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Mr. Wigley: That is a very interesting interpretation, and if that is the interpretation of Ministers, we shall listen to their comments with considerable interest. However, the hon. Gentleman will be aware, as I am, that there are Parliaments in other countries that are known as legislative assemblies, for the reason that that term clarifies the fact that the body is the prime body for making legislation as far as the people are concerned. Of course those bodies have other powers--financial, executive and administrative--but the term "legislative assembly" is used in other parts of the world.

My point is that, even if the assembly is not a fully self-governing Parliament--although we on this Bench would like it to be--there is nothing unusual in having a significant legislative role in a Parliament or assembly that is subordinate to another. We see that in the states of the United States of America, in the Lander of Germany, in Australia and in the provinces of Canada. It is important that the National Assembly for Wales should have those powers.

If we have those powers, it will be possible to develop, for example, our education system in Wales in line with the aspirations, values and wishes of the people of Wales. Over the past 100 years, we have seen education as something of intrinsic importance in Wales. Even 100 years ago, Acts of Parliament were passed that had special relevance to Wales, whose legislative provisions gave Wales a different structure in respect of education. Our education in Wales needs that sort of framework to enable it to develop now.

We hope that the assembly will be set up in spring 1999. Suppose we reach a position where the assembly, despite taking a considerable interest in the administration of education and in applying the secondary legislation and orders that are within the framework of laws passed here, cannot pass primary legislation; but we need changes to primary legislation in order to meet the needs of policy in Wales.

Then the assembly will come, by some mechanism--perhaps cap in hand--to Westminster to find the means of getting the legislative change it needs to implement the sort of policy wished for in Wales. I cannot see how that situation is provided for in the Bill, and, without giving fuller legislative power to the assembly, I am not sure whether it can be resolved.

It may be possible to develop some fast tracks, and, if so, all the better; but there needs to be some mechanism. We Back-Bench Members of Parliament know how long we have to wait to get legislative changes made. If the assembly wants and needs change but has to wait year after year to get them, or if it cannot get changes made

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that it clearly and manifestly needs and desires, that will build up frustration. There must be a mechanism provided to deal with such situations.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ron Davies): I am listening carefully to the right hon. Gentleman, but, so that we can respond more fully to the case he is developing, will he give the Committee one or two examples of the sort of legislative change he believes might be required in future, which would be frustrated by the absence of primary legislative powers in the Bill as it stands?

Mr. Wigley: One can easily give examples relating to local government in Wales. We have had two rounds of changes to local government powers in Wales within my political lifetime--in 1974 and 1994. Legislation passed through this Chamber and was dealt with in Standing Committees. In the most recent instance, the Committee had a majority of Conservative Members, who were not even Welsh Members of Parliament, deciding what sort of local government system we should have in Wales, when they did not have to live with the consequences.

Changes may need to be made in the context of local government--goodness knows, there are weaknesses in the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, as the Secretary of State well knows, judging by Labour's criticisms when the Act was being passed. However, if the assembly feels that changes need to be made to the arrangements enshrined in the primary legislation passed in Westminster, as far as I can tell, it will not be possible for the assembly to make those changes.

If the Government have a mechanism whereby draft Bills introduced by the assembly can be fed into the Westminster system, and can guarantee at least that there will be a fair opportunity to debate them in Westminster, it goes part of the way towards achieving what we want. It does not go the full way, because, if a Conservative Government come to power in Westminster, and if the objectives of the legislation introduced by the National Assembly for Wales are not in line with those of the Conservative Government, we may have to wait five, 10 or, in line with our experience in recent years, even 18 years before getting those changes through. That is unacceptable.

Another example that may or may not need full law-making powers is education. I know that Ministers have been considering matters such as the international baccalaureate and have found certain difficulties with it. Such changes have a broad cross-section of support in Wales, albeit one must find the finances to carry them out.

Only a few months ago, we were discussing changes to pre-school education. The last Government introduced a system that could have led to the privatisation of pre-school education, and they would no doubt have gone on to do the same to primary education. If a law is passed by a Conservative Government in Westminster to privatise primary education or bring in a system of dockets to pay for education, we would be unable, without law-making powers, to introduce an alternative system. We might be able to stop the orders, and we would be locked into the Westminster system.

Mr. Ron Davies: We must establish at the outset of the Committee stage that the sort of fast-track system to

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which the right hon. Gentleman refers is not provided for in the Bill. It is as well to acknowledge that openly. It is also important to establish at the outset that there will be a developing relationship between the assembly and the Westminster Government. The assembly's success will be judged, by and large, by whether it develops a good working relationship with the Westminster Parliament, because it will continue to rely on the Westminster Parliament for its primary legislation.

The right hon. Gentleman has not yet convinced me, because the two arguments that he has used in respect of education did not require primary legislation. The changes to the examination system and the nursery voucher system would have been carried through by the powers that will be vested in the Welsh assembly, as proposed in the Bill.

Mr. Wigley: I listened carefully to the Secretary of State's words. He said that the changes would have been carried out by the assembly through its secondary legislative powers. The assembly may be able to block secondary legislative powers and orders, but could not create an alternative, because it would have to work within the framework of the existing primary legislation. To that extent, it stymies the assembly's powers to develop the education system in line with Welsh values. Nursery or primary school vouchers, or any such system, would certainly be out of line with our needs.

I should be even more concerned, if a Conservative Government carrying out that agenda saw that their agenda for Wales could be blocked through the Welsh assembly's order-making powers, and then created primary legislation to avoid those orders. Our freedom to withstand the legislation would therefore be withheld.

Mr. Davies: Yes, but let us face the brutal reality: if, by some mischance, such an horrific situation should arise and a Conservative Government were re-elected, it would always be open to them to ensure that their writ would run in Wales, just as it can run in Scotland once there is a Scottish Parliament. This Parliament is sovereign and can do whatever it wants, regardless of legislation passed by this Government.

Mr. Wigley: We shall doubtless discuss the sovereignty of Parliament on a future group of amendments. The Secretary of State mentions the Scottish example, and says that the Westminster Parliament could overrule Scotland. This House could take away any devolved regime; it could abolish the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh assembly, just as it abolished Stormont and the Greater London council.

Although that is conceivable, in the context of the Scotland Bill, the primary legislative powers being transferred to Scotland will not, once transferred, be interfered with by Westminster on a day-to-day basis. Notwithstanding an acknowledgement that sovereignty still lies in Westminster, there is an acknowledgement that, when those powers are given to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Parliament is expected to use them. There would be no point setting up the system if it was to be double-guessed from Westminster. The Welsh assembly will not have that facility, and that will create frustration.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney): I am following as closely as I can the exchanges between

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the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman is arguing that the Bill allows the Welsh assembly to block provisions, such as the nursery voucher scheme, by refusing to exercise its order-making power. Is he certain of that, because, from my reading of the Bill, I am not so sure that that is the position?

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