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Mrs. Gillan: In reality, we are considering three groups of amendments. Amendment No. 157, tabled by the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price), appears to give some breathing space before the referendum is held and after approval by the Commons and the Assembly. However, it also seeks to eliminate the role of the House of Lords, and I cannot agree with that, as the hon. Gentleman would doubtless expect me to say. Moreover, such a provision would presumably still apply even if the House of Lords became a wholly elected body; that would be rather anti-democratic.
I have some sympathy with amendment No. 186. Clause 102(6) is a delaying tactic that can be spun out for as long as the Secretary of State of the day wishes. Removing it would remove some of the Napoleonic powers that the Secretary of State has attracted to himself. If he really wants to keep them he could add a time limit, in order to avoid the Secretary of State of the day deploying such delaying tactics.
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Our amendment, No. 195, is simple, and if the Secretary of State appreciates the principles of sovereignty and the primacy of Parliament, he will have great sympathy with it. It would allow both Houses to examine and amend Orders in Council under subsection (1), and he should have no quarrel that, given his own principles, which he has laid out. I therefore hope that of these amendments he will have the grace to accept mine.
Mr. Hain: I very much enjoyed hearing the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) quote my words from some 10 years ago. The burdens of office mean that I cannot indulge in such ringing rhetoric and narrative any more.
Mr. Hain: I am sorry, but no. I want to make some progress, so I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is another specialist in ringing rhetoric. I should also point out that he is a very able newcomer to the House.
The problem with amendment No. 157 is that it would introduce a pre-emptive, Parliament Act-type procedure in respect of the referendum order. As the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr will realise on serious reflection, we cannot introduce into a Government of Wales Bill an entirely new and unprecedented constitutional revolution in the relationship between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Mr. Llwyd: The Secretary of State will doubtless reflect on the view of Lord Richard, who said in giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee that it would be a devil of a job to get these orders through the House of Lords. So the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) makes through his amendment is a proper one. Secondly, when I challenged the Secretary of State on this issue at a conference in Cardiff, he said that he would invoke the Parliament Act to ensure that this problem did not occur. So it was on his mind then and it is on ours now; so far, we see no way around it. My hon. Friend quoted earlier from an excellent speech by the Secretary of State. During that speech, he quoted Tony Benn, the former Member for Chesterfield, who said:
We are not debating the merits or otherwise of a second Chamber. To be fair, the House of Lords has behaved with great care and responsibility towards Welsh legislation such as the Transport (Wales) Bill, the Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Bill and the various legislation that has gone through Parliament in recent years following bids from the Assembly. I would not expect it to treat Orders in Council in any way differently. Therefore, I do not think it right, in the middle of the debate about the Government of Wales Bill, to aim for a revolutionary change in the relationship between Lords and Commons. That would not be appropriate.
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I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis) that the Secretary of State will lay the Order in Council triggering the referendum. The referendum cannot appear suddenly, all on its own. It needs a Secretary of State to lay the Order in Council, and that would present an opportunity for proper questions about the consultation process. That is why we have made the order a requirement: it is not a delaying tactic, but will mean that proper answers must be given to proper questions.
In any case, the Secretary of State will have to consult the Electoral Commission about the referendum question contained in the draft Order in Council. The commission's report on that question's intelligibility will have to be laid, together with any preceding statement, with that draft order, according to the procedure established by section 104 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) said that she wanted a procedure that would allow the Order in Council to be amended, by either House or by both. Her amendment is not explicit, but I presume that she would want the Assembly to have the same ability. That would be a recipe for endless ping-pong.
If the Assembly did not have the ability to amend an Order in Council, but was required by the legislation to pass it, we would get it into great difficulties. I hope that the hon. Lady will concede, on reflection, that the 2000 Act contains a procedure that requires the Electoral Commission to be the driving force, along with the Government, on the referendum question. The commission will also, of course, have to consult with the Assembly on that question. I hope that that answers the hon. Lady, and that she will withdraw the amendment.
Adam Price: It is a shame that the Secretary of State believes that he can use the Bill to impose a constitutional lock by an unelected Chamber on the ambitions and aspirations of the people of Wales to deepen and enhance their democratic sovereignty. That is what the Bill does, and it is deeply objectionable to me and my party.
Some Labour Members may share our belief that sovereignty lies with the people of Wales. It is insulting to give an unelected Chamber the power to reject a constitutionally based demand by the elected politicians who represent the Welsh people in the National Assembly. That such a demand can be flouted by an unelected Chamber that represents nothing, let alone the nation and people of Wales, is especially demeaning.
I shall withdraw the amendment, but we may want to return to the matter. A consensus exists across the Chamber on this matter that we can build on with useful discussion. It is entirely unacceptable that the House of Lords should have a constitutional lock on the development of democracy in Wales.
Mr. Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) (Lab):
On a point of order, Mrs. Heal. As I understand
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it, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis) had an amendment under consideration by the Committee.
I suspect that the debate may be rather short as it is likely that there will not be much meeting of minds between Plaid Cymru and the Government and other parts of the House. Clause 103 is concerned with the Assembly's power to pass a resolution that a recommendation should be made that a referendum be held on whether the provisions of Assembly Acts should come into force. The clause requires a two-thirds majority of Assembly Members to vote in favour. Our amendment would replace that with a simple majority.
A simple majority has been deemed quite enough in this place to pass even the most contentious of matters. Hon. Members will recall just such a matter squeaking through last autumn by a single vote. I refer to the Terrorism Bill, which was of the utmost importance and to do with the freedom of citizens and a great many other matters. It was hugely contentious and split the Labour party, but it was carried by a single vote. I well recall Labour Membersat least, some of themcheering and waving their papers as that happened.
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