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Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) indicated assent.

Mr. Tredinnick: I am pleased to see my hon. Friend nodding assent.

The sheer volume of secondary legislation passing through this place is staggering. I have already, for instance, referred to the amount of European legislation.

Will the JCSI check the Scottish Parliament's statutory instruments to see whether they are legal and free of conflicts with primary legislation; or will statutory instruments go straight off to Edinburgh, where it may be found that they conflict with current law? This is a technical matter which gives rise to great concern, and some thought must be given to it.

The other devolution proposal, for a Welsh Assembly, is quite different, but just as complicated. There is no easy way out. Just as we found in 1979, when the autumn

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debates begin, it will be seen that nothing is going to be easy. The fact that the Labour Government have thus far allocated 48 hours of debate will not serve them well, either. In 1979, there were 47 days of debate on the Floor of the House, not to delay proceedings but to examine all these questions. In the end, there was no solution, which is why the legislation fell. Curtailing debate this time will not lead to a solution.

I do not, however, intend to be sidetracked today. The Welsh proposals for the scrutiny of secondary legislation by the Welsh Assembly are, unlike the Scottish proposals, set out in some detail in the White Paper. The Assembly--it will not be a Parliament--will be able not just to make but to amend and reject secondary legislation. Its Committees will also be able to consult, and take expert advice, on draft orders. The power currently possessed by the Secretary of State to revoke, replace or amend secondary legislation passed by this House will be given to the Assembly.

How will this work in practice? What are the implications for the relationship between Westminster and the Assembly? What are the implications of this extension of powers for the scrutiny process at Westminster?

The Welsh Assembly will be a deliberative body; it will inherit executive powers from the Welsh Office, including the power to make subordinate legislation. Hence the Assembly, under Westminster legislation and vires, will make secondary legislation. If that secondary legislation is arguably ultra vires, it will be referred to the Privy Council's Judicial Committee. Is that the Government's intention? Do they plan to let the Privy Council sort out these matters? That, at any rate, is how things stand now.

The Committees of the Assembly will prepare the legislation, but the Assembly itself will approve and make it by order. Scrutiny of secondary legislation will be done apparently by a secondary legislation Scrutiny Committee of the Assembly, considering first draft orders. But implementation of the UK's European obligations will remain at Westminster--or will it? We do not know. It is yet another grey area. I am sorry to burden the Leader of the House with so many grey areas, but we really do need answers, faced as we are with complex legislation which, some would argue, is about the break-up of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it may lead to precisely that.

These are not minor issues relating to a particular Bill or order. They relate to the whole principle of the government of these islands. They refer back to the unravelling of decisions made, I think, at the time of the Act of Union in 1704--although I am not an historian, and I stand to be corrected by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack).

Sir Patrick Cormack: Seventeen hundred and seven.

Mr. Tredinnick: I am grateful. I spent some time with my hon. Friend in the last Parliament on parliamentary business, and I learned then of his expertise.

The question remains: will responsibility for the scrutiny of instruments implementing our European obligations remain with the JCSI? Will scrutiny of statutory instruments made under transferred powers be done by the Welsh Scrutiny Committee? Will other statutory instruments remain the responsibility of the Joint Committee? This autumn, we need a debate on the whole issue of statutory instruments. It would be a grave mistake not to consider it.

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My final point on devolved secondary legislation concerns the future of the European convention on human rights. It will have an impact on the exercising of powers to make delegated legislation--not necessarily a well- known fact.

We need to know what consultation there will be on issues of parliamentary scrutiny in this area. We need to know more about the suggestion that either a Joint Committee of both Houses or the existing Joint Committee should examine the matter. Do the Government propose to set up a new Committee? Will it be a Sub-Committee of one of the newly established Committees; or will members of the Joint Committee which I chair have this responsibility? I should like an answer from the right hon. Lady.

I want to raise one other subject entirely unrelated to statutory instruments. I do so as the long-serving--almost 10-year--treasurer of the parliamentary group on alternative and complementary medicine. My point relates to the Government's decision to withdraw or ban a range of vitamin B6 supplements, which, among other things, help with pre-menstrual tension, heart disease and a range of other ailments. I say this against the background of a tendency to turn ever more to alternative medicine and away from conventional medicine.

The fact remains that the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has decided to ban higher dose supplements. Time prevents me from going through all the arguments today, and I know that other colleagues want to speak--but this issue, I warn the Government, will not go away.

If MAFF wants to expand its postroom, fine. Thousands of letters will be pouring in on this issue. The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has taken the soft option, and has insisted on pills of an unnecessarily high degree of safety. That has enraged people in the world of alternative medicine.

In all my time running the secretariat for the parliamentary group, I have never come across a Government decision so at variance with so much professional thought in the industry, and so annoying to so many people and practitioners.

In the previous Parliament, the Government had to deal with the herb comfrey, and we won that case. The Minister of State is in his submarine and going straight for the bottom, because this issue will not go away. I implore the Leader of the House urgently to tackle him and ask him to review his decision. I should be most grateful if she did so.

10.39 am

Mr. Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton): I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my maiden speech during this general debate. I am pleased to be making it before the recess, because that means that I can go home feeling that I have achieved a little. I have to be careful what I say, because I believe that you had a connection with part of my constituency in earlier days.

My constituency is one of those that make up the metropolitan borough of Rochdale. Having been subjected to boundary changes, the constituency of Heywood and Middleton now incorporates the wards of Castleton and

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of Norden and Bamford. When it was in the constituency of Rochdale, Norden and Bamford was probably an 8,000 Conservative block vote, but at the last election there were some major switches, and in parts of the ward we took up to 40 per cent. of the vote. Both Castleton and Norden and Bamford were formerly part of the Rochdale constituency.

It is said that Heywood was created in the 18th century by the father of Sir Robert Peel. It has a strong sense of working-class history and tradition. Today, Heywood is an expanding centre for the distribution industry on one side of the M62 and close to the M66, which motorway has recently been under review but is now due to be completed, thanks to the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. It is a most important road link around the Manchester conurbation.

Heywood has many links with historical events and people, and certainly has dramatic links with this House. Peter Heywood of Heywood hall is credited with being one of those who, on 4 March 1605, snatched the lantern from the hand of one Guy Fawkes. Right hon. and hon. Members therefore have a former constituent of Heywood to thank for the preservation of this democratic establishment--I nearly said a former constituent of mine, but that would have given away my age. The lantern is on show at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford.

A descendant of Peter Heywood, also called Peter Heywood, was a midshipman on the famous ship, the Bounty. It is recorded that he was vindicated of mutiny, as one would expect of a fine, upstanding constituent of that town.

To the south of the M62 lies Middleton. Samuel Bamford, one of the great political poets and reformers, led a contingent from Middleton to Manchester, where a number were murdered at Peterloo in 1819.

I represent two wards in Rochdale, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Lorna Fitzsimons), my colleague and neighbour, on her tremendous win in the general election. Rochdale has the distinction of being the birthplace of the Co-operative movement, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. As recent leader of Rochdale council, I am proud to be a Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament.

I am proud of the radical traditions and politics of my constituency, which I inherited from my predecessor Jim Callaghan--little Jim Callaghan, known widely in the House as "Gentleman Jim". He spent 22 years in the House, and was recognised throughout the constituency as a hard-working Member who built his majority from 500 to more than 8,000. In this year's general election, the majority was 17,500. Jim was always loyal to his constituents and to his party, and he left the House knowing that he had done a good job.

Before him, Joel Barnett, now Lord Barnett and a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, served the people of Heywood with great distinction, and is remembered with great affection. I can never fill the shoes of my two eminent predecessors--I can merely try to do my best.

Having come from local government, I judge much of the legislation introduced in the House by the effect it will have on local government, services to local communities

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and the local economy, because that is where the people will measure its impact. The Government's commitment to schools, raising standards, smaller class sizes and repairing school buildings will be most welcome in my constituency, where many classes contain more than 30 pupils and many schools are in a state of disrepair.

I especially welcome the Government's early decision to fund a new hospital for my constituents based in Rochdale. The proposed new deal on welfare to work is a real bonus for the area, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, other partners, represented by the local training and enterprise council, the chamber of commerce, business link and the council, and I have already produced a scheme that I hope the Minister concerned will find exciting. Allowances for small business and the release of capital receipts will clearly benefit the local economy. I am so far pleased with the contents of the Budget.

However, I have for some time been concerned about the links and the relationship between central and local government, which have deteriorated in recent years. The debate on the proper relationship between central and local government is not a new one: its origins in this country date back to the middle ages and the territorial conflicts between the monarchy and nobility over the relationship between the Crown and its most powerful subjects. The compromise reached with the signing at Runnymede of the Magna Carta, which laid the foundations of our so-called unwritten constitution, can be seen as the forerunner of modern conflicts in local and central relations.

We need to put the relationship between central and local government into perspective. Despite the supremacy of Parliament, which was established during the English civil war in the 17th century, there has always been an uneasy relationship with the regions and localities; but, even without a written constitution, the importance of local government and administration has been acknowledged. Today, we need to define a new relationship with the centre that meets the challenges of the next century.

Our role in a new Europe and our responsibilities to our own citizens also need to be redefined. When, all over Europe, the emphasis is on decentralisation, devolution and the delegation of powers, this country should meet the challenge and give leadership in the transformation of our society and our economy into smaller, more manageable, self-governing but interdependent units. We must move away from centralisation, bureaucracy and conformity. Regionalism and local self-government will become more important in the Europe of tomorrow than the complex interplay between independent nation states.

Today, when nearly all our major economic and industrial competitors recognise the importance of local self-determination, economic autonomy and the need to provide a flexible localised response to a changing environment, economy and society, we have created a great centralised system that destroys local initiative and disregards local achievement.

Through the introduction of universal education, sanitation and welfare, and through the great cotton entrepreneurs of the north and the great civic fathers such as Joseph Chamberlain in Birmingham, who promoted self-esteem and a measure of local control, this country pioneered great developments in local self-government during the 19th century; but we are now sadly falling way

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behind other European countries. On the continent, local government is a major force behind economic and social change. Its relationship with the centre is that of a partnership and its role is that of an activator and enabler.

Local government in this country is less powerful than it was 18 years ago. It has less discretion and less money, and it is hampered by a legislative straitjacket designed to prevent it from responding to local needs in contravention of policies determined at the centre. Despite all that, local government is resilient and has responded to changes in our economy and society. It has attempted to match limited resources to changing needs and has, within the confines of its powers, attempted to promote a measure of local autonomy.

I argue that, whatever we might think of local government, it has been able to adapt to a new environment and can provide the key to our future success as a country, if it is allowed to act in partnership with our communities, with local business and industries, and with the voluntary sector, to intervene positively on behalf of the areas that it represents.

I am sure that we shall see parallels with moves in the private sector to greater integration and decentralisation of production groups with their own cost centres. There is an important difference, however. The private sector normally seeks to increase demand and can then increase supply in order to boost profits. Local government cannot do that. It is essentially a rationing agent, hemmed in by central Government's financial controls, which are far more primitive than any specific service-based legislation.

I am now coming to the end of this presentation. We must move with the times. We have become, as one commentator has suggested,

That notion of democracy in a complex society is outdated and increasingly threatens not only our liberties but our pockets. The Government's policy of devolution of power and decision making--this is where I differ from the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick)--will surely go some way to bridge the obvious gap that exists between central and local government. That, I maintain, will maximise the benefits of the Government's policies and future Budgets.

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