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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It is obviously my fault for not making myself sufficiently clear to the noble Lord. The starting point is that the UK is the member of the EU. The UK can choose who is the most appropriate person to

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speak for the UK, on behalf of the UK, in the Council of Ministers. The UK could choose to have as its representative a secretary from the Welsh assembly who would be in a parallel position to that in which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, found himself when he was speaking on behalf of the UK in relation to the UK government.

With the greatest respect, I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, that he was slightly muddying the waters by bringing in the idea, which is entirely accurate, that the civil servants serving the Welsh assembly and the assembly secretaries will be members of the Home Civil Service. If a civil servant serving a secretary from the Welsh assembly goes to such a meeting, he will do so on behalf of his Welsh assembly secretary.

Surely the critical point raised by these amendments is whether there are situations where an assembly secretary can attend and speak on behalf of the UK Government. If the UK Government, which means the national government, agree, the answer is yes, he or she can. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, reacts as though that were some great concession. It has never been any part of the arrangements, other than those for foreign policy which includes EU policy. It is for this Parliament and not for the Welsh assembly. However, that does not mean that the Welsh assembly has no part to play; indeed, as I have indicated, that could include representation subject to the agreement of the UK Government.

Clause 109 of the Bill makes clear that the assembly will have a duty to ensure the implementation and enforcement of Community obligations in Wales, to the extent that it has the power to do so. There is no doubt, then, that the assembly will have a direct interest in the effects of a wide range of EU legislation.

The assembly will be able to scrutinise European Union documents and proposals and respond to them. Clause 34 makes clear that it has the power to consider and make appropriate representations on any matter that affects Wales. Its powers under Clause 33--to support culture and so forth--and under Clause 41--its supplementary powers--may also be relevant here. Of course, the Government intend to enable the assembly to implement European law under Clause 30.

The assembly will be involved in discussions that decide the UK negotiating line on those proposals, to the extent that they fall within its remit--for example, on agriculture and on the environment. There will need to be close liaison between the assembly and government departments to ensure that the assembly's views are fed into UK policy formation on Europe and are taken into account during negotiations in the Council of Ministers and working groups. The Government are committed to that end.

As I have already said, assembly secretaries will be able, subject to the agreement of the lead UK Minister, to take part in relevant policy negotiations at the Council of Ministers and to speak on behalf of the UK.

Amendment No. 103C would impose on the Secretary of State and the assembly who should and should not be represented on the Committee of the Regions and would require the Secretary of State to consult the first secretary about representation on the Economic and Social Committee. The Bill already contains provisions

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to allow members of the assembly to be members of the Committee of the Regions, but we do not believe that it would be right to prescribe on the face of the Bill who should and should not be nominated.

Amendment No. 102 is inappropriate in the Government's view because it would give an intermediary role to the Secretary of State when the intention is that the assembly will deal directly with the relevant government departments on these European matters. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, knows, the Government envisage the same arrangements for the Scottish Executive.

Whether or not assembly secretaries form part of the UK delegation at meetings of the Council of Ministers, arrangements will be made for them to know the outcome of those discussions which are relevant to the assembly's responsibilities. Again, in relation to that exchange, there is no need to interpose the Secretary of State.

Apart from the channels that I have mentioned, we also have to bear in mind that the assembly will have open to it various means of exerting influence in other ways. The assembly may well choose to have its own representative office in Brussels. I imagine that it will want to maintain close links with the Welsh Members of the European Parliament. Assembly members will, from 2002 onwards, be able to represent Wales on the Committee of the Regions. These and other routes of influence will be available to the assembly.

I believe that Amendment No. 102 fails to recognise the new constitutional landscape. It suggests that the only way of dealing with business is the present system, with decisions on these matters taken by the UK Government alone, while the new devolved administrations are left on the outside with the crumbs of being consulted beforehand and being told after the event what has transpired. That, I believe, does not reflect the political dynamic of the constitutional changes that the Government are putting in place. In view of my response I invite the noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I would not wish the discussion on this amendment to be concluded without my saying how important my noble friends' amendment is as regards agriculture. I think--I only think at this stage of the night--that the noble and learned Lord added a little to my understanding of the position, but I shall with my advisers read carefully the whole of this debate before the next stage. As I said, the amendment is vitally important to agriculture.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his response. He clarified a little what the Government hope will be the position. However, I am still less than convinced that if I were a Welsh farmer I would be entirely satisfied with that. The noble and learned Lord suggested that I was somehow a little old fashioned as I wanted decisions taken by the UK Government alone. The point is decisions are not

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taken by the UK Government alone; they are taken by 15 governments, and perhaps more in the future. Decisions are often taken at this time of night and later. It is not the preliminary position that bothers me too much, although to be honest I think the Ministers on the Front Bench opposite do not quite appreciate how important and powerful a central UK department--with the might, for example, of English agriculture behind it--can be when dealing with what are called the "territorial" departments. Perhaps that is just the experience I had in government, but when I listen to the current Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food I am pretty certain that he does not bow too often to his territorial friends and that he takes a pretty robust view of his senior and leading role.

These decisions are taken in the Council of Ministers and by the Council of Ministers. That is what really bothers me. When we discuss the Scottish Bill I shall discuss the Scottish Ministers and the Welsh Ministers. I have spoken for the United Kingdom on fisheries matters with no MAFF Minister beside me. I have spoken on matters which involved Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. I was welcomed back with a full creel by the fishermen, at least in terms of the total allowable catch. Whether they transferred the total allowable catch into real fish and creels, I am not sure. I was able to speak in that way because I was a member of a United Kingdom government. My noble friend Lord Roberts was at the meeting which has been mentioned because he was a member of a United Kingdom government. Perhaps I am being a little stupid and not grasping the nuances of the noble and learned Lord, but I am worried that the secretaries of the Welsh assembly will not be considered members of the United Kingdom Government. That is the problem.

However, I do not think we shall make any great advances on this matter tonight. I shall read what the noble and learned Lord has said. I leave him with one request. Through much of this argument has run the suggestion--although the noble and learned Lord did not mention it--that if we considered the Council of Ministers we would see circumstances in which Ministers from the German Lander or Ministers from the various regional governments of Spain have attended meetings of the Council of Ministers and have spoken and voted on behalf of the member state on issues which affected the entire member state. I would be deeply grateful to receive a letter--a copy of which could be put in the Library--indicating instances where this has happened.

I do not refer to instances where there has been a peculiar issue before the Council of Ministers relevant only to that particular region or Land, but where the Minister from a Land, from Catalonia or wherever it is, has actually represented the whole of Germany, the whole of Spain and interests far beyond his boundaries. I should be interested to see examples of that actually happening in the Council of Ministers. I do not refer to informal ministerial meetings but formal Council meetings where decisions are made. It would go some way to help me and, I suspect, many other people in agriculture and fisheries if I had concrete examples of

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that happening. I hope that the Minister might be able to send me a letter giving some examples between now and Report stage.

12 midnight

Lord Prys-Davies: Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, I wonder whether he is not missing the point. It is not that the assembly secretary will be a member of the UK Government. Of course he will not be. But he will be a representative of the UK ministerial team and, as such, will be authorised to commit the Government of the UK. The authority for that, apart from what we have heard from the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General, is also to be found in Article 146 of the EC treaty as amended by the Maastricht Treaty. That makes it abundantly clear that a person such as the assembly secretary can represent, and commit, the UK Government provided that he has the authority of the lead department.

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