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Mr. Dafis: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to bring this debate to an end. I had not realised what a constitutional can of worms I was opening in moving the new clause. My intention was much more modest than that for which the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) gives me credit. Clearly, the hon. Gentleman regards with horror the idea that Wales should be allowed to evolve, for example, its own charging policy. He seems to think it an awful prospect that Wales should be allowed to develop different policies of that sort.

Such a decision could be important if the Assembly is, for example, to deliver its social justice agenda. For example, it is important for the Assembly to be able to consider what charging policy is likely to be equitable and to favour low-income families who have high water demands--of course within the context of environmental sustainability.

Mr. Letwin: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who gives way with his customary courtesy. I want to clarify that I do not view with any horror the making of regulations by the Welsh Assembly, under a transfer of functions order, when, under clause 5 of the Bill, a Secretary of State here would be given that power. That is entirely within the spirit of the Government of Wales Act 1998. I regard with horror the hon. Gentleman's new clause, which goes far beyond that in its constitutional intent.

Mr. Dafis: If the Government were prepared to table an amendment to achieve what I am trying to achieve in my new clause, but in a less constitutionally earth-shaking manner, I should be happy to hear about it from the Under-Secretary of State. It is terribly important for the Assembly to be able to deliver its own agenda on an issue of this sort.

The hon. Member for West Dorset said that the Government of Wales Act gave Ministers a "grip"--I did not particularly like the metaphor--on the situation and that he wanted them to retain that grip and not let the Assembly gradually slide into acquiring greater powers and discretion. He spoke at length about transfer of functions and so forth. It was not my understanding that

10 Feb 1999 : Column 397

my new clause recommended any transfer as such. I was looking for a mechanism to allow the Assembly latitude to work within the functions that it already has. If that cannot be achieved without a transfer of functions, then the case for such a transfer is obviously strengthened. I make no secret of the fact that I want such a transfer.

It is important to understand that the agenda for the next five years is to establish a useful working relationship between the Assembly and this place to enable devolution to be a success. In its first stages, that will involve give and take on both sides. It involves designing and drafting legislation--without transferring functions--that will enable the Assembly to have as much discretion as possible. It should have considerable discretion in education and other policy areas.

Mr. Rowlands: That was the whole concept of concordats. Has the hon. Gentleman thought about that?

Mr. Dafis: Yes, I have, but I will not pursue that issue in detail at this stage, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

Legislation should be designed in such a way as to give the Assembly maximum latitude and flexibility. I listened carefully to Minister, because I was hoping to have absolute clarification. I asked him whether the Assembly could ensure a distinct charging policy in Wales. I got the impression that that was not the case, and that that could not be done satisfactorily. If it is not the case, I am not satisfied.

Mr. Letwin: I admire the hon. Gentleman's interpretive and exegetical skills. I was wholly unable to discern any clear meaning in what the Minister said. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would invite the Minister--if your patience would allow, Mr. Deputy Speaker--to clarify what on earth he was on about.

Mr. Dafis: If the Minister wants to intervene, I shall allow him to do so. I shall not urge him to intervene, however, given what Mr. Deputy Speaker has said.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: If it helps the House, I shall reiterate that clause 5 refers to the Secretary of State, and that the Secretary of State is a single entity. The Government of Wales Act 1998 transfers the powers of the Secretary of State to the Welsh Assembly. The National Assembly will have the regulation-making powers in clause 5.

Mr. Dafis: Right then, I have a further question. Will the Assembly be able to depart from the provisions in the Bill to facilitate metering? I do not want to go into the rights and wrongs of metering, but will the Assembly be able not to allow free metering and the right to revoke the arrangement after a year? It is important to have that power. I do not want more and more metering to be encouraged, because the price that those who are not on meters would have to pay would put them at a disadvantage. That would be a regressive social policy.

My understanding is that such latitude would not be available to the Assembly. I am therefore unable to withdraw the motion, and we shall force it to a Division.

10 Feb 1999 : Column 398

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 30, Noes 313.

Division No. 64
[8.53 pm


Allan, Richard
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Dafis, Cynog
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Harris, Dr Evan
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Keetch, Paul
Livsey, Richard
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Stunell, Andrew
Wallace, James
Webb, Steve
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Donald Gorrie and
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brazier, Julian
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burns, Simon
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Colvin, Michael
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gray, James
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leigh, Edward
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, Oliver
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prior, David
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, David
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wilkinson, John
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wilshire, David
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Hanson and
Mr. Graham Allen.

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Feb 1999 : Column 400

Clause 1

Disconnection for non-payment of charges

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): I beg to move amendment No. 31, in page 1, line 10, leave out 'excluded premises' and insert

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