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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord did, indeed, give me notice that he would degroup Amendment No. 93 and I quite understand why. In principle, we are not minded to accept the amendment because we do not think that we should fetter the powers of the assembly in the way that the amendment is specifically designed to do so.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to have the matter researched and I undertake to write to him with detailed answers to his specific questions as soon as possible, and certainly before Report stage. I understand that Amendment No. 93 is a probing amendment, designed to flush out questions of some disquiet to the noble Lord's colleagues in the farming industry.

Lord Hooson: Will the noble Lord also undertake to circulate a copy of that letter or at least to place one in the Library so that other spokesmen on this matter may see it?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I believe that we have a good record on that. We generally circulate such information. I have not promised to circulate information on every occasion simply because time is passing.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: The sort of reply that I expect that we shall get from the Minister is the sort of reply that I had hoped to get when we proposed to probe matters by leaving agriculture out of the list of devolved subjects.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I accept that. If any supplementary answer is required, I shall include it in what is by now the large postcard that I shall be sending to the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I am enormously grateful to the Minister, particularly for his last remarks. Saying, "Perhaps you would bring along later anything that I have forgotten", is the sort of remark that I make to my wife. I am most grateful to the Minister. His response will be most helpful. I am glad that he understands that this was a probing amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

2 Jun 1998 : Column 290

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 93A and 93B.

Page 19, leave out lines 29 and 30 and insert ("contains regulations--
(a) made by a Minister of the Crown or government department (whether or not jointly with the Assembly),
(b) relating to an English border area, or
(c) relating to a cross-border body (and not relating only to the exercise of functions, or the carrying on of activities, by the body in or with respect to Wales or a part of Wales).").
Page 19, line 42 leave out ("also contains regulations made by a Minister") and insert ("contains regulations--
(a) made by a Minister of the Crown (whether or not jointly with the Assembly),
(b) relating to an English border area, or
(c) relating to a cross-border body (and not relating only to the exercise of functions, or the carrying on of activities, by the body in or with respect to Wales or a part of Wales).").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to Amendment No. 93A. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 93A and 93B formally.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 94:

Page 19, line 42, at end insert--
("( ) The subordinate legislation scrutiny committee established under section 59(1) shall--
(a) consider any draft statutory instrument or regulations made under the powers contained in this section, and
(b) report to the Assembly whether the draft statutory instrument or regulations would impose on businesses in Wales greater obligations or costs than the minimum required for the implementation of the obligation or the enjoyment of the right thereby implemented or enabled.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 94. This group of amendments relates to the costs that may be incurred by the subordinate legislation activity of the assembly. They refer to the possibility of greater costs being imposed on businesses in Wales than in other parts of the United Kingdom. Similar issues arise in Clause 43 in terms of consideration by the subordinate legislation scrutiny committee of the costs and obligations and in Clause 59 in terms of a report to the assembly (Amendment No. 155) as to whether appropriate business representatives have been consulted in accordance with Section 66(3) about any draft instrument or regulation. Amendments Nos. 194B and 194C also relate to compliance costs in financial, social or environmental matters, so that the costing is a green costing. Amendment No. 194C also extends "business" to include other organisations that may have an interest in the whole question of the breadth of compliance costs.

A number of these amendments have been tabled as probing amendments at the request of the CBI; others have been tabled at the request of the environmental movement. The amendments are an attempt to elicit a brief response from the Government on the whole question of the compliance costs of the assembly's activities, in particular the cost to businesses in Wales. I raise these issues because of my concern not so much about the costs of the large corporate sector but the relative importance of small and medium size enterprises within the Welsh economy. The cost effect

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of the activities of the assembly on businesses is an issue of concern to them. I appreciate that we shall return in greater detail to the whole question of the relationship between the assembly and businesses generally and the new arrangements for schemes to promote businesses.

I should like to have an initial response from the Minister about the Government's latest thinking on the relative impact of the assembly's activities on business costs in order to allay fears raised quite rightly during the referendum debate by various sections of the business community in Wales about the imposition of another level of government and the effect of that on enterprise. I invite the Minster in response to indicate the benefits to business in Wales that will accrue from effective partnership with the assembly, in particular the opportunities to strengthen the SME sector which arise out of the creation of the new powerhouse agency. Obviously, we shall look at that agency in detail at later stages of the Bill. However, it may be appropriate at this stage if the Minster indicates the benefits as well as the costs to enterprise of the legislative processes of the assembly.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: This is an interesting set of amendments. I was a little puzzled by it and I shall explain why. I am slightly less puzzled when I hear the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, say that these amendments emanate from the CBI. Presumably, he has tabled these amendments to give the Government the opportunity to calm the fears of the CBI about additional costs. It is odd that the noble Lord should table these amendments. Although I believe he indicates that he is not in favour of total independence for Wales, I thought that that was what Plaid stood for, but never mind. Obviously, Plaid Cymru is a little different from the Scottish National Party.

What I find interesting about this series of amendments is that--if I may paraphrase them like this--"We want to have our own powers separate and different from England, but we must not impose anything on the Welsh people, especially Welsh business, which is not being imposed upon our English competitors". I hope I paraphrase fairly the concerns of the CBI. It is concerned that the secondary legislation in Wales might be drawn up in such a way that additional costs will be placed on business in Wales which will not be placed on business in England because of the way the Government here have drawn up the secondary legislation for England.

If that is a genuine concern of the noble Lord, it might be safer to leave all the powers at Westminster. The playing fields would always be level. There would never be any danger that they might be tilted a little against the interests of Welsh businesses. They would then be facing heavier costs and greater administrative burdens than their English competitors. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that, because central to the whole principle of devolution is that the assembly will make secondary legislation for Wales regardless of what the English are doing. Otherwise there is no point in what is being proposed. It is just

2 Jun 1998 : Column 292

cosmetic. I do not believe that the Government intend it to be just cosmetic. At least I hope, given all the time and trouble that everyone is taking over it, that they do not intend it to be cosmetic.

The reality is that something has to be different. If it is secondary legislation that is going to the Welsh assembly, then surely there is no point in that happening unless we can conceive of circumstances, and approve of them, in which that secondary legislation will be different. It may well be that it will be framed in such a way that it will reduce costs to Welsh business, and place less heavy administrative burdens on Welsh business. Good, but they may be greater. They should not constantly be looking over Offa's Dyke to see what the English are doing.

What if the English decide to change their secondary legislation to reduce burdens, demands and costs on English business? Will the scrutiny committee immediately look at that? Do we then assume that the Welsh assembly in those circumstances would immediately change its regulations? I have to say gently, even though it is late, that if that is what is proposed why are we bothering to have devolution of secondary legislation?

I appreciate that the noble Lord is trying to ensure that the CBI's voice is heard. It is a little contradictory to the general proposition underlying the noble Lord's own principles with regard to the Bill and, I suspect, the Government's own principles. I should be surprised if the Government can give Welsh business any comfort in that regard, other than that the assembly will obviously be mindful. They cannot suggest that all the time the assembly will be looking at the parallel English secondary legislation to ensure that business in Wales is not disadvantaged. I look forward to watching the Minister wriggle on this particular hook.

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