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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. I am interested, and therefore I shall no doubt be given lots of examples of Council of Ministers meetings, especially in agriculture and fisheries, which are the two most important ones so far as concerns rural life in Wales, where Ministers from, for example, German Lander actually represented their government on an all-German issue and cast that government's votes if the matter came to a vote. I shall be very interested to read that, and it might go some way to persuade me that this may not be as bad a deal for Scottish and Welsh agriculture and fisheries as I sometimes fear. I look forward to the letter which I hope will come to me before Report stage, when one way or another we shall return to this issue.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord whether it is necessary, for the purpose of calming fears in the agricultural community in Scotland and Wales, that there should be examples of Ministers of Lander, or from regional governments in Spain or wherever, representing the whole of their country as opposed to the regions for which they are responsible, but representing that region--for example, in Wales, obtaining Objective 1 status or making representation on that account. Are we not interested to know whether Ministers from regional governments have, with the consent of their national governments, been able to put forward regional issues?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am happy to enlarge my request. However, my real point still is--and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has quite grasped it--that all of the negotiations in which I ever took part involved all the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Sometimes there were minor players; sometimes the issues were major ones. But it was an all-UK issue. So it was not merely a case of me, in my capacity as a UK Government Minister, speaking for Scotland; I was speaking about fishing issues in relation to Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. That is the point I am trying to make. I can see that with an issue

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which only affected a particular area it might be able to work that way. But, as I doubt that that happens very often, and in major negotiations in agriculture--such as decisions about price fixing, HLCAs and many other matters, and even objective status--they do not merely discuss whether Wales is to get Objective 1 status--they are probably discussing a whole raft of issues relating to Objective 1 status all over Europe. I do not believe it can be nearly as narrow as the noble Lord's intervention seems to indicate. Frankly, any example will be of great interest to me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 103:

After Clause 32, insert the following new clause--

Duty to promote the interests of rural Wales

(" . The Assembly shall seek to foster the economic and social well-being of rural communities, and shall for that purpose co-operate with local authorities and public bodies whose functions include the promotion of economic or social development in Wales.").

The noble Lord said: I shall try to be as brief as possible, but there are no less than 10 amendments grouped with Amendment No. 103. That is not my fault but that of my old friend, the Government Chief Whip. For reasons I do not understand, he no longer listens to me.

In Clause 33 there is a general duty on the assembly to do anything it considers appropriate to support Welsh culture, including language, arts and crafts, sport, and so on. Much of the area of Wales is rural and is highly prized in terms of its countryside and way of life. It is very desirable for the health of agriculture and of related industries, including tourism, that the economic and social well-being of rural communities should be fostered in future. The purpose of Amendment No. 103 is to place a statutory duty on the assembly to this end and to ensure that the assembly co-operates with local authorities and public bodies which are relevant to the promotion of economic or social development in Wales. Although some people are sceptical about the value of general statutory duties, I believe that there is merit in setting the assembly a clear objective.

Amendment No. 105A is complementary to the new clause which I propose in order to oblige the assembly to foster the economic and social wellbeing of rural communities. The amendment would place the assembly under a specific duty to consult with farming and other rural organisations when formulating policy and preparing legislation which would affect those interests. Although in Clause 115 there is a general duty on the assembly to consult business as appropriate, the rural character of much of Wales justifies a much more specific guarantee of consultation on action which the assembly is contemplating.

As I understand it, commissioners will be appointed to draw up the standing orders for the assembly and, having done that, be exterminated. Amendment No. 113 would ensure that at least one of the commissioners had knowledge of agriculture and rural affairs. I fear the Minister will say that the commissioners' job will be

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merely technical. I am sure that Members of the Committee will agree with me that technical matters are often very important. I hope that, despite his background, or indeed because of it, the Minister will understand the importance of having at least one person as a commissioner who is not a lawyer or an accountant, as I believe is proposed. I should like to know whether, when the commissioners have drawn up the standing orders, they will, in the modern term, be downsized, or, in my terms, be made unemployed.

The purpose of Amendments Nos. 120, 153, 159 and 161 is to ensure that there will be adequate rural representation on the various committees of the assembly. If I understand correctly, the committees will be constituted on a party basis, in the same way as Select Committees studying Bills in another place. If I am not correct--and, if I am not, I shall, like the Irish, change the question--I can foresee a situation in which there might be no rural representation on a committee because a political party might not have, or want to choose, a person with rural experience. I accept that that is less likely in relation to the regional committees, as opposed to the main Cardiff-based subject committees.

The purpose of Amendments Nos. 154 and 170 is to ensure that the assembly will have to take account of the economic and social well-being of rural and local communities, and that will be in addition to the advice from regional committees, with which I deal in Amendments Nos. 165 and 166--I believe we are dealing with them tomorrow.

We then come to Amendments Nos. 260 and 262, which are extremely important. Amendment No. 260 seeks to ensure that the Welsh Development Agency will consider the effects that its proposals will have on rural Wales. Amendment No. 262 seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State can select a person as a member of the Welsh Development Agency on account of his wide experience of and capacity in agriculture and the rural development.

More importantly, I should like to raise a specific problem of such organisations as the Welsh Food Promotion. That organisation includes other sub-organisations such as the Farm Assurance Scheme and the Guild of Welsh Slaughterhouses. I understand that the Government have reservations about that organisation; indeed strong reservations. I am sorry to hear that, for a lot of voluntary work has gone into it. Slowly, farmers and slaughterhouse men realise that they need to join such schemes. I fear that the Secretary of State may, like me, suffer from impatience.

My question is an important one and I should like an answer from the Minister. If food promotion and all that it involves is going to be subsumed into the new Welsh Development Agency, will there be a specific agricultural section in it with agriculturalists on it? I believe that deals with all 10 amendments, with which I have dealt in five minutes so there is no need for the noble Lord to go to sleep. I beg to move.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I have a great deal of sympathy for the thrust of the amendments so ably

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moved by my noble friend. They reflect the general concern of people in Wales about the future of rural areas.

My noble friend seeks to ensure that rural interests are represented at commissioner and assembly committee level, and that the economic and social well-being of rural communities is in the forefront of the assembly committee's deliberations. It is a hope that I share. But the Government may feel reluctant to incorporate the amendments in the Bill and it may be that, when we come to discuss the regional committee structure, we should return to this issue of the future safeguarding and promotion of rural areas.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I share the sympathy which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, expressed. However, we do not believe that the right way forward is to deal with all these amendments together.

The general theme seems to be that there ought to be special treatment for agricultural and rural communities. But the assembly is to be an inclusive forum for the whole of Wales and Clause 120 requires the assembly to make arrangements with a view to ensuring that functions are exercised with due regard to equality of opportunity for all. It would not be right to single out specific communities for special treatment. Indeed, there are many urban areas which suffer significant hardship--not those one normally thinks of, perhaps, but they include the slate-mining districts of Gwynedd, the South Wales valleys and parts of Cardiff not far from where the assembly will have its home.

We do not agree that the assembly should have a duty to foster the economic and social well-being simply of rural communities--Amendment No. 103. The whole point of the assembly is co-operatively to foster the economic and social well-being of the whole of Wales. In doing that, the priorities ought to be for the assembly and not for the Bill.

In relation to Amendment No. 105A, I sympathise with the noble Lord's concerns. Sound policy making requires consultation. But of course that is already in the Bill--Clause 66 dealing with regulatory appraisals and Clause 115 on consultation with business. Agriculture and rural interests would be covered, where relevant, by both those provisions.

Amendments Nos. 113, 120, 153, 159 and 161 seek to ensure appropriate rural representation on committees and the standing orders commission. Amendment No. 154 requires subject committees to exercise functions having regard to consequences for local communities in rural areas.

Amendment No. 153 is misconceived. The nature of the commissioners' work on the standing orders commission is not to require rural or indeed urban or industrial or business representation. It is simply, as the noble Lord thought I might say, to draft detailed rules for the conduct of business--details such as quorums, motions for debates, committee procedures and the like. A rural representative, designated as such, has nothing

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to put forward by way of offering anything to the commission. It is really a matter for the assembly to decide.

I have to give the same answer to Amendments Nos. 120, 153, 159 and 161. In accordance with the political balance principle, a consequence of Clause 55, each party will have an allocation of seats on each committee. It is then for each party to nominate those of its members it wishes to fill the allocation of seats on each committee. It is a matter for the parties to decide who is best for a particular committee. It will be a matter in practice for the parties, not for the assembly.

Amendment No. 154 would require each subject committee to have regard to the economic and social well-being of local communities in rural areas. We would expect any such subject committee to consider the consequences of its proposals for all of the local communities likely to be affected, whether in rural or urban areas, whether they were mining communities suffering from a decline in the coal industry or agricultural areas suffering from the recent decline in agricultural prosperity.

As to Amendments Nos. 260 and 262, again I understand the noble Lord's concern that the enlarged WDA should take into account the needs of rural Wales. We believe that the enlarged agency will do that. The Development Board for Rural Wales has been taken into the new agency which will be responsible for the development of all parts of Wales, including rural areas. There will therefore be a parity of expertise available throughout Wales.

It has already been announced that the agency is to create a rural policy unit located in mid-Wales. The unit will co-ordinate the agency's work in respect of rural areas to ensure that those areas benefit wherever possible and as appropriate from the agency's activities. It is implicit in Section 1 of the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975 that the functions of the agency are to be discharged in such a way as to have a positive effect on the economic and social well-being of local communities whether in urban or rural parts of Wales.

The second part of Amendment No. 260 requires the agency to devote as much of its resources to rural parts as to non-rural parts of Wales. I simply do not understand how that could possibly work. How could one define rural Wales appropriately? How can one possibly get this fly to stop flying around my head? I think there ought to be a special committee for that. How precisely is one to define minimum amounts of expenditure? The aim has merit. I do not dissent from that. However, achieving such aims is best done in the co-operative way I have described rather than through over-prescription. There are enormous numbers of prescriptions here.

Rural areas, particularly the more remote areas of Wales, have their problems. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Welsh Office recently announced the creation of a rural partnership to take forward development of the themes to which the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, is so committed.

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Amendment No. 262 would require the WDA to have on its board at least one member with rural affairs expertise. No representation has been made by the WDA to have a board member with such particular expertise. We have had 400 responses to advertisements for board members. We hope to get a strong board, bringing expertise from many walks of life, but over-prescription is really not the answer. Everyone knows how important agriculture is as an industry in Wales and as a social component. The WDA Act already puts a duty on the agency to have proper regard to the needs of agriculture in the exercise of its functions.

I have dealt with the amendments perhaps a little lengthily but I know their importance not only to the noble Lord who has tabled them but to a large section of the Welsh population generally. I hope that I have dealt with the question of Welsh Food Promotion. There will be the rural policy unit. It will be based in mid-Wales and it will have the appropriate expertise to deal with the matters which are within the ambit of Welsh Food Promotion. I do not dismiss or treat lightly the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, but we conscientiously believe that this overprescriptive approach is not the right way to get the sought-after remedies.

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