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Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I am sorry, it does. I stand corrected. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg does have a regional structure. If the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has a regional structure surely the UK--see how I can adapt my arguments--of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should have one.
It is significant that there is a correlation between devo-sceptics and Euro-sceptics in our debate. The assembly for Wales, when it is established, will have laid on it the responsibilities as set out in the White Paper. It will debate all issues of concern to Wales. It will of course have due regard and respect for equal opportunities, equal status for the languages, and for sustainable development. I am certain that--if I may so refer to him in this context--my friend the Prince of Wales will find time in his busy, active diary, supporter of green policies that he is, to open the Welsh assembly for us, contrary to what is said in this morning's Guardian.
The assembly's functions are important in the field of the economy. Again, I congratulate the Welsh Office on its intention to establish a new economic powerhouse--the expanded WDA, so ably led by Mr. David Rowe-Beddoe. It is the envy of inward investment generators worldwide. It is an example of the way devolution can work. It is a devolved executive arm of the Welsh Office. It was given further autonomy by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. It was thus able to be more effective. The arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that devolution somehow will damage inward investment are proved to be fallacious by the very results of his giving devolved power to the WDA on inward investment, which he did so successfully when he was Secretary of State.
I wish also to pay tribute to the Development Board for Rural Wales which has served my former constituency of Merioneth extremely well since 1976. The bringing together of the rural expertise of the development board and the expertise of the Land Authority, again led so ably by Sir Geoffrey Inkin, and the WDA, will provide a team for economic development which will be at least as successful in the future as the WDA has been in the past.
I also welcome--here I declare an interest as chair of the Welsh Language Board--the announcement in the White Paper of the proposal to transfer the unelected bodies into the assembly. It may be unusual for people to wish their own demise. I do not wish my own demise. I do not wish the demise of the activity of the body which I chair, but I wish to see that body open and democratically accountable. We try to be so. At our last board meeting we decided to open our doors to the public. I hope that other public bodies will feel able to
Finally, I welcome the extremely important duties and powers of the assembly in relation to Europe. I congratulate the Government. They have gone much further than I ever thought that they would. I do not mean further in the direction of European membership for an independent Wales, in case Conservatives try to bring up that issue. They have gone further in building up the regional partnerships within the UK as part of the EU, because that is what they are talking about.
We are talking about an assembly which will be able to have equivalent scrutiny powers to the powers that we have in the European Communities Committee of the House, upon which I am privileged to serve. The assembly will have relations with the UK delegation in Brussels. It will have charge of structural funds, and, through the Secretary of State, it will be able to represent the interests of Wales in the Council of Ministers, and as I understand from what my noble friend Lord Sewel said earlier, the executive of the assembly itself will be able to participate in an observer capacity in some of its discussions.
It is an admirable way of operating. It will bring to the UK presence in the EU the regional depth which other member states already have. In particular, it will strengthen the work of the Wales European Centre. The direct election of members of the Committee for the Regions from among assembly members in Cardiff will again strengthen the profile of Wales as a European region alongside all the other regions about which we hear so often, not least, of course, Catalonia and the German Lander. Most of all, the assembly will provide the focus for activity and debate. It will be a focus for the new inclusive politics about which we have heard so clearly from our Secretary of State, Ron Davies, and my noble friend Lord Sewel today.
I make one final plea--I am afraid again repeating myself--to the Conservative Party. It is the only party in Wales or the UK which is distancing itself from the whole issue. It is choosing to stand aside. It is taking a negative attitude. Mr. William Hague, whom again I regard as a friend, following his time as our governor-general when he was in the Welsh Office, has already signalled that things may change. He will accept the verdict of the people in a referendum. That is a little inconsistent and disingenuous. If the Conservative Party is prepared to accept the verdict of the people in a referendum now, it should accept that the arguments for a Welsh assembly and a Scottish parliament are a legitimate part of its own political history as well. Members of the Conservative Party in this House who have espoused devolutionary views in the past will know what I am talking about.
Lord Renton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will forgive me if I do not follow up his speech, except to say that I am afraid that I disagree with most of it. I shall confine myself to the Scottish devolution problem. Devolution for Scotland needs to be considered
I come now to Scotland. In Scotland we now have three tiers of democratic government which work well. In the first tier we have districts, many of which replace the old counties, and we have city councils. In the second tier we have regions which are big. There are only seven of them in Scotland.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, perhaps I may be of some assistance. Two years ago the Government reorganised local government in Scotland. We no longer have districts or regions. We have unitary authorities. So a system of Westminster, a Scottish parliament and local authorities is the three-tier system which the noble Lord advocates.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy and the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for bringing me up to date. I tried to refresh my memory by looking at a recent map, which obviously was not up to date. I should have remembered that because I spend a lot of my time in Scotland.
In any event, we have a system of local and central government in Scotland which works well. The Scottish Office has a fine reputation for understanding the people's needs and for representing them efficiently and effectively at Westminster. In some respects, according to the White Paper, it will continue to do so after devolution.
I was tempted to go into the question of the conflict which arises between the responsibility of the Secretary of State and of the United Kingdom Government in European Union matters when the Scottish parliament and executive are to have some responsibilities. However, there appears to be a complicated conflict which we should not overlook.
I conclude on a more general and perhaps higher note. I remind your Lordships of the great influence which Scots have had in the United Kingdom, but especially in England, since the Act of Union. To a great extent, they helped to build the British Empire and the Commonwealth. Scots have undoubtedly had great influence in our Westminster Parliament. In the 70 years between 1894 and 1964, we had seven Scottish Prime Ministers. They covered a period of 25 years out of the 70 years. As regards Lord Chancellors, the record is even more impressive. Admittedly, a longer period is covered, but since 1801, 10 Lord Chancellors have been Scotsmen. Nine of them came from the English Bar, the only one from the Scottish Bar being my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who had a long spell as Lord Chancellor. Between them, those 10 Lord Chancellors covered 56 of the almost 200 years since 1801.
The truth is that the Scots have had the best of both worlds and I should like to see them continue to have it. I am the son of a Scottish doctor who wisely followed Dr. Johnson's advice, which was, "The finest prospect a Scotsman ever sees is the high road to England". My father was a doctor who practised in Kent. The other and wider world has given to the Scottish people the advantage of being British and of exercising power, influence and authority beyond their native land. I fear that devolution will tend to keep them in their native land and cause them to lose some of that advantage. Let us hope that Scottish voters will see where their interests lie!
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I do not intend to speak for long because everything has been said. However, it is a pity that all those Scottish Lord Chancellors, Prime Ministers and Peers did not stay at home and build a better Scotland. I hope that that will happen--
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