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Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): Does my hon. Friend accept that, if direction goes to the Secretary of State and he starts to get involved in that matter, a number of companies, particularly in my area, where innovation goes towards assisting disabled groups--people with certain disabilities--encouraging them with their bills and developing the public service, may give up getting involved in that and wait for him to direct, so innovation will go out of the window?

Mr. Ruffley: My hon. Friend makes the point succinctly, as usual. The pressure on the private sector to innovate will be sub-contracted upwards to the state. The private sector will feel little pressure to improve its performance, which is why we find the clause so disappointing.

I asked earlier, what happens to non-innovatory private sector water companies? It is an obvious and important question. The answer is surely to go down a voluntarist route, which is to say that performance grades should be publicly released and publicised--naming and shaming those private sector companies that are not as assiduous in assisting vulnerable groups with new innovative schemes. We do that in relation to sewer flooding and

10 Feb 1999 : Column 421

customer complaints. Why cannot we do it in relation to new tariff designs? It is on that basis that I support the amendment.

Mr. Burns: As the hour is late, I will not detain the House for long, but I should like to make some points arising out of the Minister's comments.

I can assure the House that we will not press amendment No. 29 to a vote. As my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) said, in many senses it was a probing amendment. However, amendment No. 26 has far more serious implications. We made it plain during Second Reading and said vigorously in Committee that we had serious misgivings about the way in which the Government, through clause 5, seek to give the Secretary of State draconian powers to interfere and to regulate by order in a private company.

I should like to take the Minister back to the problem over which he and his colleagues seem to be completely knotted up and at sea. The Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones), was equally at sea when talking about the provision in the amendment, which is reflected in the Bill, relating to the Secretary of State. Throughout our discussions on clause 5 in Committee, references to the Secretary of State by the Under-Secretary and the Minister for the Environment related to the powers of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales explained earlier today that all Secretaries of State are one and that the powers to transfer the contents of clause 5 and, in effect, amendment No. 26, would be transferred to the Welsh Assembly through the transfer of functions order. I seriously question whether he was correct in saying that. As he may have discovered by now, the transfer of functions order was laid before the House on 14 May 1998, seven months prior to the Bill being published. How, therefore, can the order be used to transfer functions from clause 5 of this Bill from the Secretary of State to the Welsh Assembly?

More than a simple transfer is needed because that order has already been made. I stand willing to be corrected, but I do not believe that those powers are included in that order. It would have helped matters if hon. Members had been given the opportunity to debate the order, but, despite demands from Labour Members, as well as my hon. Friends, it was not debated. I dispute whether an order that was published months before the Bill could now be used to transfer to the Welsh Assembly powers under clause 5 and the amendment, if it were made.

Mr. Meale: It is correct that the clause post-dates the Government of Wales Act 1998, but the Government have made clear their intention to transfer to the National Assembly for Wales most of the Secretary of State's functions relating to water and flood defence. Those existing functions will be addressed in the first Order in Council under the Act. Schedule 2, paragraph 17, provides for new functions on water and flood defence to be treated consistently. The hon. Gentleman should consult clause 14 of the Bill.

Mr. Burns: I am grateful to the Minister for seeking to clarify the position. His point is interesting and I shall

10 Feb 1999 : Column 422

read clause 14 and the other document that he mentioned. It would be unfair of me to ask the Minister any more questions because we want to make progress.

I find it staggering that despite the fact that the Bill is on Report, coming up to its Third Reading before it leaves this House to go to the other place, and despite the Committee proceedings, this is the first time that any mention has been made of the fact that the powers in clause 5 will be transferred, by whatever means, from the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, through his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, to the Welsh Assembly.

We had debates in which our speeches, which were not corrected, and those of Ministers were made on the basis that the powers in clause 5 would be used by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. We had debates ad nauseam in which we said that those powers were too great to give to a Secretary of State and there should be guidance. At no time did Ministers point out that those powers did not relate only to that Secretary of State because all Secretaries of State are indivisible and are one, so the Secretary of State for Wales would have those powers and they would be transferred to the Welsh Assembly. That is new information at this late stage. I am surprised that it has never been mentioned before. I just wonder whether the fact that the powers will be transferred is new to Ministers, who became aware of it only in the earlier debate on Plaid Cymru's new clause 1.

We shall not make any further progress on the issue today, so I shall not press it. The other place will be able to try to get to the bottom of it. Nevertheless, the Opposition feel as strongly about the matters dealt with in amendment No. 26 as we did in the debate on Second Reading. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to join me in the Lobby to oppose the Government and to support amendment No. 26.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 120, Noes 317.

Division No. 65
[10.30 pm


Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cran, James
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, Michael
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Sir David Madel and
Mrs. Caroline Spelman.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Baker, Norman
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
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
Brake, Tom
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, 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
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Gapes, Mike
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Harris, Dr Evan
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
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)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark 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)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
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)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
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)
Rendel, David
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
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)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wallace, James
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Hanson and
Mr. Keith Hill.

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Feb 1999 : Column 425

Mr. Meale: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the previous debate, the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) implied that there had been no debate in Committee about the transfer of functions to the Welsh Assembly. That was a mistake. At column 109 of the Official Report of Standing Committee A on 14 January, the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones), outlined the whole debate. Unfortunately--

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