Select Committee on Public Administration Second Report


Submitted by the Wales Office

Thank you for your letter of 9 June, containing details of Parliamentary Questions which the Table Office has "blocked" in the previous Parliamentary session because of Minister's refusal to reply, and asking for a fuller explanation of why it was necessary to withhold information. A copy of each question and answer is attached for ease of reference.

7 July 2000

Departmental Legislation
The second question concerned spending provisions for forthcoming legislation. Any announcement of costs assigned to legislation that was not already before Parliament would pre-empt the Queen's Speech at the opening of a session. Paragraph 2 of Part I of the Code ensures that reasons are given for administrative decisions except where there is established convention to the contrary. The answer given to this question points to a long-standing convention.

Deep Mines
The third question is about deep mined coal. Such information is based on returns submitted to the Coal Authority. The forms used for these returns state that the information provided will be treated on a commercially confidential basis. Paragraph 14 of Part II of the Code exempts disclosure of information where it has been supplied in confidence.

Additionally, a number of small mines in Wales are not required to submit these returns, so it is not possible to provide an accurate estimate to the question asked. The response does given an estimate, which is sufficiently broad to cover the potential inaccuracy resulting from incomplete knowledge.

Welsh Assembly (CADW)
The fourth question relates to the division of responsibilities among committees of the National Assembly for Wales. The White Paper, 'A Voice for Wales' makes clear in paragraph 3.45 that the Secretary of State will not be accountable for the activities of the Assembly.

Responsibilities of the Assembly Committees mirror those of the Assembly Secretaries and allocation of those responsibilities is a matter for the First Secretary. The question was therefore appropriate for an Assembly Member to the First Secretary but not for a Member of Parliament to the Secretary of State for Wales. At the time the question was tabled and answered, Mr Michael was both First Secretary and Secretary of State and Mr Wigley was - and still is - an Assembly Member and Member of Parliament. There may have been some confusion in the period after the Assembly election but before the Transfer of Functions on 1 July 1999 about how such questions should be put to Mr Michael.

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Prepared 17 January 2001