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David Mundell: I welcome the amendments, even though I do not propose to support them. I welcome them because they allow me to tell the Minister that it is perfectly possible to support devolution and the evolution of devolution without supporting every measure that is proposed. During the course of today's proceedings, we have heard ridiculous attempts to rubbish the commitment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) to devolution, not only in Wales but in Scotland.
The Opposition understand that what we have now is asymmetric devolution, which means that not every provision of the Scotland Act will be replicated for
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Wales. I do not share the views of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) on the way in which energy provisions are working in Scotland. I have great concerns that nationalist elements in particular wish to use the difference between the powers that the Scottish Parliament has and the powers that the UK Parliament has to create a constitutional block and, if possible, crisis by presenting differences on energy policy. If the UK Government's policy is to have nuclear power in the UK, it is not for the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament, using provisions relating to other matters, to attempt to block the Government's energy policy. All such attempts to distort the devolution settlements should be resisted.
Lembit Öpik: Why would the hon. Gentleman resist the opportunity to give local communities some say over whether they have to put up with a nuclear power station which, as the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) rightly pointed out, is an investment not for a generation, but for centuries?
David Mundell: The hon. Gentleman is expressing his political views in respect of the nuclear industry, but in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom where nuclear power stations exist, many communities would welcome a new development. It is a misuse of constitutional powers to block UK Government policy in that regard.
Earlier, the Minister dealt with the powers relating to the police force and the England and Wales jurisdiction. From my brief experience of Wales questions, it is clear that many colleagues favour closer links between police forces in the north of Wales particularly and in parts of England. Measures that restrict such a possibility should be resisted. We shall therefore oppose the amendments.
Mr. Roger Williams : I support both amendments moved by Plaid Cymru Members. It would be our intention to include within the competence of the Assembly control over the police service in Wales. We will therefore support amendment No. 25.
We also support amendment No. 26, which would include energy in the Assembly's fields of legislative competence. We are conscious that Wales has been asked by the UK Government to bear a bigger burden of renewable energy generation than some parts of England. Targets have been set for Wales that have not had the support of the Welsh people and were not subject to the consultation necessary to ensure that they were well received.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) pointed out that planning permission for power stations generating more than 50 MW is still a reserved matter for the Department of Trade and Industry. We know that that produced a serious problem in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mark Williams) in the case of Cefn Croes. That could have been handled better if the Assembly had had direct powers to deal with it. The difficulty arose because there was a misunderstanding
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about what representations could be made to the Department of Trade and Industry about the determination of that planning application.
Mr. Williams: I know the application to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I do not have as much detailed information about that as he has, so I would not like to comment. The reservation of certain energy matters to the Department of Trade and Industry was intended to cover nuclear applications. As the capacity of renewable power stations has increased, wind farms, which were not thought to be caught by it, have been caught by it.
Mr. Llwyd: I rise to speak to amendment No. 25, which seeks to extend the field of competence of the National Assembly by including the policing, probation and prison services within the purview of its powers. Senior police officers in all four police forces in Wales have been saying for some time that the time has come for a move towards the devolution of policing. That feeling has been exacerbated of late by the somewhat insensitive way in which the Home Secretary is seeking to impose an all-Wales force in place of the four that we have at present.
We are proud of our police forces in Wales, and all four are in the upper quartile of each league table in which they appear. They were also recently given an excellent clean bill of health by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary and therefore have every reason to say that they are happy with their lot, and with the status quo. They believe that the only way of maintaining that is to devolve policing to the National Assembly, with which would come the probation service and the Prison Service. Both the National Association of Probation Officers in Wales and the Prison Service have expressed warm views about the path towards further devolution, and the way in which they see their future. We believe that they should be taken together as a package, as it were. That impetus has been given extra power by the fact that the National Offender Management Service is now being considered by the Government. This would effectively bring privatisation into the probation service and the Prison Service.
Mrs. Gillan: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the way in which the National Offender Management Service has been handled has been disgraceful? We have been promised legislation, and legislation has been introduced and then withdrawn. We are still waiting for that legislation. Rumour has it that no NOMS legislation will now come forward, and that instead a small part of a mixed Home Office Bill will be allocated to the proposals. However, this would have the same effect of bringing in contestability through the back door without consulting the very people who work in the service.
The hon. Lady and I have both taken a close interest in the NOMS fiasco. One of the worst
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aspects of it is that there has been no consultation whatever with those on the front line in the probation service or the Prison Service. Anyone who knows anything about those services knows that they are like chalk and cheese; they are incompatible. Even though they are both part of a wider service, they are not compatible with each other. One is there to befriend and to bring people back out into the wider community; the other is about incarceration, which involves elements of retribution as well as of education. These issues worry the people who work in those services in Wales and if NAPO and the Prison Service were to conduct an opinion poll or take a vote on the matter, people would say overwhelmingly that their future would lie better in Cardiff than with the Home Office.
Nick Ainger: I am going to disappoint hon. Members who have contributed to this debate, because I am going to give a technical response to the amendments rather than engaging with the pointsalthough they have been well madeabout whether the powers should be devolved to the Assembly, and with the reasons why hon. Members think that that should be the case. I shall explain the process as I go along, and perhaps hon. Members will then understand the position.
As I made clear earlier, this Bill is not about broadening the terms of devolution but deepening it. The two amendments would broaden devolution into areas such as energy, police and the probation and Prison Service, with which the Assembly does not currently have the Executive functions to deal. That goes against the basic premise for the way in which we have established the fields in schedule 5. Those fields, as they are set out, are exclusively those areas in which the Assembly currently has Executive functions. The proposals for which hon. Members have arguedthat energy, police and so on should be includedwould contradict the premise that the only matters that appear in schedule 5 are those in which the Assembly has an Executive function.
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