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6.15 pm

Dr. Marek: Clearly the position will develop, so I will not go into it now; but the argument stands that we should not let the precise wording of the primary legislation that we are passing here now prevent any future relationship from developing.

I will not say too much, because I know that hon. Members want to proceed to the next debate. Let me say, however, that the Scottish way of doing things was easier, and more all-embracing, simply because a different referendum was held in Scotland. As a result of the proposals for us in Wales, rather than being given permissive powers, we have been given virtually all the Bill's proposals in a straitjacket. There is a churlish acceptance that certain functions must be devolved, and it has been promised that certain powers will be handed over by the Secretary of State for Wales; but the powers are circumscribed as much as possible, wherever possible. The problem lies with the principle that guided the drafting of the Bill. I ask the Secretary of State to consider this proposition. If the assembly is to be constrained by a tight corset preventing it from exercising certain powers, there will be precious little room for beneficial development of its role.

Mr. Öpik: Is it the hon. Gentleman's understanding that a consensus seems to be developing--that we are not closing the door on the evolution of a devolved assembly with law-making and tax-varying powers?

Dr. Marek: The hon. Gentleman must not take me too far along that road. It is a road that I would be prepared to travel, but I am bound by a self-denying ordinance. The Welsh people voted for a particular model of assembly, and I think that, by and large, we should deliver what they voted for. I do not think that we need any development of law-making powers.

Is this to be an assembly for Wales, or an assembly of Wales? That ought to be something for the Welsh assembly to decide, but under the present rules it will not be able to do so. We shall have to do it here, which shows something of the problem involved in drafting devolution legislation as it has been drafted in the Bill.

Let me suggest to the Secretary of State that, on this minor matter, he should consult the other parties. He will probably resist the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). If it were pressed to a vote, I would be tempted to vote for it, but I would fear for my safety from the Government if I voted against them again too soon after 10 December--or 11 December, or whenever it was. I think that we can get together and see whether there is general agreement in favour of a change. If the Liberal Democrats, the Welsh nationalists and the Conservatives--if they have any interest in these matters; I do not know whether they do--think that it would be better for us to have a National Assembly of Wales, why do we not have such an assembly? It does not matter. It is a trivial point.

The important point is that the assembly will not be able to decide its name. The Government need to think about whether they can loosen the tight straitjacket, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East said, so that the Welsh assembly has a little legislative freedom.

Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): I am pleased to be called to speak. I will be brief because I am aware that

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we have been at this debate for three hours, but it is important that a woman from Wales should speak to the proposals.

When we were knocking on doors during the referendum campaign, two main points came over from people in Cardiff. One was that they were concerned that Welsh speakers would dominate the assembly. We addressed that issue a little when we discussed the name. The other point was that the assembly was about jobs for the boys. We have heard much from all the boys tonight, but I hope that, when we discuss the clauses on election methods, we will be able to talk more about that aspect.

Most of the points that I wanted to make have been covered. Most of the amendments have to be resisted because, in the referendum, we campaigned on the fact that there were to be no tax-raising powers and no primary legislative powers. I said in many places that that was what we were campaigning for and we are bound to keep to the spirit of that policy.

We should not play down the powers that are in the White Paper, the Bill and the secondary legislation. There is tremendous scope there for building Wales and for making a truly representative and strong assembly. The Bill presents us with a tremendous opportunity.

Ms Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire): I have sat for around three hours listening with great interest to the debate, which covers primary legislative powers, tax-varying powers and dissatisfaction with the intended name of the assembly. However, we are dealing not with details but with fundamental and basic principles here. The basic principle outlined in paragraph 1.7 of the White Paper is:

Our view on that should be coloured by the referendum. In that referendum, the people of Wales did not vote for further legislative powers, tax-varying powers or an assembly by another name.

There were genuine fears in Wales at the time that tax-varying powers could lead to increases in taxation. Those of us who campaigned in Wales--at least Labour and some Opposition Members--recognised that countering those fears effectively led to a 30 per cent. increase in the yes vote over that in 1979, culminating in the decision to go ahead with the assembly. People have therefore already voted to establish that principle. We are governed by the widest possible democratic remit within Wales--to consult and to give every person in Wales an opportunity to take part in that democratic process.

Those are the promises that we have made as a Government to the Welsh people. It is vital that we keep our promises. Our colleagues on both the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru Benches joined us in supporting the principles in the White Paper proposals for a Welsh assembly and for a more democratic legislative framework in Wales that would restore faith in democracy there. The referendum turnout reflects the feeling of the people of Wales that their voices are not being heard any more. Any diversion from the basic principles outlined in the White Paper would be a total denial of the democratic process.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Win Griffiths): We have had a wide-ranging

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and interesting debate on the first group of amendments. To some extent, some of the amendments concern what might be regarded by the Welsh public as a minor issue--the specific name of the assembly--but they have given us an opportunity to have a thorough canter over all the ground that we argued over during the referendum campaign and while the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill was going through the House.

As nearly every Labour Member has said, there is the issue of honouring the White Paper as set out during the referendum campaign. The majority was not huge, but it was clear. The count was undertaken by counting officers throughout Wales, who did their jobs effectively within the law. For five months, no one made an observation just to create trouble.

Let us be clear about the matter. We cannot accept amendment No. 52. The word "legislative" introduced at this point would be misleading because, in the broad range of things, the assembly will not have primary legislative powers. It will have some specific powers arising from clause 29 in particular and there will be an opportunity to debate the extent of that clause later. The Scottish Parliament is called a Parliament because it does have those legislative powers. In Wales, we have an assembly because it does not have primary powers, except in specific areas.

That has given rise to a debate about how some of the subordinate powers--the secondary powers--might be dealt with by an assembly in Wales. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales made the position clear in his usual straightforward and forthright way--in some ways, it is a straightforward point, but it is not a simple point because the way in which the secondary powers work will depend on the way in which they are framed in any Act of Parliament.

I throw in one example going back to the heady days of 1988, when I first came into the House and sat on the first of many Committees that considered education Bills--on that occasion, the Bill that became the Education Reform Act 1988. That provides forthe Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Secretary of State for Wales to create city technology colleges. For whatever reason, that power was never exercised in Wales; the power lay with the Secretary of State for Wales. If the assembly had been in charge, it probably would not have exercised that power either, so we must examine existing legislation and even Bills that are going through the House to determine how the assembly will be able to use its secondary powers.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Dafis) mentioned the School Standards and Framework Bill, which is going through the House, and some of its ramifications. We must consider exactly what powers are conferred on the Secretary of State. For example, I understand from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales that the Secretary of State will have powers in relation to admissions, which will deal with the problems to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

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