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Mr. Grieve: I should make it clear that I did not envisage an amendable order. If an order came back after the Assembly had had the initial right to do the work and draft the details, the response would be either yes or no, as with any Order in Council. I would not envisage this House second-guessing the Assembly's detailed scrutiny by substituting something of its own. That was not my intention.
My great concern is partly based on the fact that even in the current position, progress is extremely slow. Progress will be slow under the arrangements in the Bill, too, but it would be slower still if the hon. Gentleman's solution, which may well appear reasonable at first sight, were adopted.
Let me tell the House about one actual instrument that was recently processed through this place and the National Assembly; the Removal and Disposal of Vehicles (Amendment) (Wales) Regulations 2005. Here is a brief chronology. The process started on 10 April 2002, when this House implemented legislation to reduce notice periods that must be given by local authorities and the police regarding the removal of abandoned vehicles. Some Members may recall having dealt with the substance of that debate.
From April 2002 to February 2003, the Welsh Assembly Government lobbied the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to support the devolution of the relevant powers on reduction of notice periods and so on. In February 2003 there was a submission to the Minister in Cardiff for permission to seek DEFRA's permission for a transfer of functions order and to consult Welsh stakeholders, which was then done.
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In August, the Minister at DEFRA wrote to his opposite number in Cardiff agreeing to a transfer of functions order when convenient to the House of Commons timetable. That was because a suitable vehicle needed to be programmed into the Westminster process; it is not available on demand. In September it became clear that the abandoned vehicle powers would have to wait for a larger transfer of functions order. In March 2004 the Minister at the Wales Office wrote to the Minister in Cardiff that the powers would have to wait for the transfer of functions order relating to animal health later that year. That was to avoid Parliament being criticised for putting through a separate transfer of functions order.
In July the National Assembly approved a draft transfer of functions order. In November it was passed by both Houses of Parliament. On 31 December it came into force, and a motion to delegate functions under the transfer of functions order was scheduled for discussion on 18 January 2005. That did not take place, for various operational reasons. Another motion to delegate under the transfer of functions order was rescheduled for 2 February. There were 11 explanatory notes and summary tables, which were e-mailed to Assembly Members at 2.12 on Thursday 27 January, at short notice.
John Bercow: The hon. Gentleman has certainly offered us an impressive chronology of the events, but I put it to the hon. Gentleman, whom I hold in very high esteem, that he has deployed the tried and tested technique of invoking a worst-case scenario in support of his thesis. Every single week of the parliamentary year there are delegated legislation Committees after delegated legislation Committees considering a plethora of Orders in Council and statutory instruments, contentious and uncontentious, so the hurdle is not quite as great ordinarily as it could be and obviously was in an isolated but unrepresentative case.
Mr. Llwyd: I have a great deal of regard for the hon. Gentleman, but the point that I was making is that there are other such cases. I was given this one by a colleague in the Assembly and it is probably on the bad sideotherwise I would not use it in my speechbut there are others and I am told that such matters take on average 18 or 20 months. A further procedure as proposed will of course add up to a considerably longer time.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con):
I understand the temptation to use the worst-case scenario. The hon. Gentleman began by saying that the measure was first anticipated in 2002. As his example shows that the process appears to be taking years rather than months, does he know whether there is any bar to the Welsh Assembly's gathering together the provisions that it wishes to be considered in this House and the Government each year bringing forward a Bill on such matters that they would put through in the normal fashion? To-ing and fro-ing and dilatoriness is a creature of both the Assembly and this House, and therefore one straightforward Bill in every Session for
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which there would be plenty of time would solve the problem. Can he think of any bar to that procedure? Perhaps it ought to be considered.
Mr. Llwyd: The hon. Lady is right, but the bar is the content of the Bill. I know that it accommodates what are rather inelegantly called jumbo orders, but that would not cover the point. A Bill such as she proposes might be difficult, because it might deal with as many as 20 or 30 subjects. However, we should be looking at that, and she makes the point in the right spirit to try to improve matters. Perhaps the Minister could in due course respond to that; perhaps not tomorrow but Monday.
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): I agree with the hon. Gentleman that delay is likely to be inherent in the procedure that is set up by part 3, but is that not a very good argument for dispensing with part 3 altogether? The only reason why we have part 3 is that the Government have latched on to such a byzantine process in order to avoid asking the people of Wales in a referendum whether they want primary legislative powers. If we dispensed with part 3 altogether and went straight to part 4, giving the people of Wales a referendum, we could spare this House a great deal of time.
Mr. Llwyd: I know that that view is held by the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues in the National Assembly. We are not afraid of a referendum; we are happy for one to come when it has to come under part 4, but I certainly would not favour the hon. Gentleman's proposal. There is a logic to us going through part 3 before part 4. We make no secret of wanting full powers immediately, but that would mean an increased capacity for those who are able to draft legislation, and Assembly Members would need to be up to speed in dealing with the part 3 procedure. Common sense dictates that that is logical. Although I would like things to happen overnight, realistically it will take time for the National Assembly to get up to speed in order to legislate at the rate and with the thoroughness that it would no doubt wish to do so.
I have listened to the debate and much of what has been said is logical. Unlike the Minister, I do not think that the amendments were intended to be wrecking amendments. They are logical. I simply do not agree with them.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): I have listened carefully to the debate and I wonder whether the Minister can give me some assurances on procedure and on the role of draft legislation in particular. We have not yet discussed draft legislation in this debate, but it is important that we recognise that progress has been made in the last and present Parliaments in the development of draft legislation and of Joint Committees of the Assembly and the UK Parliament.
The role of draft legislation in the procedure that is outlined in the Bill is not as clear as I would like. Will the Minister explain whether Members of this House will, at an early stage, consider the orders that are to be produced, so that they are aware of what Measures the
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Assembly is to propose? It seems to me that one of the essential safeguards needed in the process is that Members of this House have an opportunity at an early stage to make known their views on proposed Assembly Measures. Bearing in mind that the Order in Council procedure does not allow amendments to be made at a late stage, it is extremely important that there be widespread consideration of proposed Assembly Measures by Members of this House.
Albert Owen: My hon. Friend has highlighted that point on numerous occasions in the past. Is he suggesting the creation of a Joint Committee consisting of Assembly Members and Members of Parliament so that such debates can take place in one forum or separately in the Assembly and perhaps another forum of this House?
Ian Lucas: I think that a Joint Committee approach has worked extremely well in the past, because it promotes a positive atmosphere of Assembly Members and Members of Parliament working together. I hope that that will develop as the process in the Bill develops.
The position of the official Opposition confuses me. In recent years in this Parliament, legislation appropriate to Wales or directed at Wales alone has been drafted in the form of enabling legislation and has been passed either in a separate Bill or as a Wales-only section of a larger Bill. It seems to me that there has been little difficulty with those proposals being considered by Joint Committees, being drafted in the broadest terms in primary legislation and passed in those terms by this Parliament, and the Assembly implementing the proposals at a later stage, after its process has been gone through. It has not been necessary after the Assembly has gone through its process to bring legislation back to this place for a vote, as the official Opposition are suggesting should happen, and it would be unnecessary after the Bill was passed if Members of Parliament were closely involved at an early stage of the process.
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