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Mr. Llwyd: The purport of the amendments is exactly as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) has described. We are at a loss to understand why the Secretary of State should once more have an absolute veto over a provision being sought by the democratically elected Assembly for Wales. The Minister will no doubt address that point, and I do not want to labour it because it is getting late and the hon. Member for Beaconsfield has already put the case for the amendments very eloquently.
"In the event of approval of a draft statutory instrument by the Assembly, as specified in section 94(5)(a), followed by a refusal to lay that draft statutory instrument before each House of Parliament, as specified in section 94(7)(b), the Counsel General"
"or the Assembly may refer to the Supreme Court for decision the question whether the Secretary of State's decision to refuse to lay the draft statutory instrument was made reasonably in the circumstances and intra vires."
In an earlier exchange with the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, concern was expressed that our proposals might have the effect of politicising the judges. However, we have used the word "reasonably" in the new clause, which relates to the reasonableness test according to the Wednesbury principles of a judicial review. We would seek to ascertain whether, with all the known facts being out in the open, the Minister had acted reasonably in all circumstances, and within his powers. That is all we are asking. We are not asking whether his decision was politically motivated or whether it was contrary to any or in favour of particular policy.
This is not in any way a political amendment. It is a stopgap measure to deal with the eventuality in which a future Secretary of State who was less sympathetic, or even hostile, to the cause of devolution than the present one might seek to prevent the Assembly from legislating, by providing the Assembly with some recourse to the law. I am not sure whether the Minister will be able to give us a definitive answer to this question today. New clause 4 would strengthen the democratic institution of the Assembly and allow it the same immediate right of referral to the Supreme Court that the Counsel General would have, and that the Attorney-General is given in other parts of the Bill.
"In the event of approval of a draft statutory instrument by the Assembly . . . but there not being within 60 days of that approval, an approval by a resolution of each House of Parliament as specified",
the Assembly could, by a two thirds majority, carry on. If the period were 55 days, and were the House to adjourn for three months during the summer recess, that would be utterly unacceptable to the legislators in the
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Assembly. The amendment would prevent such undue delay. That is not a slap in the face for Parliament, but merely enhances the Assembly's powers and, I hope, makes them more practical and ensures that its work is easier in due course.
Mr. Paul Murphy: The Minister smiled kindly in the earlier debate on the question of pre-legislative scrutiny. I know that the Government will consider carefully some of the suggestions made in the Chamber. I want to refer to amendment No. 187, on which the hon. Member for Beaconsfield touched. When the Minister winds up, perhaps he will also smile favourably on the use of the Welsh Grand Committee, which could be enhanced by allowing all Members of the House the right to attend but not vote, as is the case with European legislation. Those different possibilities should be considered to ensure a better sense of scrutiny than is achieved by simply having one and a half hours in a Committee Room Upstairs.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the work of the Richard commission, and of the concern that it expressed at the capacity of the Secretary of State to have too great an influence over the wishes of the National Assembly. We contend that if we are to have Orders in Council, we should follow the recommendation of the Welsh Affairs Committee, limiting the Secretary of State's powers to throw out an Order in Council only on procedural grounds. The Government's response to the Committee stressed the need for the Secretary of State to maintain that discretionary power in this area. The reply suggested limits to that discretionary power, but we believe firmly that those limits should be in the Bill.
I do not doubt the current Secretary of State's sincerity as a devolutionist. He told the Welsh Affairs Committee that he was one, and I believe him. We have heard the Minister talk about deepening devolution. In that context, as the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy has done, I wish to pose one question. What would happen if an anti-devolutionary party were to come to power in Westminster and totally frustrated the wishes of the Assembly by blocking any bid for enhanced legislation before Parliament even had a chance to consider it? We need more than vague assurances. We need assurances in the Bill.
Nick Ainger: This is a large group of amendments, and I hope that the House will bear with me as I address them in turn. I am conscious of the time, and I have a feeling that this will be a long speech.
Conservative amendments Nos. 180 and 211 would add a requirement for an Assembly resolution on a draft Order in Council amending schedule 5 to be approved by at least two thirds of all Assembly Members. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield asked why, if the Government insisted on a two-thirds majority for an Order in Council in relation to a referendum, we did not
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require a two-thirds majority in relation to the Order in Council process and so on. The answer is simple. We seek a two-thirds majority for a referendum because there must be consensus that there is a view throughout Wales
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