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Lord Crickhowell: The Minister has used the words put forward by my noble friend. He said that he was inclined to limit the expenditure on party lists. I do not have any great difficulty with that. My complaint about the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is that I thought he was trying to take us much further and into a much wider area of debate that ought to be covered by primary legislation.

There are grave difficulties here. Those of us who have fought elections know just how tight the controls are and how difficult they are to administer and interpret. What worries us is that by using the words "political parties" rather than a more confined wording, the Minister is underestimating the practical difficulties. My noble friend commented that recently there had been a number of challenges. We do not want to create a number of post-election challenges simply because the matter has been ill thought out and badly defined.

This is a case where the Minister would be wise to take away the arguments that have been advanced and to consider whether it is possible to have more precision in the drafting of the legislation so that we can have confidence about the order. That is all we are asking for at the present time. Real difficulties have been enunciated by my noble friend about the use of "political parties" without further clarification. On the experience of fighting elections and watching the controls in operation, I believe that the Minister would be sensible to take away the arguments and to consider them rather more carefully than he appears to have done.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Before that codicil I was about to say that I would do exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, has asked me to do. I have not failed to consider the arguments. In fact, I thought I made it plain that I recognised that there are difficulties. On the basis that fundamentally I believe there is no disagreement in principle, then I am more than happy to do as I undertook to do at Second Reading and as regards the first amendment today; namely, to think with some care about what noble Lords have said today. I said that if there were specific proposals about the way in which we deal with this matter--I believe that it was in regard to this amendment that I said it--I am more than happy to have detailed suggestions to which we shall give every proper consideration.

I do not say that the propositions put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Mackay and Lord Crickhowell, should be dismissed out of hand simply because of their

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paternity. There are questions here that we need to tease out. But fundamentally I do not believe that we are at odds.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: With that assurance I am certainly a little happier. I shall study the Minister's words quite carefully. But I believe that there is a distinction, which my noble friend has underlined, between the political parties operating on a list campaign and political parties operating on a general campaign. That is the point which concerns me about the wording. We can return to this if we are still concerned when we read Hansard tomorrow. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 agreed to.

10 p.m.

Clause 12 [Disqualification from being Assembly member]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I must inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 43 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 44.

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 8, leave out lines 1 to 3.

The noble Lord said: Clause 12 is a disconcerting clause, in that it gives extensive powers to disqualify people from being members of the assembly. A government amendment has been tabled to amplify further those powers in what appears to be a wholly unacceptable way.

I deal first with the clause as it stands. There are three amendments to it which, if carried, would mean that the provisions disqualifying persons from sitting in the assembly would be the same as those disqualifying people from sitting in Parliament. That is at least our intention. Amendment No. 43 expresses our concern about disqualifying by order. That concern is hardly allayed by the Government's amendment which we have yet to reach. The second amendment, Amendment No. 45, removes the provision for disqualifying persons who, under the Audit Commission Act 1998, are prevented from being members of a local authority. I have already said that the assembly is not a local authority. In our opinion, it should not be treated as such. The third amendment, Amendment No. 48, is consequential, and achieves our purpose of limiting disqualification under the provisions of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 to the Auditor General for Wales and the office holders specified in subsection (4). I shall not comment on the Government's amendment or the amendment in the name of my noble friend until they have been moved.

Lord Crickhowell: I hesitated because I was not sure whether the Minister would speak to his amendment at this stage. I propose to speak to Amendment No. 46 which stands in my name. When I spoke at Second Reading and raised the possibility that the Secretary of State for Wales might wish to be both Secretary of State for Wales and leader of the administration of the

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assembly, I did so in a lighthearted manner. I had seen a press report to that effect and thought that it was worth registering that matter to see whether I could obtain a clear answer. I hardly credited that it was a serious proposition.

At Second Reading, referring to Mr. Ron Davies, I said:

    "He apparently thinks that if the post [of Secretary of State] survives for a short time he might also succeed in remaining Secretary of State for Wales and a member of the UK Cabinet. That proposition is untenable. It would involve conflicts of interest of the gravest kind. You cannot be a member of two separate cabinets, each with collective responsibility and separate interests, without such conflict being an unavoidable fact. I believe that we should remove the temptation from Mr. Davies and introduce a clause making such a dual role impossible".--[Official Report, 21/4/98; col. 1060.]

I thought the Minister would say that those reports should not be taken seriously. I was astounded when the Solicitor-General in his response (at col. 1134) gave a quite different reply:

    "The Bill does not prevent one person being both assembly first secretary and Secretary of State for Wales. Whether one person would fill both posts is a matter for the political parties in selecting candidates, for the electorate at the ballot box, for the assembly in choosing who is to lead it and for the Prime Minister of the day. The Secretary of State will be chosen by the Prime Minister and will be bound by Cabinet collective responsibility while the first secretary will depend on the confidence of the assembly. Therefore, there will be a role for the Secretary of State in Cabinet in the UK Government. The Secretary of State can also be the first secretary, subject to the views of the assembly and the Prime Minister".

I find that a very remarkable proposition.

I repeat that I find it very hard to see how you can accept collective responsibility for one administration and have a rival collective responsibility for another administration in another elected assembly. Conflicts of interest are bound to arise, and arise very frequently. I think that this Committee should certainly make it impossible for it to happen. I may be told that of course it is possible under the order-making powers to remove the possibility in individual cases if the occasion should arise. I do not think this is an acceptable way out of the dilemma.

If it really is the proposition, then we have been debating the whole of this Bill almost under false pretences. I know I shall be told that the term "Secretary of State" in legislation covers any Minister, and if one Minister cannot perform the duties another Secretary of State can do so. Nonetheless there is a whole string of references to which we are entitled to refer to the Secretary of State for Wales. While there may be occasions when it is quite clear that another Minister has to step in, it really will be a great surprise for us if time and time again, as a consequence of clause after clause, we find the Secretary of State for Wales coming into obvious conflict and unable to perform duties which then have to be performed by someone else.

I do not propose at this late hour to go through the whole Bill and look at all the potential conflicts which may arise simply from the clauses in the Bill, let alone the situations which inevitably arise in government when great and controversial issues are debated. We will come later to talk about the role of the assembly in Europe and how we deal with agricultural matters and

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so on. We had an interesting example on the Floor of the House about a week ago, I think. We talked about the difficulties that might arise between the negotiating position of the Government on European regional policy and perhaps the position taken by the assembly. We will come back to that on later amendments.

Listening to debate on the Bill earlier today, one can identify a whole string of amendments. We were told this evening that the Secretary of State will review the electoral system after 1997. I am not sure that we realised at the time that the person who would be reviewing the system might be the leader of the assembly himself. In Clause 22 the Secretary of State will lay the order for the transfer of functions. In Clause 32 the Secretary of State shall undertake that the assembly will undertake such consultations about its legislative programme for the session as may be required. It is a very interesting concept that the Secretary of State should apparently consult with himself about the legislative programme. Clause 82 says that the Secretary of State from time to time will make payments to the assembly of money provided by Parliament in such amounts as he may determine. It is slightly unexpected to discover that a Secretary of State sitting in a British Cabinet is going to hand over sums of money to an assembly of which he is the head. And so we can go on. He can make loans under Clause 84 and he has to prepare accounts in relation to those loans under Clause 85.

I have to say that if this was a company prospectus or a set of company accounts, the rules laid down by the Stock Exchange and by bodies like Cadbury one would immediately say that this was quite out of order in proper government terms. I do not believe that this Committee should take lightly the possibility of such a situation being permitted.

I am told by those who always seem to be better informed about these things that the Government will resist this amendment. If they do so then I really think I shall have to consider how the matter is to be further considered at a rather more suitable time than eight minutes past 10 in the evening by a light House. In my view, the issue is of significant constitutional importance and is one upon which this House should take a view after proper consideration. I touch on the issue tonight with the indication that if I do not receive a satisfactory assurance, I shall return to it on another occasion.

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