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Mr. Swayne: Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that it is not a matter of going back to the drawing board every time? The politics will have moved on and Plaid Cymru Members will use the impetus and dynamics of that to shift matters further and they will not give a fig about new politics and consensus.

Mr. Öpik: I allowed that intervention as I hoped that it would illustrate graphically everything that I have said about the Conservatives. If they want to be taken seriously in Welsh politics, they had better recognise that things have moved on. The proportional representation train has left Cardiff station and, far from being even on the platform, the Tories have not bought a ticket.

Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): I shall be brief. I oppose amendment (a), which is a bit rich coming from the Conservative party. We should extend the franchise for Assembly Members as widely as possible. There is no reason why a Minister of the Crown should not stand and be elected to the Assembly, as the Lords amendment provides. In respect of any dual mandate, the issue is what happens afterwards, but I believe that it is a matter for political parties to sort out and that it should not be enshrined in legislation.

In my view, any dual mandate should be for the shortest possible time. There are strong feelings in the Labour party against any dual mandates. There are two main reasons for that. First, we want people to be elected who are committed to the Assembly and not doing another job with different responsibilities. We told people on their doorsteps during the campaign that membership of the Assembly would be a full-time job requiring total

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commitment, bringing power closer to the people of Wales through people who were totally committed to the Assembly. That is why we want people who are committed to one job and one Assembly.

The second reason people in the Labour party are opposed to a dual mandate is that an awful lot of people want to become Assembly Members and think that it is a bit greedy of anyone standing for the Assembly to contemplate doing two jobs when so many are keen to do one. As there are only 60 seats, we are only grudgingly willing to contemplate a dual mandate for right hon. and hon. Members until the next general election in order to avoid by-elections.

As my hon. Friend the Minister said, it is obvious that, in practical terms, a member of the British Cabinet could not be at the same time a Member of the Welsh Assembly or First Secretary for anything other than the shortest transitional period because of the conflicting loyalties that would arise. The First Secretary would be voted in as leader of the Assembly by Assembly Members or by her or his political party--it is a bottom-up approach. She or he would then represent those people. The Secretary of State for Wales is appointed by the Prime Minister and is bound by Cabinet collective responsibility. There is a clear conflict between the two roles, which could not be combined other than for the shortest possible transitional period.

In bringing devolution to Wales, we are bringing democracy and inclusivity. We want to get away from the centralisation of power--and holding two jobs is just that. I am disappointed that we are to have a Cabinet system. It would be quite wrong for a Minister of the Crown to contemplate a dual mandate for longer than the shortest transitional period.

I oppose the amendment; we do not need legislation on something that could happen, but only for the shortest possible time as I know Labour Members are strongly opposed to it.

Mr. Grieve: The hon. Member for Cardiff, North(Ms Morgan) made a telling speech that rubbished everything Ministers have said on the issue. She correctly identified the nature of the conflict of interests, but then told the House that it might be allowed to continue for the shortest possible period. She never sought to explain or justify why even the shortest possible period should be allowed. No period should be allowed because the conflict is clear, manifest and unacceptable.

The Government's problem in putting forward their devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales has been their inability to think through the constitutional implications. Inherent in them is the scope for conflict between the way in which the Welsh Assembly runs its affairs, the way in which the First Secretary or other Secretary of the Welsh Assembly decides to operate, and his responsibilities and loyalties and those of a Minister of the Crown at Westminster. I do not welcome that--it was one reason I did not support devolution in the first place--but, to judge from what the hon. Member for Cardiff, North said, it seems that, for perfectly plain short-term political advantage, there is a refusal to accept the implications of what is being proposed. We cannot have a Minister of the Crown also being an Assembly

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Member--and certainly not being a First Secretary or other Secretary in that Assembly. There has to be a division and that division should be accepted.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): Is my hon. Friend saying that we are dealing with mechanics of government that are not based on a sound constitutional settlement and political theory, and that political theories are being made up on the hoof after the mechanics have been put in place?

Mr. Grieve: I agree entirely. That is quite apparent from our earlier debate about the Official Secrets Act 1989 and its application to the First Secretary and Assembly Secretaries. The matter simply has not been thought through, but at least we can try to do something about it. The first step is to ensure that amendment is accepted, if not in the form proposed by the House of Lords, at least in the more limited form proposed by my hon. Friends.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West): First, may I make it clear that I perfectly respect the aspirations of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to stand as a First Secretary and I wish him and the others who are standing well? However, that is not the issue. I regret that there has been an attempt to dismiss the matter with some quite irrelevant comments as it strikes at the heart of the constitutional basis of Cabinet government.

Under Cabinet government, there is Cabinet responsibility and Cabinet accountability. If a Minister cannot accept what the Cabinet decides, he or she must leave the Cabinet. With all respect to my right hon. Friend, how on earth can he give his full loyalty to a separate Assembly that may have different perspectives--although it may have the same political background--on policy, expenditure and so on? How can he give equal loyalty to each or full loyalty to either? When he steps out of No. 10 and is interviewed by the BBC and HTV, how will we know which hat he is wearing? When he disagrees, how will we know whether he is speaking for the Assembly and when he is speaking for the Assembly, how will he preserve Cabinet responsibility and accountability?

There is already a problem in that my right hon. Friend has announced that he is standing because every decision he takes between now and next May could influence the choice of leader. There is already a conflict of interests. If my right hon. Friend had announced that he was going for a commercial job that would depend on the decisions that he made as a Minister, he would have to stand down. That may be something that he has to consider in his own interests if he wants to pursue his other ambition.

It would be bad for Wales if we ended up with what in America would be called a lame duck president. We do not want a lame duck Secretary of State who cannot take unpopular decisions between now and May because they may prejudice his chances. I hope that that danger will be avoided, but it has to be perceived.

There is also the question of appearance. We have just had a referendum on whether there should be an Assembly. We are now giving the appearance of London trying to impose a leader on that Assembly. What a fine start to devolution--the London Cabinet has to have its hands on the helm. That cannot be right. My right hon. Friend should consider that.

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My right hon. Friend may argue that this is a question of helping with one or two teething troubles. If he were the First Secretary of the Assembly, the wisdom of Ron would be available to the Assembly regardless of whether he was Secretary of State.

My right hon. Friend is lucky that he is among friends today. In an interview with HTV last week, I was asked whether I thought he was trying to influence the choice of leader unfairly. I had to say that the thought had not crossed my mind, but others are not as generous. I can think of no reason other than personal expediency for supporting the proposed course of action. I urge my right hon. Friend to change track now and make the right decision.

7.30 pm

Mr. Hain: My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) is a good colleague and a neighbouring Member of Parliament. He has fallen into the trap that the Conservatives have laid. I regret that very much.

The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) talked about an ultimate job share. Conservative Members are experts in ultimate job shares. Their Front-Bench Members persist in holding other jobs outside the House. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) indulged in transparently mischievous comments that did not address the issues.

Nobody seriously argues that the same person can be Secretary of State for Wales and Assembly First Secretary in perpetuity. It would be politically unacceptable and constitutionally undesirable. The points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Ms Morgan) are pertinent on the issue of a long-term dual mandate.


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