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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Countess for giving me notice of part of her supplementary question. I must apologise for the length of the reply that it is appropriate for me to give.

The three vaccines used in the anti-biological warfare programme for British troops during the Gulf War were: anthrax; potassis as adjuvant to it; and plague. Troops were also given a number of routine vaccinations such as might be administered to travellers or health workers.

As to the specific diseases mentioned by the noble Countess, I am advised that no vaccines exist for three of these--lassa fever, ebola, and AIDS. Vaccines are available for Q fever, equine micro-encephalitis; rabbit fever (also called tularemia); and certain strains of botulinum toxin. So far as the department can ascertain, none of these vaccines was administered to British troops during the Gulf War.

However, in view of public concern about this issue, part of the forthcoming fact-finding work which is described in detail in the policy statement, Gulf Veterans' Illnesses: A New Beginning, published on 14th July, will examine the range of routine vaccines which may have been received by certain groups of service personnel deployed to the Gulf.

There were a very, very small number of British troops who were given a meningitis vaccine because of the special circumstances in which they found themselves. As I understand it, the numbers are in single figures.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord can help me. Not knowing what a "cytokine balance" is, or a "Th 2 profile", but looking at the Question, is Gulf War syndrome due to that, whatever it is?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his candour. I have not, unfortunately, the faintest idea what a lot of these terms represent. The position is that neither we, with our research programme, nor the Americans, with their much wider research programme, are yet in a position to understand how this syndrome was actually caused.

Lord Parry: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, difficult though the subject is, many of us in this House greatly admire the noble Countess, the Countess of Mar, for her persistence in her research and for her pursuit of the many causes of the problems? Can the Minister tell me and the House whether the veterans of the Gulf are having as much difficulty in obtaining their medical

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records from official sources as the members of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association have found? I speak as a patron of the organisation.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for enabling me to take the opportunity also to compliment the noble Countess on her diligence and perspicacity in pursuing those matters. The country owes her a debt of gratitude. I am sure that she would accept that under the guidance of my honourable friend the Minister for the Armed Forces, the position of Gulf veterans has been transformed in many ways.

I draw my noble friend's attention to the 20-point programme recently produced by my honourable friend in the House of Commons. For the first time, Gulf veterans are involved in a committee studying the work being done on their behalf.

Earl Howe: My Lords, is the Minister aware that this is a matter on which we, from these Benches, wish to give the strongest possible support to the Government in their efforts to help Gulf War veterans? I appreciate that the MRC has yet to submit its advice on the question alluded to earlier. However, can the Minister add to the helpful paper issued by his department last week and say whether the symptoms complained of by some veterans actually correspond with the symptoms described in the article in The Lancet?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it would be an act of folly for me to try to add to anything that appeared in The Lancet article or a paper produced by my department only a few days ago. However, I shall look into the noble Earl's question and see whether I can write to him on it.

Lord Winston: My Lords, perhaps I may help my noble friend. The article in The Lancet was merely a hypothesis. As one who has contributed to the hypothesis column, I know that quite often it is a way of floating ideas which need proof. It is still an open question, an important one, but at the moment it is merely an idea.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, while I accept that the paper was a hypothesis, will the Minister confirm that some of the research work into the hypothesis will be done at Porton Down? Will he also accept that, in the words of one of the Gulf War veterans, to put the research with Porton Down is to liken it to asking a murderer to prepare his own prosecution case?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I can confirm that some of the work is being done at Porton Down. However, I do not accept the language quoted by the noble Countess. For the first time, the Gulf veterans have the protection that one of their number at least will be on the committee supervising the research work that is being done. I do not think that the Government can do more than that.

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3.22 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the Government's proposals for a Welsh assembly.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Thursday 24th July to enable the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill to be taken through all its stages that day.--(Lord Richard.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill

3.23 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.--(Lord Sewel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 2 [Referendum in Wales]:

Lord Crickhowell moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 2, line 8, at end insert ("in accordance with proposals set out in a White Paper laid before Parliament before this Act is brought into force which shall also clearly set out the implications for England of the government's proposals.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 16 at a rather awkward moment as it directly addresses matters to be covered in a Statement that will be made to the House shortly after debate on the amendment has been concluded. It also relates to the contents of the White Paper which convention dictates will not be available in the Printed Paper Office until the Secretary of State sits down in another place. So in a sense I have to go blindfold into the debate.

However, we have had a good deal of prior information. I had the experience--I shall not say it was a pleasant one--of waking shortly before seven o'clock this morning, turning on the television and being confronted by a programme concerned with what was to appear in the White Paper and an interview with the Secretary of State. A constitutional expert, commenting on what would happen as a result of the White Paper--at least, if the vote is affirmative--said that it would be the most important constitutional change in our arrangements in this country since the passing of the Government of Ireland Act in the 1920s. So what we are about is particularly important.

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I was prompted to put down Amendment No. 16, with which we shall take two directly related amendments, Amendments Nos. 31 and 32, by some reported comments of the junior Minister at the Welsh Office, Mr. Peter Hain. He said that if Wales were to vote against a Welsh assembly in the referendum,

    "it might soon become one of the few regions in Britain still to be ruled from London".

He went on to say that,

    "political and business leaders in regionally-important cities such as Newcastle and Manchester will be encouraged to press for their own elected regional authorities if Scotland gets its own Parliament as widely expected".

I am never sure what to make of statements made by Mr. Peter Hain. He made the remarkable assertion that the great Korean company, LG, which is to move to Newport, was only doing so because the Welsh assembly was about to be created. That shows a degree of ignorance about the way in which investment decisions are taken which is startling.

However, we must take such statements seriously. We have had hints that we may hear more about proposals for what will happen to England. We have received information that the central government structure is to be reorganised so that there are regional arrangements. But what I do not think we know is whether they will take the form of elected assemblies in due course or what the Government's future intentions are. We hear a good deal from the Government about the need to place decision-making closer to people in every part of the United Kingdom. We therefore have the rather remarkable situation that we are proceeding by a series of steps--a fairly major step in Scotland, and, as we shall discover later this afternoon, a significant step in Wales--without knowing how those steps relate to future proposals for the government of England. It seems to me that that is an odd way of approaching the whole business of constitutional change.

I conceded a case to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, when we had a little exchange earlier at Report stage. I could concede the case for having elected assemblies if we had a totally different system of government in the United Kingdom. What worries me is that we have different systems of government in each part of the United Kingdom. I believe that that sets us on a road that is likely to create conflict. Therefore, when I put down the amendment, I simply sought to obtain further guidance as to what the Government's intentions are. I hope--though I have to say that the hope is limited--that we may hear more about it when we see the White Paper, but this House should insist upon knowing more about the Government's plans on the matter before we proceed much further with the Bill.

As to Amendments Nos. 31 and 32, one involves Scotland and the other Wales. Again, they have been overtaken in a sense by events. One subsection of Amendment No. 32 asks that the Secretary of State for Wales should publish a summary of the White Paper. In the weeks that have been given to us, we have been told that summaries of the White Paper are to be dispatched to every household in Wales. We have also been told that copies of the White Paper at a cheap price--namely,

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£3--are to be widely available to those who wish to read it. So perhaps we are making some progress on that point.

We also now know, told to the world outside in advance of this debate--perhaps the Government have not yet begun to take much notice of the rather helpful statement made by the Speaker in the other place that such statements ought to be made to Parliament rather than elsewhere--that the date of the referendum in Wales is to be 18th September. Subsection (1) of Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 asks for further enlightenment on the constitutional implications of what is proposed and, in the case of Wales, why there should be no tax-varying powers. It appears that the only reason ever given as to why the situation in Wales should be different from that in Scotland is that the proposal did not appear in the Labour Party manifesto. We heard on previous occasions that the Labour Party manifesto was to be treated as a sacred document. Now, apparently, we have a new doctrine. Previously we understood that everything in the manifesto was guaranteed to pass through Parliament without any question or examination. But there is now the doctrine that we must ask why something was not in it. So we do not know very much about why the powers should be given in the one case and not in the other.

I think we shall discover, when we hear the Statement later and see the White Paper, that some rather important constitutional issues are raised. The old issue is the role of the Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament. The old West Lothian question will not go away. I suspect that when we have heard what is said later, we shall want to ask more about that again. We shall also want to know more about the future role of the Secretary of State. On television this morning Mr. Ron Davies said quite firmly that the role of the Secretary of State would continue. I believe it was asserted during that programme that he was to be a conduit. I looked up the word "conduit" in the dictionary to make sure that I understood it. It is defined as,

    "a channel or pipe for conveying liquids".

I suppose that that is a role for the Secretary of State but there will be no regulatory body to make sure that such pipes are not polluted. A conduit is also,

    "a tube or trough for protecting insulated wires".

We can be quite certain that some electric shocks will pass up and down that particular cable as disputes break out between the assembly and the Government.

However, the Government declare and I expect will tell us later this afternoon that the role of the Secretary of State will not change. Interestingly enough, those who most strongly advocate change in Wales do not for one moment believe the assertion. The Western Mail is fighting a vigorous campaign on behalf of the assembly and has become a total advocate of it. But, in an article on 7th July, it declared:

    "A reduction in the number of Welsh MPs is inevitable, given Wales's historic over-representation at Westminster. So is a workable redefinition of the role of the Secretary of State for Wales".

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It went on:

    "The Welsh Secretary must retain a seat in Cabinet but will need to become more of an ambassador for Wales abroad and an effective liaison between the Assembly and Westminster".

That is an interesting definition of the role of the Secretary of State. Whether it justifies a Cabinet appointment is perhaps a matter of considerable doubt and debate.

An even more interesting document produced within the past few weeks is entitled Wales in Europe: The Opportunity Presented by a Welsh Assembly. It is published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs and the principal authors are Sir John Gray, a former ambassador, and John Osmond. They have been advised by a formidable group of people who generally favour setting up an assembly.

Therefore, I turn to that document to raise the constitutional issues because those who favour the assembly may be thought simply to be stirring up a hornets' nest. I know that whenever I raise these questions, people say, "You are against the whole thing and, of course, you make these points and there is no validity to them." I find the document particularly interesting. It addresses those questions very frankly and openly.

In section 3.6, the document refers to the Labour Party's document published in 1995 called Shaping the Vision and says that,

    "the paper did not refer to the problems the Secretary of State would face once the responsibility for, and the staff concerned with, devolved matters had been lost and consequently the ability to speak authoritatively on those matters in Cabinet".

It is worth dwelling on the words:

    "the ability to speak authoritatively on those matters in Cabinet".

The authors prefer the word "broker" to the word "conduit" which I have just used. They suggest that that should be the role of the Secretary of State. They openly concede that there is likely to be a change in the status of the Secretary of State for Wales. Indeed, they say:

    "By the time [of] any change ... (possibly abolition of the post and its incorporation into an Office for the Regions) Wales should have in place arrangements for influencing UK decision-making on EU matters which will survive the emergence of opposed majorities in Cardiff and London, and which will have confirmed that a nation like Wales should be treated differently within the United Kingdom to, say, an English region like East Anglia".

That takes us back to the question that I posed right at the start about what will happen to the English regions.

The document goes on to say that that relationship should be brokered by the Secretary of State for Wales. For 17 years of my life I was an insurance broker. It was a fairly basic principle that if you acted as a broker, you represented your client and could not be the underwriter at the same time. Here is a situation in which it is proposed that the person who is to be the broker will sit in the organisation which will either accept or reject the risk. That is not exactly a normal situation for a broker to be in. Apparently, he has to broke,

    "general principles and practical arrangements between the Assembly and the Secretary of State, and between the latter and his/her Cabinet colleagues. This would allow the Assembly's concerns to be fed into the policy-making machine in Whitehall.

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    It would also help lessen the likelihood of the Secretary of State losing the goodwill of either the Assembly or the UK Cabinet (or conceivably both)--something which, if continued over a long period, would put in jeopardy the whole devolution experiment".

Those are rather frank admissions by advocates of the assembly of some of the difficulties inherent in the whole experiment.

The authors of the document go on to address the problem of the Civil Service. Again, I have not yet seen the White Paper. But if, as we are told, the Welsh Office is to be divided, with the overwhelming majority of its civil servants going to the assembly and a tiny handful left behind to advise the Secretary of State, that again produces some interesting situations to be resolved. Section 3.10 of the document states:

    "To explore this issue exposes some of the problems which would face the Secretary of State under devolution: those officials who owed their first loyalty to the Assembly would have no prescriptive right of access to the Whitehall machine; and on the contrary side, those officials who served a Welsh Secretary sitting in the London Cabinet would owe no constitutional loyalty to the Assembly. And if, at some future date, the majorities in the Assembly and Westminster were different, the problem would only be aggravated".

Incidentally, it may be thought to be unlikely that for some time to come the majorities would be different. If we are to have some form of proportional representation it is at least a possibility that that might happen sooner than some people anticipate. It is not something to be kicked away into the long grass as though in Wales it could never happen.

The authors analyse the difficulty about how the assembly would get its way over important matters in relation to Europe. They declare that again it is something that the poor old Secretary of State has to broker. They declare:

    "The Welsh Assembly should have the right to send officials as observers to any working group meetings in Whitehall where matters devolved to Wales were being discussed, and to participate fully in preparatory meetings of the UK delegations to European Union meetings in similar circumstances".

They acknowledge that those arrangements may again create difficulties.

Finally, on the question of relationships with Europe, the authors say that the assembly should have access to the Council of Ministers; essentially, that it ought to be playing a key role in the deliberations of the Council. That is likely to cause great difficulty if the UK is taking up a negotiating position. There are real difficulties with Ministers having to bring into the process an assembly that may have different views. The unfortunate Secretary of State who will have been trotting backwards and forwards to Wales to listen to the assembly's views--he will apparently be entitled to sit in the assembly; whether or not he will be entitled to vote, I am not sure--will come hurrying back with the views of the assembly about European matters. The assembly may even have direct access to the Council of Ministers.

One can go on and explore other relationships. All indicate that we are going down a road where we can perhaps see the first bend but we cannot see round the corner. It is difficult to know what the long-term intentions of government are or what the long-time future

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is likely to provide. We are starting down a road which is very uncertain. I do not believe that the position of the Secretary of State for Wales--or indeed, the Secretary of State for Scotland--can conceivably survive for long. They will not have a credible or acceptable role.

I believe also that we will run into the difficulties that we debated at some length 20 years ago when it is discovered that virtually all the powers that the present Secretary of State for Wales has over the whole field of domestic government are to be transferred to the assembly. The assembly will be deciding crucial issues fundamental to the work of most Members of Parliament in their constituencies. The Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament will not be able to decide those matters or have any great influence in Scotland or Wales--except when legislation is passing through Parliament--but will have a significant influence in England.

I return to where I started. If we are to go along a road where the bends are frequent and the future so uncertain, what will be the position in England? We need answers to that question as well as to the questions I have asked in relation to Wales and Scotland. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, perhaps I can first say to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that the post of Secretary of State for Scotland was abolished in 1746 and re-established in 1885. Secretaries of State therefore can come and go.

The reality of Amendment No. 16 needs to be examined. In that spirit I drafted the following text, which may be of help. It reads thus:

    "The Government's proposals for Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish devolution--the implications for England. The purpose of devolution is to meet the demand for a fairer system of government for the United Kingdom. The complaint is no less than the unnecessary domination of the United Kingdom by the English state. The pretence that the UK can only be governed as a unitary state has been finally exposed. It is now accepted that, in Hong Kong parlance, the UK is: one state--4 national systems. The Government recognise that the UK is a union state, and should be governed as such. In particular, it is recognised that the Scots Law has been altered, on many occasions, by the representatives of non-residents of Scotland, and without the consent of the representatives of Scottish residents.

    In a spirit of reconciliation, and with the future of the UK in mind, the Government are putting forward these devolution proposals to meet the needs of a renewed Union. The lesson of the past 461, 290 and 196 years is that a union with England is worthwhile, so long as it does not extinguish national democracy in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Recognising that change must be managed, the Government have decided to start the renewal of the UK in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The plans are asymmetrical, and may not be the final move towards a mutually beneficial Union settlement. The Government plan to extend the programme to London and the English regions".

Perhaps that will commend itself to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and possibly--though I doubt it--to noble Lords on the Government Bench.

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