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9.45 pm

I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) said about my predecessor, now Lord Roberts of Conwy. I do not accuse the hon. Gentleman of lying, but I hope that he and his hon. Friends paid attention to what Lord Roberts said in the past couple of weeks and that they will take his advice. I doubt whether Lord Roberts has said that he thinks that the Welsh language should not be a function of the national assembly of Wales.

In an Adjournment debate on Thursday, hon. Members spoke about the power cuts at Christmas and the central issue of communications. Hon. Members related the problems that were faced by the people of north Wales in trying to get people on the other end of the telephone to understand the problems and to recognise the parts of north Wales that were affected. Of all functions, the Welsh language is the one which should be included. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Mr. Swayne: The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) presented an entirely one-sided picture when he spoke about a Wales in which hundreds of thousands of people were thwarted by geography and engineering problems and unable to satisfy their demand for Welsh television. Perhaps I could set the record straight by relating the experience of my family, which is as Welsh as any of those who are sitting below the Gangway. They hail from Y Fenni in Monmouthshire, but moved there from Abergwaun in Pembrokeshire.

The family are beset by all sorts of geographical and engineering problems, but of a different kind because they do not want to receive Welsh television; they want to receive television from the rest of the kingdom. They have used their ingenuity, initiative, skill and engineering

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ability to overcome the problems. They did not sit back and bleat in the expectation that an assembly with vast funds at its disposal would solve the problems for them.

Mr. Ron Davies rose--

Mr. Rhodri Morgan rose--

Mr. Davies: Perhaps my hon. Friend will seek to intervene if he feels the need to speak on this matter.

I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) when he moved his amendment. There is obviously a strong case for broadcasting to be included in the assembly's responsibilities. Broadcasting is important in Wales and there is a distinctive broadcasting agenda.

As I said to the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) in an intervention, the starting principle for devolution was the need to transfer to the assembly the powers currently vested in me. Broadcasting is not one of the powers invested in me, so the Government decided that it would not be appropriate to make that fairly substantial shift of responsibility from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Welsh Office. That is why the Bill does not contain a provision for broadcasting to be transferred to the assembly.

I can tell the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), who raised this particular point with me, that substantial broadcasting responsibilities will go to the assembly. For example, there will be a general power to debate, and that will extend to making representations. I have no doubt that the assembly will want to exercise that power in respect of the Welsh institutions of the BBC, S4C and HTV.

Mr. Wigley: Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify whether the general powers to which he referred will be fine tuned so that specific powers are given to the assembly to call people to give evidence or to answer questions? Will it be in the assembly's power to invite people from the world of broadcasting, especially from the Broadcasting Council for Wales, to give evidence before a committee of the assembly?

Mr. Davies: There will be a general power to invite any bodies or persons that the assembly sees fit to invite. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) finds it amusing that people in Wales should want to consider the quality of our broadcasting. I assure him that it is an important matter.

Mr. Ancram rose--

Mr. Davies: I will give way in a moment, but first I want to reply in full to the right hon. Member for Caernarfon.

The power of summons will not be given, but the power to invite certainly will be. There will also be additional functions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will consult the assembly about broadcasting appointments in Wales, just as he consults me at present. It will be a statutory provision. We will introduce an order under clause 31 specifying the members of S4C and the BBC national governor for Wales as appointments about which the assembly must be

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consulted. In addition, we will ensure that the concordat that will be agreed with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will cover other broadcasting issues of special relevance to Wales.

Mr. Ancram: The right hon. Gentleman rightly extolled the virtues of Welsh television broadcasters. I understand that they do not presently fall within his remit or sphere of influence. However, he is talking about only the first draft order before the first elections for the Welsh assembly. Will he say whether, after that, he would be prepared to transfer broadcasting to the assembly?

Mr. Davies: Certainly I have no proposals, and neither do the Government, to do so. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, because we debated the matter at some length earlier, clause 21 provides a mechanism for that, if the Government of the day so wish. The assembly will be a substantial body. Broadcasting is adequately dealt with within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and I have no proposals for it to be devolved to the assembly.

In view of the endorsement of our proposals in the general election and in the referendum, the Government cannot accept amendments Nos. 20A and 211. On amendment No. 221, the draft transfer of functions order rightly implies that the assembly should have responsibility for the Welsh language. It is of great importance in Wales and it is right that the assembly should have responsibility for it. Indeed, I was amazed by the Opposition's proposal that one of the specific functions that the Welsh assembly should not be given is responsibility for the Welsh language.

I listened carefully to the remarks of the hon. Member for Ribble Valley about Lord Roberts. I have to tell him that there is enormous admiration, on both sides of the Committee, for the work that Lord Roberts did in fathering the Welsh Language Act 1993 and piloting it through the House. If the hon. Gentleman wants to learn any lessons from Lord Roberts, one should be how to approach the question of devolution.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley has accepted that the people of Wales have voted for devolution. He has accepted also that the House's role is now to ensure not that devolution is somehow blocked or frustrated but that we all combine as best we can to ensure that the legislation that ultimately emerges from the process is the best possible legislation and that the assembly, once established, is the best possible assembly. I have no doubt that if he discusses that with Lord Roberts, he will find that that is the one very clear message which Lord Roberts wishes to give to the Conservative party.

Mr. Evans: When the Bill goes to the other place, will the Secretary of State have a word with his noble Friends to ensure that they consider very carefully any amendments to the Bill tabled by Lord Roberts?

Mr. Davies: In the other place, unlike this Committee, everyone listens to what everyone else says.

I shall now deal with amendments Nos. 221 and 83. The wording of clause 33, on what the assembly can achieve, is realistic. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley asked about the use of the word promote. Using "promote" would lead to confusion. The word appropriate is the correct one in the context of the clause.

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There may be many instances in which the assembly might be sympathetic to a cause and think it reasonable to offer support. However, it might remain inappropriate for it so to do. There are many worthwhile causes, such as health, education, social services and the environment. However, I suspect that without unlimited resources, which the assembly clearly will not have, it will frequently find itself in situations in which it considers it reasonable but not appropriate to support activities.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley referred specifically to clause 33 and asked about limitations. The only limitation is the provision in the Bill that


"Appropriate" is an inherently limiting term. It indicates what a public body should do--for example, supporting an exhibition or purchasing a manuscript--and what it should not do, such as buying a front row for rugby games. Inserting "reasonable"--which is the point of amendment No. 83--misses the point.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley asked about the lottery. Support includes financial support, but the cost of using clause 33 will fall to the assembly and will have to be met from the Welsh block. In direct answer to the question that he asked about a lottery, the assembly cannot establish a lottery. Operation of lotteries is strictly controlled by primary legislation. As I told him, in the absence of primary legislation, the assembly will not be able to sponsor a lottery.


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