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Mr. Hain: We all support, on a cross-party basis, the increasing progress made in relation to the Welsh language in recent years. However, as the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell) has just explained, amendment No. 124 and new clause 10, which would give the Assembly primary legislative powers in relation to the Welsh language, are both unnecessary and undesirable.
If the Assembly identifies a need for legislative competence on matters relating to the Welsh language, or if the Welsh Assembly Government identify such a need, the Order in Council procedure under part 3 of the Bill would enable such competence to be sought. It would not make sense to grant the Assembly primary
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powers in relation to the Welsh language alone, but then to have a referendum on whether it should have primary powers at all in relation to all the other subjects listed in schedule 7. That was the point argued by the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. The electorate rightly would feel that they had been bypassed on an important subject. A referendum vote must be on the whole package, not one that has already been broken into.
The amendment would also have the complication that, in relation to this one area of legislative competence, the Assembly would have to have procedures in placefor example, under its Standing Ordersfor the passing of both Acts and Measures at the same time. On amendment No. 13, what is the point of deleting a reference to the Assembly treating English and Welsh equally
Is the suggestion that the Assembly should act inappropriately, if necessary, to comply with that obligation? Whatever the intention behind amendment No. 16, its actual effect is unclear. The amendment as worded would seem to add little if anything to the existing wording of clause 61 and the powers that Welsh Ministers have under the Welsh Language Act 1993, because they have already been transferred to the Assembly.
Certain functions under the Welsh Language Act 1993 have not been transferred to the Assembly and therefore are not currently exercised by the Welsh Assembly Government. The most important of those concerns the use of Welsh in legal proceedings. As England and Wales are a single legal jurisdiction, however, it is entirely appropriate that this issue should rest with the Lord Chancellor. The Bill is already clear in giving Welsh Ministers the power to do anything that they consider appropriate to support the Welsh language, and in enabling the Assembly to acquire legislative competence in relation to the Welsh language beyond that which it has at present. I therefore invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
Hywel Williams: I thank the Secretary of State for his response, and I take many of his points. He will accept that there is still dissatisfaction among Opposition Members, and a great deal of worry, about the consequences of the steps that the First Minister proposes to take in respect of the Welsh Language Board. We might want to revisit the issue on Report, but in the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Hywel Williams: Amendment No. 33 refers to hunting with dogs, which has been the subject of much controversy in this place. I had the dubious pleasure of serving on the Standing Committee that considered the Hunting Bill for many weeks. We discussed the issue very fully, and one of my amendments proposed that the Assembly should have responsibility for hunting in Wales. I shall briefly rehearse the arguments that I presented.
Agriculture is a devolved matter, and I think it fair to say that the Welsh Assembly Government and the Assembly have established amicable relationships with the farming unions in Wales. Farming in Wales has profited greatly from the existence of the Assembly. Agriculture in Wales differs from agriculture in England in that we have a great deal of upland farming, and fox predation is a considerable problem. Hunting, too, is different: there are many farmers' hunts and, I understand, miners' hunts in the south. Farmers' hunts are essentially a co-operative activity. The co-operation is similar to that between farmers at harvest time.
A number of practical issues have come to my attention since the passing of the Bill that became the Hunting Act 2004. I think that that is a good argument for a change so that the Welsh Assembly can take a view. One of the issues is the effect of fox predation. We have a number of forests in Wales, run by the Forestry Commission and others. The commission lets contracts for hunting, because it recognises the difficulties caused by fox predation to upland farmers in particular. The hunts are finding it extremely difficult to control fox numbers in upland areas where there is forestry. There is a strong feeling in the country that the issue needs to be revisited. I think it appropriate for the Assembly to deal with it, at least in respect of upland farming, and to take the heat out of the problem.
Amendment No. 38, another amendment tabled by members of my party, refers to railway heritage. There are many small lines in Walesgreat little lines. There are three in my constituency. I have no idea why the Assembly should not have some say in the development of the lines. That would accord with its control over tourism. I favour an integrated approach.
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Lembit Öpik : Amendment No. 33 makes sense to us on purely devolutionary grounds. I accept that there were different views on whether hunting with dogs should be curtailed, butleaving aside the position that each of us took at the timesurely anyone who feels that Wales should have parity with Scotland in terms of powers will recognise that the matter was devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Therefore, it seems reasonable that this issue, too, should be devolved to the Welsh Assembly.
The hon. Member for Caernarfon eloquently described farmers' specific concerns about the Hunting Act. Notwithstanding his arguments on that point, even if one supported a ban on hunting with dogs, one should recognise the principle of allowing Wales to make the decision for itself.
Mr. Roger Williams : I, too, wish to speak about hunting with dogs. The points have been well made by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), but hunting in Wales is not just about fox hunting as we know it; hunting with dogs involves flushing out foxes to guns, and it has been conclusively demonstrated that the element of the law that limits the number of dogs that may be used in that pursuit to two is quite inadequate and does not achieve the intended object. Given that different ways and means can be used to achieve things in Wales, it is appropriate that the matter be devolved.
The amount of land in Wales owned by the Ministry of Defence has been brought to my attention. The MOD has responsibility for pest control in those areas. How will it carry out that duty if the letter of the law as currently expressed is adhered to?
Finally, there is the question of energy. As we go towards the energy review and the possibility that nuclear power will be part of the recipe for providing energy for the United Kingdom, I believe that the question of whether nuclear plants are allowed in Wales should be within the Assembly's planning powers. For those reasons, I support the amendments.
David T.C. Davies : I have some sympathy with the amendment. I have made it fairly clear that I do not in general favour more powers for the Welsh Assembly, but there is the occasional circumstance in which there might be some logic to them. An active agriculture Department is already up and running in the Welsh Assembly, which is responsible for payments to farmers. The payments may at some point be affected by whether farmers allow hunts to take place on their land, particularly if the hunts are found to be doing anything illegal, which I am sure will not happen in Wales and which certainly does not happen in Monmouthshire among the hunts with which I am closely connected. On this occasion, there is a good reason for considering whether a power might be best devolved to Wales and dealt with by the agriculture Department there and by the many Assembly Members who have first-hand experience of agriculture.
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