the 1914 Act is important to not just the working classes but everybody in the Principality.

The Select Committee on Welsh Affairs conducted an investigation only last year into the preservation of historic buildings and ancient monuments. I remind the Minister that it indicated that the Welsh Office should consider how the funds could be restructured on a more equitable and consistent basis for transferring them to the proposed unitary authorities. The Government replied :

"Each county council"

or leading authority, as it will now be

"is required to administer its Welsh Church Act fund in accordance with a scheme which sets out the charitable and other purposes to which the Fund's property will be applied. Each scheme has to be approved by the Secretary of State. The Department is not aware of any instance of a council failing to comply with the provision of its scheme but, in the light of the Committee's concerns, it proposes to invite the Charity Commissioners to review the administration of the Funds to see what improvements may be made."

It would be a good idea for the Government to undertake a consultative exercise and to make recommendations to lead authorities as to how best the 1914 Act could be operated in some instances. In some parts of Wales it works extremely well, but in others, not so well. I will be grateful for the Minister's comments.

Mr. Rowlands : I remind the Minister of the role that the Welsh church funds have played in Mid-Glamorgan, in supporting and upholding the fabric of many chapels and churches in our communities and of the rightful necessity

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for that work to continue. If the Minister is to establish lead authorities, I hope that one of them will be really representative of the valley communities and that the funds' representation will not be centred on Cardiff. I hope that the Minister will now give the assurance that I sought in Committee.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : I recognise the aspirations of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and there is considerable merit in his comments. I shall see what we can do to achieve that which he seeks.

As to lead authorities, I remind the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) that I made him happy, but upset my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans), by suggesting that the lead authority for Gwent would probably be Torfaen, on the basis that the computers are currently located there and the administrative arrangements are already to hand. However, our arrangements will ensure that all 22 authorities will fully participate appropriately in the administration of the church funds.

I am advised that the word identified by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) means the relief of the poor.

As to the point about restructuring, which was raised in the Select Committee report, we referred the matter to the Charity Commissioners. The hon. Member for Torfaen suggested consultation, and there is merit in that. That is something that we should examine, but not in the course of local government reorganisation. I am aware that the Wales Council for Voluntary Action has also made worthwhile suggestions about what might be done with the church funds, but those are all matters that we should consider later.

Amendment agreed to .

8.45 pm

Amendments made : No. 68, in page 38, line 2, after whose' insert designated'.

No. 69, in page 38, line 4, after whose' insert designated'. No. 70, in page 38, leave out line 20 and insert "designated" means'.-- [Mr. Gwilym Jones.]

Clause 54 --

Consequential and supplementary provision

-- Amendments made : No. 71, in page 42, line 16, leave out from council' to end of line 17 and insert

or other public body or to the Residuary Body ;'.

No. 72, in page 42, line 42, leave out from beginning to end of line 5 on page 43.-- [Mr. Gwilym Jones.]

Clause 56 --

Local Acts and instruments


Amendment made : No. 105, in page 44, line 13, after 54', insert

or ( Magistrates' courts, justices of the peace etc. )'.-- [Mr. Gwilym Jones.]

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Clause 57 --

Modifications etc. of local Acts and instruments

-- Amendments made : No. 106, in page 45, line 5, after 54', insert

or ( Magistrates' courts, justices of the peace etc. ) (a "modifying order")'.

No. 107, in page 45, line 6, leave out section 54' and insert modifying'.

No. 108, in page 45, line 27, after 54', insert

( Magistrates' courts, justices of the peace etc. ),'. No. 109, in page 45, line 38, leave out

an order under section 54'

and insert a modifying order'.-- [Mr. Gwilym Jones.]

Clause 62 --

Regulations, Orders and Directions

Amendments made : No. 110, in page 49, line 31, leave out 32(1) or 33(1)'.

No. 111, in page 49, line 35, leave out 32(1), 33(1),'. No. 73, in page 49, line 41, after State' insert

or (as the case may be) the Lord Chancellor'.-- [ Mr. Redwood. ]

Clause 65 --

Short title, commencement, extent etc

-- Amendments made : No. 112, in page 51, line 2, leave out 1,' and insert 1(1), (2) and (7),'.

No. 75, in page 51, line 2, after 54' insert

( Magistrates' courts, justices of the peace etc. ),'.-- [Mr. Redwood.]

Schedule 1 --

The new principal areas


Amendments made : No. 76, in page 52, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 12.

No. 77, in page 52, line 40, column 2, after Monmouth' insert together with (from the district of Blaenau Gwent) the community of Llanelly'.

No. 78, in page 53, line 1, leave out from beginning to end of line 4.

No. 79, in page 53, line 7, at end insert



The districts of Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Brecknock, together with (from the district of Glynd r) the communities of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Llansilin and Llangedwyn.'.

No. 80, in page 53, line 8, leave out from beginning to end of line 9.-- [Mr. Gwilym Jones.]

Schedule 1 --

The New Principal Areas

Amendments made : No. 81, in page 54, line 27, column 2, leave out

but excluding the community of Llanelly'.

No. 82, in page 54, line 38, column 2, leave out

and the community of Llanelly from the county of Gwent'.-- [Mr. Redwood.]

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Schedule 2 --

Provisions Applying to Preserved Counties

Amendments made : No. 83, in page 56, line 34, leave out The provisions of' and insert In'.

No. 84, in page 56, line 35, leave out from areas)' to end of line 38 and insert , in paragraph (a), after county' insert in England' and after that paragraph insert

"(aa) every preserved county in Wales ;".

(2) In section 4 of that Act (petty sessions areas), after subsection (1) insert

"(1A) In subsection (1) above, any reference to a non-metropolitan county is to be construed, in relation to Wales, as a reference to a preserved county."

(3) In section 19 of that Act (general provisions as to magistrates' courts committees), in subsection (2), in paragraph (a), after "county" insert "in England", and after paragraph (b) insert "(bb) every preserved county in Wales ;".

(4) In section 70 of that Act (interpretation), after the definition of "prescribed" insert

"preserved county" has the meaning given by section 63 of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 ;".

The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c. 43)

.--(1) In section 1 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (issue of summons to accused or warrant for his arrest), in subsection (8) after "county" insert "in England, any preserved county in Wales". (2) In section 2 of that Act (jurisdiction to deal with charges), in subsections (1) and (3) after first "county" insert "in England, a preserved county in Wales" and after second "county" insert ", the preserved county".

(3) In section 3 of that Act (offences committed on boundaries etc.), in subsection (4) after "county" insert "in England, any preserved county in Wales".

(4) In section 150(1) of that Act (interpretation), after the definition of "prescribed" insert

"preserved county" has the meaning given by section 63 of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 ;".'. -- [Mr. Redwood.]

Schedule 3 --

Establishment of Principal Councils

Mr. Gwilym Jones : I beg to move amendment No. 85, in page 59, line 8, leave out from beginning to end of line 19 and insert

9.--(1) In this paragraph "council" means a county or district council which ceases to exist on 1st April 1996 by virtue of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994.

(1A) No election of councillors of a council shall be held after 31st December 1994, except

(a) to fill a casual vacancy in the office of councillor of that council where before 31st December 1994

(i) the office has been declared to be vacant ; or

(ii) notice of the vacancy has been given under section 89(1) of this Act ; or

(b) where the number of casual vacancies in the office of councillor of a council occurring after 31st December 1994 exceeds half of the total number of such offices.

(2) Any such councillor holding office immediately before 31st December 1994, or elected after that date to fill a casual vacancy, shall, unless he resigns his office or it otherwise becomes vacant, continue to hold office until 1st April 1996.

(2A) It shall not be necessary

(a) to fill any casual vacancy in the office of councillor of a council occurring after 31st December 1994 ; and accordingly section 89 of this Act shall have effect with the necessary modifications in relation to any such vacancy ; or

(b) to fill any casual vacancy occurring during March 1996 in the office of chairman or vice-chairman of a council.'.

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Madam Deputy Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss also Government amendments Nos. 86 to 98, 113 and 114.

Mr. Jones : In Committee, I undertook to return at this stage with our proposals for the suspension of elections to casual vacancies. The amendment fulfils that commitment and confirms our preference for 31 December 1994 to be the cut-off date, except for circumstances described in the amendment. It also suspends the district council elections in 1995 and prolongs the mandate of district councillors. Amendment No. 86 removes the provision relating to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1941. It is no longer required because the Act has been repealed by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1993. Schedule 13 deals with the powers and administrative arrangements of the residuary body for Wales.

Amendments Nos. 87 to 93 represent minor drafting amendments to provisions that apply for other enactments to the residuary body in order for it to carry out its functions.

Amendments Nos. 94 and 98 are consequential amendments which have been necessitated by the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill. Amendment No. 95 is simply a technical amendment to clarify the wording of paragraph 46 of schedule 15, which itself amends section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972. It does not make any substantive change to the provision.

Amendment No. 96 is a technical amendment to paragraph 56 of schedule 15, which itself amends section 255(1) of the 1972 Act to take account of the new local government system.

Amendment No. 97 is a technical amendment to paragraph 17 of schedule 16, which amends section 39(1) of the Land Compensation Act 1961 to provide a reference to county boroughs in the definition of an authority possessing compulsory purchase powers.

Amendment No. 113 amends the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and ensures that an extant local government finance provision will apply to all the new authorities.

Amendment No. 114 is a technical amendment and clarifies an ambiguity arising from the current drafting of paragraph 19(2) of schedule 17.

Mr. Wigley : I am glad of the opportunity to speak about this provision, because, as I see it, quite difficult complications could arise from the fact that after 31 December 1994 no casual vacancies can be filled in an authority that runs until 1996 as an operative authority. That could be the case in rural Wales, for example, where councillors might represent very large areas, but single-member wards, and have difficulty in getting coverage for such wards. It seems unlikely, but if half the councillors resigned, died or whatever, would all the empty wards come up together, or just a number to make it up to over half ? The provision seems somewhat artificial, and I cannot see why it would not be possible for it to run through at least until a date in 1995 so that no one is left without representation at a time that is fairly critical to their futures.

Mr. Morgan : The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) asks an important question, because, obviously, there are single-member wards as well as multi-member wards, and those vacancies could create a vacuum. I hope

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that the Minister will accept the need to reply on that point, although in general the proposal is at least an improvement on what was offered in Committee--pushing the date forward.

Amendment No. 87 requires a little more comment than that made so far by the Under-Secretary. Most of the other amendments were aligned with other legislation, apart from that relating to by-elections. The amendment edges us one step further down the road of how to define the residuary body. It makes it look as though for some purposes--rather more than the Government have so far revealed--the residuary body will be defined as a non- departmental public body ; in other words, it will be a quango. The amendment incorporates the right of the ombudsman to take up complaints against the residuary body. That right did not exist in Committee because of the Government's enthusiasm for trying to prevent the residuary body from being construed, politically or legally--I am not sure which--as a quango.

Obviously, the Secretary of State is anxious about his record. He wants to be known as a "quango buster", having realised that that might increase his popularity rating in Wales from 0 per cent. to 1 per cent., so he does not want to be seen to be creating any more quangos. Nevertheless, he is being pushed in that direction, probably by the advice that he is receiving. If the residuary body is to have the powers of the ombudsman made applicable to it by the amendment, it would probably be better to go the whole hog.

The Secretary of State will appoint the chairman and some of the members of the residuary body. If I recall correctly, the National Audit Office is to have access to its books--presumably, it will be listed in "Public Bodies", which is the bible of the quangos. "Public Bodies" is published and updated every year and gives the salaries of chairmen and members. In Committee, the residuary body was presented as having a curious undefined status, but a panoply of audit and examination powers and its responsibility to the House go with its being a quango. I therefore hope that the Under-Secretary will say that he accepts the case we made in Committee that the residuary body cannot be other than a quango, because there is no other category into which it fits.

The Government accept that case, functionally, through the taking up of complaints of maladministration and by stating in the amendment that the residuary body will be subject to the review powers of the ombudsman. It has been recommended that there should be compensation where maladministration is proved. I hope, therefore, that the Government will come clean and say that they are creating a quango, even if it has only temporary status.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : I appreciate what the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) said about vacancies, especially in rural areas, but we feel that the cut-off date of the end of the current calendar year is an appropriate time to draw a line. The number of vacancies is not expected to be large, although we have put in that ultimate provision of one half of the vacancies in that most unusual--and I think almost impossible to envisage--circumstance. Recollecting what happened in 1973 and 1974, I think that it will suffice. Of course, the shadow councils will be

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elected in April or May next year. They begin the work for the following year ; in that way, they start subsuming activities. There must be some form of continuity there.

Mr. Wigley : Is the Minister implying that a councillor who has been elected to the shadow authority will have a right to attend meetings of either district or county authorities ?

Mr. Jones : I do not expect councillors to have such a right, but I recall that, in the reorganisation of 1973-74, as a shadow councillor, I was invited to attend meetings of the council that was about to cease to exist. That may happen again. Nor do I expect shadow councillors to have powers under the existing councils, but I anticipate that, from the following year onwards, the shadow council will subsume the activities of the existing one.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) mentioned the residuary body. I did not think that my proposals needed further explanation : these are only minor drafting improvements, which do not affect the substance of the provisions as previously drafted. I hesitate to try to help him by giving a definition of quangos. Following yesterday's sitting of the Welsh Grand Committee, I know that his party is quango-mad--not least because of the number of representatives whom Welsh Labour councils appoint to their own quangos. The hon. Gentleman seems to define whatever he finds as a quango.

Mr. Ron Davies : I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, but I must point out that he is treating the time that remains rather carelessly by being unnecessarily provocative.

The Secretary of State was entirely wrong to make the suggestion that he made yesterday. It showed a complete lack of understanding of the way in which local government operates with its representation on other bodies, which cannot possibly be equated with the quango state created by the Government. If the Minister reflects for a moment on the meaning of the acronym "quango", he will understand that he has misread the position.

9 pm

Mr. Jones : I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. Local electors, and some councillors, may wish to study further the quango appointments made by Welsh Labour councils. But the last thing that I want to do this evening is to be provocative, certainly towards the hon. Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.

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