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Mr. Rowlands: This is an important and substantial debate. It is a genuine attempt to limit and narrow the issues that were raised in earlier debates. Nevertheless, it has raised other issues, such the problem of water which was mentioned by the previous two speakers. I want to

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draw attention to the potential confusion that could arise, and the potential for friction between the Assembly and Government Departments. It is in the common interest of everyone who wants devolution to work to deal with the potential areas of friction and dispute in these clauses.

The report of the debates on these amendments in the other place on 2 June are to be found at columns 225 and 231-36 of the House of Lords Hansard. Those debates show the wide-ranging nature of the provisions in the schedule, despite the Minister's attempts to limit them. The schedule contains wide and sweeping powers.

The new schedule refers to transfers of functions. We have had a continuing debate on one aspect of this issue, about which we are still no clearer. In the other place, Lord Williams of Mostyn said that functions relating to animal health and food safety, including those under the Food Safety Act 1990, would be transferred to the Assembly. Therefore, the regulations that were used to ban beef on the bone will be a function of the Assembly.

Lord Williams referred to a joint responsibility with the Minister of Agriculture. I have asked this question many times, and I am still waiting for an answer. What will happen if there is a dispute between the Assembly and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? Who will have the final say? Will the Minister of Agriculture have the power under the 1990 Act on an issue such as meat on the bone to override the strong wishes expressed by the Assembly, or will the Assembly's view prevail? The Bill does not contain a disputes procedure.

Before we let the provision through, we should be clear in our minds about who will have the final say if there is joint responsibility; otherwise, there will be considerable friction. Let us take the vivid example of exercising power under meat on the bone regulations. If the Assembly decided not to implement the ban, but MAFF wanted to apply the order, whose view would finally prevail if it was a joint responsibility? That is an extremely basic proposition, but it will test the model that we are trying to establish.

Amendment No. 170 relates to cross-border arrangements. Opposition Members put their finger on the provisions in paragraph 6 of the new schedule, which provide that "the Secretary of State"--not the Secretary of State for Wales--or the relevant Minister will have overriding power. However, we are still in the dark. Paragraph 7(b) of the proposed new schedule states that


There is a big difference between consultation and agreement. Consultation implies that one party has the right to override the other.

It is difficult to work out the issues that are covered by paragraph 7. Some orders might be for agreement and some could be subject to consultation. We should not rubber stamp such provisions. We should be given vivid illustrations and examples of the areas that would be subject to agreement and those that would be for consultation. Unless we are given those, we may be creating headaches for Ministers or for the Assembly. We must clarify cross-border issues and areas for which the Bill provides for joint responsibility. We must know who will have the final say and how disputes are to be settled. Without that information, there will be a recipe for potential conflict, and none of us wants that.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn spoke about what he called water issues. His speech shows that the schedule also covers matters such as rent rebate subsidy and its impact on social security benefits. Lord Williams of Mostyn's explanation is contained in column 233 of Hansard and shows the consultation that has to take place with Ministers, especially the Secretary of State for Social Security, because of the ripple effect, if, for example, the Assembly grants a generous rent rebate subsidy and is willing to pay for it. What is the Government's position on rent subsidies? I do not remember thinking in Committee that the Assembly would have rent subsidy powers, but such powers are logical. They are lodged with local government and must be Assembly responsibilities of one sort or another. Lord Williams of Mostyn said:


I apologise for my ignorance, but I was not aware that our rent rebate subsidy system was different from the one in Scotland. As a result, there will be complications if the Assembly proceeds to exercise its duty, responsibility or power to be more generous, or less generous, on rent rebate subsidies. Lord Williams of Mostyn also observed:


    "However, such changes will need to be considered in the context of the Government's comprehensive spending review. This may reach conclusions that would entail amending the relevant provisions of the 1989 Act for both England and Wales. We would want to avoid cutting across the conclusions of that review by making changes to the 1989 Act only in respect of Wales. For that reason we are not making such amendments now."--[Official Report, House of Lords, 2 June 1998; Vol.590, c.234.]

We have now had the comprehensive spending review, so perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister can tell us what consequential amendments need to be made to the rent subsidy arrangements. That is an integral part of the issues that arise from the new schedule.

We all want the system to work. I read with great interest something that came through the post over the last day or so. It was Mr. Peter Hennessy's lecture to the Lloyds TSB forum. This is what he said about devolution--it is pertinent and rather well put:


If the harmony model survives, I can see that many of the issues and concerns that we are scratching at in our debate on the schedule may prove to be modest or minor. However, if the harmony model breaks down, the legislation must be robust enough to cope with that. I am not convinced that the complex and difficult wording of the schedule establishes a sufficiently robust model to deal with important demarcation disputes, possible boundary disputes and potential areas of conflict between the Assembly and the Government.

4.45 pm

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mon): I am pleased to be called to speak in this important debate on Lords amendment No. 170. As hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise, the powers of the Assembly will be curtailed in relation to powers of the Secretary ofState--the Secretary of State will have some overriding powers--so it is right that we test some of the issues that have been aired by hon. Members.

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I apologise to the Minister for not being here for his first few sentences, but I listened carefully to the remainder of his speech and I did not hear him referring to paragraph 5 and European matters. He will recall that on a number of occasions in Committee I asked questions about these issues. When he replies, will he deal with some of the points that arise from paragraph 5?

Paragraph 5 deals with two issues. The first is ensuring that any treaty obligations for the United Kingdom pertain in all parts of the UK, so in a devolved system we understand the need for sub-paragraph (a). The main issue relates to sub-paragraph (b), which refers to the powers that both the Assembly and the Secretary of State will have in implementing statutory instruments that flow from European directives. Who will have responsibility for passing the statutory instruments and who will have the ultimate sanction?

The list of statutory instruments covered by sub-paragraph (b) contain a number of important ones for Wales. I draw the Minister's attention to two areas where the Assembly might wish to differ from regulations in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. An example might be the hill livestock compensatory allowances. The Assembly may or may not want to enhance the payments to farmers. For the sake of argument, let us assume that they want to keep the amount currently paid to farmers, but want to distribute it in a different way. Let us assume that the Assembly wants to target the allowances differently, to ensure that farmers who really need them get them. Under sub-paragraph (b), the Assembly would be prevented from doing so unless the same provisions applied in other parts of the United Kingdom. That seems to be an unnecessary restriction.

The Minister will know that one of hon. Members' concerns about the dairy quota is how little quota is available for young farmers entering the industry. What if the Assembly wants to operate a siphon system to ensure that part of the quota is set aside for young farmers? Although such a system has been considered by many Select Committees, the Conservative Government always refused to accept one. If the Assembly wanted to go down that road, paragraph 5 would prevent it from doing so.

We are debating issues not of money but of principle. We are debating issues of how resources might be distributed in Wales differently from the way in which they are distributed in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Will the Assembly be prevented by the provision from such activities? [Interruption.] What if the Welsh Assembly wants to innovate in matters covered by statutory instruments on equal pay or air quality standards? What if the Welsh Assembly wants to do different things--[Interruption.]


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