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Lord Thomas of Gresford: Perhaps I may deal with one of the points which is consistently made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. He complains about our referring to the differences in the campaigns in Wales and Scotland in 1979. Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who I am pleased to see is now in his place, described such references as "patronising" during the last Committee stage.
In a Report, An Assembly for Wales, published by The Constitution Unit, which is an independent inquiry into the implementation of constitutional reform under the auspices of the Faculty of Laws, University College London, published in 1996, the following was said:
When the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, deals with the issue with some hilarity and suggests that perhaps the Welsh White Paper should be published first, he totally ignores what is really a very serious issue; namely, that there is a difference between what is happening in Scotland and Wales and there is a need for it to be fully explained. It is with that in mind that I support the tenor of what the noble Lord said--that is, that the White Paper should be published and distributed before the referendums take place--but the terms in which he expresses it reflect, as I said, some hilarity as regards the Welsh situation and are not something that I can accept.
Lord Lucas: I think perhaps that the need to treat the matter with some hilarity comes from the Government's position which is so obviously unbending on the issue. As my noble friend Lord Mackay has accurately pointed out, if the Government were really interested in giving the Welsh time to think about the issues on their own,
I do not want to repeat anything said by my noble friend but I do want to pick up the difference between Amendments Nos. 52 and 53; namely, that we seek to ensure that the White Paper satisfies the reasonable curiosity of the Welsh as to why they are being offered less than the Scots. If I were to invite the noble Lords, Lord Sewel and Lord Williams, to supper and tempt them by publishing the menus in advance, I should think that that was a reasonable thing to do. However, if my proposals were to offer the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, a slap-up meal and to stop the noble Lord, Lord Williams, short of the soup course, they might find that a little surprising.
Lord Lucas: I believe that it would be a reasonable question for the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to ask as to why I would wish him to stop short of the soup course. I am sure that I would be able to convince him that there was good reason for it. I could not think of it at present but, if I were to do such a thing, I would have a good reason. I think it right that the Welsh should be told.
Lord Sewel: Sooner or later--I suspect it will be sooner--I shall have to deprive the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, of a great deal of harmless fun and tell him when the White Paper will be published. However, that will not happen just yet; he will have to wait a little longer.
By virtue of these amendments the White Papers would have to be published before this Bill receives Royal Assent. Indeed there is a ticklish technical question here. These are not so much wrecking amendments as impossible amendments. If they were accepted, they would create a duty by statute which could be fulfilled only before the statute came into force. That is quite a nice logical somersault. There is a little difficulty there. We await no doubt the algebraic formula that springs us from that trap. However, my principal difficulties with the noble Lords' proposals are more than simply technical.
The new clauses would also require the Secretary of State to publish summaries of the White Papers for Scotland and Wales which would be distributed to every elector in Scotland and Wales respectively. The
The Government are committed to setting out in the White Paper, to be published shortly, their detailed proposals for the establishment of a Scottish parliament. There is no need to require this in statute; it will happen. It is absolutely clear that that will happen. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, accepts that. There has never been any doubt about our intentions which were set out in our manifesto. I am therefore a little surprised that that aspect has been focused upon in the new clauses. The Government are as concerned as Members of the Committee opposite to ensure that electors are adequately informed about the Government's proposals before they are asked to vote on them. I am sure that when the people of Scotland and Wales vote they will be well aware of what they are being asked to express their views on. I do not think there is the slightest possibility of an uninformed electorate.
The new clauses also propose the publication of summary versions of the Scottish and Welsh White Papers, to be distributed to every elector in Scotland and Wales respectively. There is little between us on this. I assure the Committee that the Government are giving serious consideration to the question of whether and how further information about their proposals should be made available. I give a full and complete assurance that I am happy to express to my ministerial colleagues the view of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that a summary of the White Paper should be distributed.
We shall publish the White Paper shortly. As we made clear earlier, the date of publication will be made clear by or at Report. We shall ensure that there is an opportunity to debate it in this Chamber and we shall ensure that there is ample opportunity for public debate in advance of the referendums. We shall carefully consider what further information should be provided to voters. In the light of those assurances I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw the amendments.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for adding to what his noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn said before dinner as regards a similar but slightly different amendment. I welcome the assurance that the Government are considering producing a summary of the White Paper and perhaps providing further information, I hope along the lines of a yes and a no leaflet to be distributed to every elector. I hope they will decide to do that because I believe that
It is clear that I shall have some more fun about the date of the White Paper. I am grateful for what I thought was the support of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. If the Welsh White Paper is ready, why not publish it and let it be debated by the UK national newspapers now, in advance of a Scottish White Paper being issued? He and the Government fear that if they are issued together the Welsh White Paper will be subsumed in the Scottish argument. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. The Government might consider that. I notice that they managed to avoid saying whether the Welsh White Paper was ready for publication. However, I suggest that if it is ready for publication they could hold a press conference in Cardiff this Friday. That would give all the weekend papers the necessary Mandelsonian briefing and all of us would be able to read about the Welsh proposals separately from the Scottish proposals. I suspect the latter proposals--as I have not been told anything to the contrary--might be issued the following Friday so that that weekend's papers will be full of the details of the Scottish White Paper. Seriously, there is much to be said for that. It would be a sensible way to deal with this issue.
As regards the proposed new Subsections (2) and (3) of the amendment, I am grateful for the assurances that the noble Lord has given. I am grateful that the Government are considering this matter seriously. I am sure he takes my point that the average Government White Paper is not something that everyone wishes to get hold of, read, mark and inwardly digest. They would prefer a summary. The precedents of 1975 are there for us to follow. While the situation in 1979 did not work like that, we should look at the position in 1975. I hope that the Government will be able to tell us at Report stage what they intend to do about these matters. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.