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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 Executive—or, 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 vote—that 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.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

28 Feb 2006 : Column 143

Clause 60

Promotion etc. of well-being

Mrs. Gillan: I beg to move amendment No. 63, in page 35, line 27, leave out clause 60.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 64, in page 35, line 28, after 'anything', insert 'within their powers'.

No. 65, in page 38, line 19, leave out clause 70.

No. 66, in clause 70, page 38, line 22, , at end insert 'reasonable'.

4.30 pm

Mrs. Gillan: I hope that my voice will be more robust today than yesterday, and that the House will bear with me if I start to fade again.

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.

I have looked at the explanatory notes to the Bill, and what they say is worth sharing with the House. Clause 60, which covers "Promotion etc. of well-being", is described as follows:

I have to express a little surprise, as I am sure the Minister will understand, because that is so badly drafted that it needs close examination.

The clause begins:

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 whatever—not "anything within their powers"; there is no such qualification—

(a)   the promotion or improvement of the economic well-being of Wales".

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

28 Feb 2006 : Column 144

Next, can the Minister define the term

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.

Subsection (2) talks about anything that benefits

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 country—even 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.

Clause 60(4) starts to describe the powers, but it is so broadly drafted that it provides an open mandate. Ministers can

That makes them competent to do anything that they decide is in promotion or improvement of the three areas that we have discussed. Ministers may also

Is that provision within the devolved powers in schedule 5, or is the clause drafted more broadly?

Ministers may also

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.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) (Lab): I said, "It's the Ram doctrine."

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