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Lord Willoughby de Broke: I speak to Amendment No. 64C which is intended to clarify the Government's intentions with regard to the devolvement to the assembly of food safety powers. The latest draft of the transfer of functions order lists the Food Safety Act as one of the pieces of legislation to be devolved to the assembly in respect of the powers currently exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales.

As the Minister will be aware, it was under the umbrella of the Food Safety Act 1990 that the beef bones regulations were laid. This is not the moment to rehash the arguments against those regulations which were so heavily criticised in a Motion debate in this place on 27th January last when an overwhelming majority of noble Lords voted that they be revoked.

It might be worth reminding the Committee that the only prosecution to date under those regulations was thrown out of court as they were held to be bad law and unworkable. Will the Minister confirm that through the devolved powers which are vested under the Food Safety Act, the Welsh assembly will have the power to revoke those oppressive and unnecessary regulations?

Lord Crickhowell: The Committee may wonder why Amendment No. 82, which concerns higher education in Wales, is grouped with amendments on agriculture. I believe that that has been done entirely to assist me. I have an engagement later this evening which I simply cannot miss. A debate now may also help a number of other noble Lords who have an interest in higher education in Wales.

My amendment contains a serious flaw. I drafted it entirely in terms of the University of Wales. As I shall elaborate later, my remarks apply equally to other higher education institutions in Wales. I shall set out some of the details of the possible impact on those institutions.

At Second Reading, I expressed anxieties about the future financial arrangements for the University of Wales. I referred to the matter in those terms in the Second Reading debate. The noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General sought to reassure me. Subsequently he wrote me a detailed and helpful letter. I have to say that it does not reassure me, but it may be helpful to quote from it. He sets out clearly the present structure under which higher education in Wales is financed. On 5th May, he wrote:

fondly known, I understand, in university circles as HEFCW--

    "to determine the actual allocation that each higher education institution receives for teaching and research.

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    In determining the overall amount to be allocated to higher education, Ministers take full account of a wide variety of issues facing the sector".

I emphasise that sentence.

    "The advice of HEFCW on the sector's funding requirements is also sought and fully considered.

    There has for decades been an arm's length relationship between governments and HE institutions in order to maintain the traditional independence of universities. The Government believes it is sensible to maintain this approach under devolution, which is why the Higher Education Funding Council will continue in its present form. Therefore, whilst the assembly will have the responsibility for determining the overall allocation to higher education in Wales, it will not assume responsibility for making allocations to individual institutions. That, as at present, will remain the responsibility of HEFCW. The Assembly will also not have any powers to abolish HEFCW, and the ability of Research Councils to fund research in Welsh institutions is also not affected by the Bill.

    Given these provisions the Government remains firmly of the view that there is no requirement for the allocation of the overall resources for higher education in Wales to become a joint function of the Assembly and the UK Government. As at present, the sector will have opportunities to press its case in order to seek to secure the level of funding it requires. The Assembly will also no doubt continue to seek the advice of HEFCW on the sector's funding requirements".

Yes, but the problem lies in a later paragraph in the Solicitor-General's letter in which he states:

    "The Government had already made it clear that the Barnett formula will continue to be used for determining changes to the whole Welsh Block and any revision to it will be preceded by a full needs assessment in which the Assembly will be involved".

The problem about the Barnett formula is that it is population based. I cannot remember the exact percentage, but about 5.5 per cent. of the total spend is allocated to Wales. The university expenditure has no relationship with the population of Wales. The University of Wales and the other institutions to which I shall refer in detail in a moment are important and great Welsh institutions, but they are also great British institutions. Only a minority of the students come from Wales. Of the approximately 14,000 members of Cardiff University, of which I have the privilege to be president, a large number come from England and Scotland and at present about 1,300 from other parts of the world.

For legitimate and understandable reasons, the assembly may be seriously concerned about the level of expenditure which falls on its budget and which is required in effect to finance the education of people from other parts of the United Kingdom. The numbers are large. For 1998-99, Cardiff University will receive in grants over £52.5 million, nearly £36 million for teaching and over £16.5 million for research. The total for higher education in 1998-99 for all the Welsh higher education institutions amounts to over £240 million. For example, the University of Glamorgan receives over £31 million. The North-East Wales Institute receives £10 million and the Swansea Institute of Higher Education over £9 million. Those are large sums of money. The total is a large sum in relation to the total Welsh block of around £7 billion.

Anyone who has been involved in public expenditure rounds--as many in this Committee have--will know the pressures that arise from the insatiable demands for the funding of the health

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service, education and other priorities which will be the responsibility of the assembly. There is a fear in university circles that there will be a temptation to whittle away at the initial block allocated to higher education, or at least not to increase it at the same rate at which it is being increased to meet rising numbers, inflation or other factors in the United Kingdom as a whole.

It is a legitimate anxiety which I share. It should give us all considerable grounds for concern. The university sector is now a highly competitive sector. Cardiff has recently leapt sharply up the assessment table for research institutions. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to put on the record the fact that the tables published recently in The Times and other journals unfairly treat the Welsh institutions. The teaching assessment basis is different; the marking is different; and the necessary adjustments have not been made. Therefore a number of the Welsh universities come lower down the table than they should do if the calculation were made on a proper basis.

However, that is not the central point. People are looking closely at the performance of the university sector and individual institutions in it. It is a highly competitive business. To use the old phrase, Welsh colleges and universities have to compete on a level playing field with those elsewhere in the United Kingdom. All I seek to do in my amendment is to provide a protection so that the funding arrangements will ensure that the universities are able to act as they have in the past.

I refer again to the letter of the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General in which he said:

    "Ministers take full account of a wide variety of issues facing the sector".

When the present allocations were initiated by the Secretary of State for Wales they were not controlled by or decided on the basis of the Barnett formula. They were decided on a basis necessary for higher education in Wales after the responsibility had been transferred to the Welsh Office. It is highly unsatisfactory that we should look to the future in a situation where the Barnett formula may have a damaging impact on Welsh higher education.

The guide to the transfer of functions order, to which I and others referred when speaking to an earlier set of amendments, states that, where appropriate, Schedule 1 directs that certain functions are to be exercised concurrently by the assembly and a Minister of the Crown. That means that both the assembly and the Minister can exercise the power with respect to Wales. The examples given in the guidance notes are interesting. It goes on to state,

    "Examples of Section 5 of the Science and Technology Act 1965, power to incur expenditure in carrying on or supporting scientific research, and Section 57 of the Transport Act 1968 grants research and development in connection with transport services".

All I seek to do is to give such concurrent powers. Indeed, I have lifted the wording of my clause from Clause 21 of the Bill, which provides that concurrent powers can be granted. My object in moving the amendment is to protect the higher education

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institutions in Wales, to make sure that they are adequately funded in the future and to make sure that if the Barnett formula imposes unavoidable tax constraints on the ability of the assembly to fund higher education the Secretary of State and the Government at Westminster can intervene in order to protect the university.

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