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6 pm

I shall briefly apply those broad principles to the amendments. The ability to make primary legislation would be against the spirit of the referendum and should not be adopted. I understand the argument about the word senedd, but language can be an explosive issue in Wales.

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Happily, we now have a consensus. I pay tribute to the previous Government for the Welsh Language Act 1993, which drew the sting out of what might, in other circumstances, have been a highly divisive matter. The use of senedd may have sent out the wrong signal, whereas the term Welsh assembly gives the right consensual signal.

On whether it should be the National Assembly of Wales or for Wales, I do not understand the semantics. Although for Wales may sound a little patronising, it assumes a unitary government for the United Kingdom. The danger is that an assembly of Wales may imply that Wales is a single entity separate from the United Kingdom. That may or may not be the reason. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West mentioned the German precedent. I knew a German called Mr. von und zu Guttenburg; we used to say that he did not know whether he was coming or going. I hope that we do not have a messy compromise: I am happy with the present formulation.

I promised to be brief. I have explained the spirit in which I believe we should approach the amendments, given the constraints. We should proceed on a consensual basis and, above all, trust in the assembly so far as is possible. We should be ready to smooth the way if necessary by sensible amendments to our procedures in the House.

Mr. Dalyell: As the first, and possibly only, non-Welsh contributor from the Labour Benches, I feel like a guest who is expected to behave himself at the party. I want to ask the Secretary of State two questions. First, when he intervened during the speech of the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), he referred to a developing relationship; later, in another intervention, he referred to a dynamic relationship. Other hon. Members from all parts of the United Kingdom are deeply affected by the Bill. I am curious to know at what point there will be a stop to this developing relationship. The Secretary of State's remarks were very interesting and revealing and we are entitled to know what is in his mind.

Secondly, the Secretary of State referred to The Scotsman. As a Scot, I believe what The Scotsman says about births, marriages and deaths. I also believe The Scotsman when it comes to football scores. Beyond that, I tend to be sceptical. I am not jumping to the conclusion that The Scotsman has got it right. Day after day, we are regaled by the so-called iniquities of the Welsh referendum. Will the Secretary of State put on record his view of what The Scotsman has been up to, because it has written a heck of a lot about that? I am a simple seeker after truth.

Sir Raymond Powell (Ogmore): I shall be brief, unlike some people who say that they will be brief and then take 25 minutes when everyone is waiting to finish the debate at 6 o'clock.

I want to refer to amendment No. 52, because I would be appalled by the creation of a legislative assembly in Wales. I have made myself abundantly clear on that topic and my view accords with Labour party policy. As a supporter of Labour party policy on most issues, I resist Plaid Cymru's advocacy of a legislative assembly. There is no doubt in my mind that the nationalists want a legislative assembly in Wales: they have wanted to

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achieve that in all the 35 years that I have been active in politics. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) would say the same with regard to Scotland.

We will not have a legislative assembly in Wales: that was made abundantly clear in the White Paper. That is also what the people who voted in the referendum decided. Will the Secretary of State tell us whether any of proposals in the first set of amendments were included in any way, shape or form in the White Paper?

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham): I agree that the Bill should be as close as we can get it to what the people of Wales voted for in the referendum. It may not be exactly what we want: all of us wanted something different. I should have liked parts of the Bill to be different, but I accept that any large measure of legislative powers for the Welsh assembly would be inappropriate. It is easy to say that, but it is not so easy to define the word "legislative". The Bill uses the word "legislation" but it is always preceded by the word "subordinate". The legislative powers of the Welsh assembly will be subordinate.

We can explore that a little further and try to define subordinate legislative powers. It is conceivable that, when the Welsh assembly is established, the House could pass an enabling Bill that left everything to be decided by order or by regulation. Technically, that would be subordinate legislation. However, it is easy to envisage a different Administration introducing not an enabling Bill but legislation in which everything is prescribed, thus making any subsequent orders or regulations completely unnecessary. In that case, the Welsh assembly would have no powers, because it could not even block an order or regulation. What is primary legislation in one scenario is subordinate legislation in another.

I would not say that there is confusion, but a wide interpretation is available of what constitutes legislation--whether it is subordinate or primary. I hope that we will set up a Welsh assembly and that the Bill will complete its Committee stage successfully, but, if that is to happen, we must adopt the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson): we must not put the assembly in a straitjacket.

One of the amendments says that there should be a National Assembly of Wales rather than a National Assembly for Wales. Let us suppose that, having come into existence, the assembly wanted to call itself the National Assembly of Wales, perhaps after consultation in Wales. I understand that, simply because the name would be in the primary legislation that we would be passing here, it could not be changed. That cannot, or should not, be the House's intention. The House cannot think it right for decisions that it would probably wish to devolve to the Welsh body not to be devolved because of what was in primary legislation--the Government of Wales Bill.

Let us not put the Welsh assembly in a straitjacket. Let us be a little generous. It must be possible to design a way of retaining the safeguards for the House: the Scotland Bill may show us how that can be done. Let us, however, allow the Welsh assembly some latitude in regard to matters that, according to any sensible person, it ought to be able to debate and decide on. Let us not

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have laws and rules that remind us of the well-known phrase about the guidance of wise people and the obedience of fools, preventing the Welsh assembly from carrying out its proposals as it would wish to do.

How are we to arrange that? I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to consider the matter. I do not expect instant answers, but my right hon. Friend has heard pleas from my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East, from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) and, probably, from a number of other hon. Members, including me. There must be safeguards preventing the Welsh assembly from assuming legislative powers beyond those that the Welsh people expected when they voted in the referendum on 18 September, but there are other legislative powers that I think it would be sensible to allow. We should at least allow the possibility.

Let me give an example that is, or was, dear to the Secretary of State's heart. I refer to the Cardiff bay barrage. Any reasonable argument would suggest that the matter should have been decided by people in Wales, preferably people in south Wales. It certainly should not have been decided by the House of Commons. The Secretary of State will remember very well our debate at 3 am, or 4 am, when, by the force of sheer argument, we defeated the proposals that had been submitted to the House--only for English Members representing constituencies well away from Cardiff to force through legislation that most Welsh Members did not want.

I hope that legislation such as that would be considered appropriate for the Welsh assembly to pass. Cannot a form of words be incorporated in the Bill to allow such sensible measures to be debated and decided on in the assembly?

Mr. Wigley: The hon. Gentleman has drawn together many of the strands that have arisen in the debate. Surely what we need is an order-making facility in Westminster, allowing the National Assembly of--or for--Wales to take on a legislative role for a specific purpose. If that were provided, there would be a longstop here with regard to the functions that could be transferred, but the assembly would be able to get on with the job rather than having to wait for an inordinate time in the queue for legislation here.

Dr. Marek: I do not dissent from a word of that. The right hon. Gentleman puts it very well.

Mr. Ron Davies: I must put one point on the record, because I do not want the impression to be gained that the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) will gain the success for which he is arguing. I refer him to our earlier debate with the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones). What we must do now is get the assembly established.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked me to explain what I meant about a developing relationship. The assembly will have to establish itself. There will be concordats between it and this place; there will be working relationships between it and the Westminster Government. It is in the light of the way in which the assembly operates, and in the light of needs that will be demonstrated in the future, that this place will have to look to its own procedures--but that is a matter for Parliament, not a matter for the assembly. It is for the assembly to make recommendations, but not to decide.

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