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David Mundell: As I made clear to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) during my initial remarks, our probing amendment is designed to allow the sort of discussion that has indeed taken place, and which has proved very helpful. Although we have strayed into discussing what constitutes the appropriate number of Assembly Members, that issue will require further consideration. However, I take on board the point, made by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies), about the benefit of the Welsh Assembly's working longer hours. Inevitably, the range of Committee activities will put disproportionate work loads on particular Members, although a rough calculation suggests that they are more likely to be Labour Back Benchers at this stage.
It is important that the Deputy Minister role is clarified in the Standing Order process. The Scottish Parliament has provided the model for much of the discussion on this Bill, and Deputy Ministers there are not able to serve on Committees or ask questions in the Chamber. People understand that Deputy Ministers are part of the Executiveor, in the Wales context, of the Welsh Assembly Government. The debate has made it clear that combining the two roles is unsatisfactory, and I hope that the Standing Orders will deal with the problem and clarify the position of Deputy Ministers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) noted, the office attracts a payment. The duties and responsibilities that go with that should mean that office holders are not able to move from being a member of the Government to being a Back Bencher as and when required.
I shall not press the amendment to a Division, as the House has been able to raise the relevant issues. People are worried about the percentage of members of institutions such as this Parliament or the Welsh Assembly who are on the payroll votethat is, the number of Ministers who are needed for effective Government. The Opposition believe that we should always strive to ensure that the number is the smallest possible. In the hope that the numbers set out in the Bill do not become the norm but will be assessed in the context of ministerial duties, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
The amendments are designed to examine clauses 60 and 70. Unfortunately, we did not have time to discuss these clauses in Committee, but their selection for debate on Report gives us an opportunity to get inside the minds of the Government and the parliamentary draftsmen and find out exactly what the provisions mean. This debate also allows us to explore the ambit of the subjects that the clauses cover.
"This clause provides the Welsh Ministers with a power to do anything which they consider is appropriate to achieve the promotion of the economic, social or environmental well-being of Wales. The power may be exercised for the benefit of the whole or any part of Wales or of all or any persons resident or present in Wales. If the Welsh Ministers consider that it would promote the economic, social or environmental well-being of Wales it may also be exercised in relation to or for the benefit of areas outside Wales or persons resident or present in any area outside Wales."
and I would like the Minister to define "anything", because Ministers may do anything at all that they consider appropriate, without any qualification. They are to be the sole arbiters and have sole judgment. They can do anything whatevernot "anything within their powers"; there is no such qualification
I challenge the Minister to give me some examples of the sort of thing that he thinks Welsh Ministers may do to improve the economic well-being of Wales, and why they need that all-encompassing power. Paragraph (b) mentions the social well-being of Wales. How does the Minister define that? Is it something that would make Assembly Members happy? Is that an appropriate objective? What is social well-being in the context of
For example, there is some debate over the nuclear power station at Wylfa B, the jobs there, and the accompanying aluminium plant. Rightly, those subjects have been raised in the House and are of concern to Members. What might Welsh Ministers do in relation to that plant to improve or promote the environmental well-being of Wales? Subsection (1) is very broadly drawn.
I presume that that includes any visiting non-British people, and people coming across the border from England, or from Scotland. Where is the containment of the power? Where does the judgment lie? It lies back with Welsh Ministers, who can decide to do anything that they consider appropriate, without let, bar or hindrance.
Subsection (2) raises many questions in my mind, but if that were not broad enough, subsection (3) would begin to require some serious answers from the Under-Secretary, because it gives Welsh Ministers a
As I read it, that means that Welsh Ministers can do anything that they consider appropriate, with nobody else sitting in judgment on them, for any area or any countryeven Ukraine, whose parliamentary system was prayed in aid in earlier debates, or anywhere else in the whole world. How does that sit with the devolved powers and the powers in schedule 5? This section appears to give Ministers the power to do anything for anybody, anywhere, at any time, and the only people sitting in judgment on that are themselves. Ministers have to consider whether their actions are likely to achieve one or more of the objects in clause 60(1), but that section is also at the discretion of Ministers.
I hope that they will not be able to exercise any of my functions on my behalf. We need an explanation of who are those persons, what sort of functions will they be exercising[Interruption.] The Whip says, from a sedentary position, that I am rambling.
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