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Lord Elis-Thomas: I have had the opportunity to reflect and find myself unexpectedly in agreement with my noble friend Lord Hooson. Nevertheless, we have had a useful debate. What concerns me is that the nature of the relationships and the nature of the scrutiny of the relationships should be of equal value in both Houses of Parliament and in the national assembly. I would not want members of the national assembly to feel that some background deals were going on in terms of concordats--or not going on, as the case may be--with Westminster and Whitehall departments. If we are talking about development of the positive relationship between the Welsh Office and Whitehall that we have had in the past, obviously that is something which we would all endorse. However, we must not allow assembly members or supporters of devolution in Wales to have grounds for suspicion that there is some kind of secret residual agenda regarding indirect control of the assembly. In that spirit, I am quite prepared to consider not moving my amendment.

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9.45 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: We on these Benches are happy with the full exposition that the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General has given of the situation. We have never had any problem with the legal remedy available by way of judicial review. I think I made it clear in my opening remarks on speaking to Amendment No. 84 that the matter which concerned me was that there should be full publication so that if necessary Parliament can take up an issue or an aggrieved person can complain if he believes that procedures have not been followed in a particular case which has caused him harm or loss. From what the noble and learned Lord has said, I envisage that these concordats will be published in some form of loose-leaf volume which could be added to or subtracted from as the arrangements change, and that they will be available for everyone to look at. I am completely happy with that.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I cannot say that I am completely happy but then I suppose I am here to scrutinise the legislation and not just to applaud the Government. I did not have any real fears about concordats but any I may have had have certainly been allayed. I am still puzzled by a few matters although I welcome the noble and learned Lord's view that an individual who felt he had been harmed by a concordat would have some legal recourse. I am content to hear that the courts would consider such a matter in the way that I suggested.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I said that an individual would not be harmed by a concordat, but would be harmed by non-compliance with a concordat.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Perhaps that is where my fear arises. I understand the point the noble and learned Lord makes about a concordat not being adhered to. But what if it is the operation of a concordat that causes aggravation to an individual? I am not too bothered about Parliament or the assembly being aggrieved because they are big enough--dare I say ugly enough?--to look after themselves. However, I am worried about an individual who may be aggrieved. I shall have to seek advice on what the noble and learned Lord has just said.

As regards raising the concordats in Parliament, that is akin to what an MP says to an aggrieved constituent to get him out of the surgery on a Friday night. The MP says, "I shall raise this matter on the Floor of the Chamber". However, it is not all that easy to raise matters on the Floor of the other place. I am not easily persuaded that if some Members are worried about a concordat they can raise the matter in Parliament. The reality is that it is more difficult to raise matters in Parliament than the noble and learned Lord made it sound.

I understand the point about not publishing some concordats, but I refer to the example the noble and learned Lord mentioned of criminal activity or defence. I do not believe a concordat would be needed as regards the police or the Home Office in London asking the Welsh authorities for some information about Joe Bloggs who may be up to some serious evil doings. I suspect that a concordat will set out the machinery by

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which information will be transmitted, although it will not provide the information. I realise that the noble and learned Lord was trying to find an example of that. It seems to me that a concordat which can enable information to be passed to and fro does not need to be secret. Indeed, I should have thought it would be positively advantageous for wrongdoers or potential wrongdoers to know that information may be passed to and fro. That would perhaps prevent their wrongdoing. I am still a little puzzled as regards the classification of concordats that may need to be hidden from the public view. However, I understand what the Minister has said.

I still have a problem as regards the point about the assembly. However, my noble friend Lord Roberts has suggested to me that the real problem is that the Bill as it stands leaves it to the assembly to decide whether it will have a Cabinet structure. The Scottish Bill certainly does not do that. I shall have to see whether the Scottish Bill is different in some degree and whether concordats between the United Kingdom Government and Scotland can be entered into at government level, whereas the position is different in Wales because of the differing powers in relation to the assembly.

If that is the explanation, then my puzzlement begins to drift away. I am grateful to the Minister. I shall not just roll over in quite the same way as the other two noble Lords have done on this issue. I shall study these matters and if I feel that there is a point to which we should return, I shall certainly do so. If that means that I have to get some people to use their ingenuity to see whether we can find a lesser form of parliamentary scrutiny, below the level of statutory instrument, perhaps that would provide an answer. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, was trying to feel his way towards that.

After all, we found a way to deal with deregulation during the passage of the deregulation Bill which was separate from statutory instruments and from anything that we had done. It was rather long-winded; I am not suggesting anything like that. However, it is not beyond the wit of man, and even government, to find a way in which Parliament could have a report given to it about the concordats so that there would be an opportunity for debate if Members of either House wanted that. It is a possible way that I shall have to explore. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 84 not moved.]

Clause 28 [Reform of Welsh health authorities]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): I have to advise the Committee that Amendment No. 84A contains a printing error. The amendment should read:

    "Page 17, line 2, leave out from ("transfer") to end of line 3 and insert",

the words as printed on the Marshalled List.

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Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 84A:

Page 17, line 2, leave out from ("transfer") to end of line 3 and insert ("of any or all of the functions of a Welsh health authority to an existing or new Welsh health authority.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 28 allows the reform of Welsh health authorities. These two amendments in my name are probing amendments. They have been tabled in the hope that the Government will tell us what they have in mind for the health service in Wales. Clearly they intend that the assembly shall have power to take over the functions of any of the five existing area health authorities and the Welsh Health Common Services Authority and the Health Promotion Authority for Wales. That much is implied in the recent Green Paper, Better Health--Better Wales.

What has struck a number of people as curious is the way in which the Government have embarked on major changes in the NHS in Wales before the assembly comes into being. There is the project plan for the reconfiguration of NHS trusts which is proceeding apace and is currently the subject of consultation. As I understand it, it is proposed to scrap or merge the current 29 trusts and reduce them to 15. That is already causing howls of protest in areas such as Gwent and mid-Wales.

The new configuration is expected to be in place by 1st April 1999, a month before the assembly elections. It occurs to one to ask what will happen supposing that the assembly, when it comes to consider the NHS, does not like the new configuration. Presumably there will be a further upheaval.

But our main concerns here are the health authorities. The Green Paper states at paragraph 6.19:

    "Health authorities will have new duties of partnership, particularly with Local Authorities and the voluntary sector, to improve the health of their populations".

The next paragraph states:

    "The new priorities for Health Authorities will require them to become more strategic and more focused on improving health. They will retain many of their existing responsibilities which were not associated with the internal market",

and so on. The question occurs: where does the assembly feature in all this policy-making? Will the assembly have any say in the matter, or will it simply rubber-stamp and carry out changes already agreed at UK level and endorsed by Welsh Office Ministers?

The White Paper, A Voice for Wales, outlined the assembly's intended health functions, and they are recapitulated in the health Green Paper. It is remarkable how little freedom of manoeuvre the assembly will have within the parameters of government health policy. The assembly will set the strategic framework with the objective of improving health across Wales, tackling,

    "inequalities in health status and in access to appropriate services".

The Green Paper goes on to say:

    "The Government believes that this can be achieved by ensuring that health effects are taken into account in other agendas and by new forms of collaboration",

and so on. What that means is that there is a connection between health and housing, for example, and that there will be cross-departmental collaboration in this and

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other relevant fields. The more one reads, the more one wonders how much freedom the assembly will have to develop its own policies for the NHS in Wales. My answer is that it will probably have less freedom than the Welsh Office has had in the past or has now. I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance. Health is currently a matter of great concern to us in Wales and will, I am sure, concern us greatly in the future. I beg to move.

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