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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am most grateful to Members of the Committee who have spoken, not least

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the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, who raised the question some months ago in this Chamber as to what place there would be in the Government of Wales Bill for the voluntary sector. I remember indicating to him that Clause 114 was likely to deal with that area.

The thrust of what has been said by all noble Lords, is, I hope, entirely consistent with what has been set out in Clause 114. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked for a little more precision as regards dates and timing, which I shall now outline. The Secretary of State for Wales is formulating with the WCVA, and other representatives of the voluntary sector in Wales, a compact setting out the future relationship with the voluntary sector. The consultation exercise was launched on 6th March and will run until 10th July.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked if I could give an indication as to whether or not the conclusions will have been published by the time of Third Reading. All I can say at present is that discussions are going extremely well, as I am sure the noble Lord knows. It is hoped to reach final agreement later this summer. I do not know the date of Third Reading, but I believe that it would be reasonable for me to undertake to write to the noble Lord shortly before Third Reading, placing a copy of the letter in the Library, giving as much detail as I shall then have. It may not contain definitive conclusions, but at least I shall be able to recite the story so far. I undertake to do so.

Other specific questions were raised. The noble Earl, Lord Courtown, posed two important questions. First, it is very important that the dead hand of bureaucracy--and that is an awful mixed metaphor--does not extend its reach. I say that because, if it were dead, it could not do so by definition. I take that point on board. I was formerly a trustee of the NSPCC and I recognise that there is sometimes irritation, especially where money is being donated by members of the public. They are entitled to have it scrupulously dealt with. There is nothing more of a disincentive to voluntary giving than the fear, sometimes unfortunately justified, that money is being used for illegitimate purposes in the running of an organisation in a way that is not as prudent as it should be.

Two noble Lords referred to the Charity Commission. There is no prospect of the Welsh assembly being able to interfere with the statute which relates to the Charity Commission. It is not a Welsh Office function. Indeed, I must place another hat on my fevered brow because it is a Home Office function. As regards the specific question from the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, as to whether or not the Welsh assembly would be able to impose rules and regulations on such bodies as the RNLI which are in receipt of no public money, it does not seem to me that that would fall within the remit of the assembly. However, as charities, they would be subject to the usual remit of the Charity Commission.

Other specific questions were raised about how the compact would work. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies, asked whether or not this would be a template. It would certainly be a pretty clear indication of what discussions had indicated was likely to be useful. Ultimately it will be for the

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assembly to decide. However, bearing in mind the nature of the consultation, which is very widespread, one would assume that the assembly would pay close regard to the compact which had been negotiated even if it could not literally be bound by its terms.

My noble friend Lord Prys-Davies spoke about voluntary bodies which have a connection with local authorities. Indeed, that is certainly the case with the NSPCC in various different ways. That would not be included in the scheme because the assembly cannot bind local authorities in their relationships with charitable bodies. However, there is no reason at all why they should not consult. I very much take on board the points made by my noble friend. All of his points relating to relations between local government and voluntary bodies and whether there should be a joint working group seem to me to be ideas for development by the assembly.

On the question of a compact, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, who referred to other work. He is quite right. There is parallel work along the same lines by Secretaries of State in other parts of the United Kingdom who have responsibility for voluntary sector matters. We gave a commitment in the White Paper that the compact would be in place. The purpose of Clause 114 is to require the assembly to draw up a scheme to cover the same kind of subject matter. I assure the Committee that before Clause 114 was drafted there was consultation between the Welsh Office and the WCVA at official level. The provision has been given a warm reception by the voluntary sector.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked about funding. One finds the answer in part in Clause 114(4) which states,

    "The scheme shall specify--

    how the Assembly proposes to provide assistance to relevant voluntary organisations (whether by grants, loans, guarantees or any other means)".

I take the noble Lord's point that that will be subject to the assembly's discretion within the overall budget of £7 billion or so.

I believe that we have behaved properly and honourably towards the voluntary sector. We consulted it about the proposals for the compact. We consulted it about the precise drafting of Clause 114. On that basis of co-operative endeavour I invite the Committee to come to the conclusion in due time that this clause should stand part of the Bill. I recognise that the noble Lord raised legitimate questions. In many ways Clause 114 is the noble Lord's progeny, at least in part.

Clause 114 agreed to.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 247ZA:

After Clause 114, insert the following new clause--

Consultation with business and voluntary organisations

(" . The Assembly shall carry out consultation with representatives of business, representatives of voluntary organisations and the Partnership Council, having regard to the impact of the exercise by the Assembly of its functions on their respective interests.").

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The noble Lord said: This group of amendments relates to Clause 115 and concerns the consultation which representatives of business will have with the assembly. Clause 115 of the Bill states,

    "The Assembly shall carry out such consultation with representatives of business as it considers appropriate".

My noble friend and I have tabled amendments to try to strengthen that provision. However, our preferred position is stated in Amendment No. 247ZA which seeks to rewrite Clause 115 and to put in its place our proposed new clause. I believe that the provisions in our proposed new clause are a good deal stronger than those in Clause 115. Our proposed new clause acknowledges the voluntary organisations and asks for consultation with them. It also acknowledges the existence of the partnership council and asks for consultation with it as regards any issue which has an impact on the functions of these bodies. We simply state in the amendment that,

    "The Assembly shall carry out consultation",

with regard to all the organisations I have mentioned. We do not state that the assembly shall carry out consultation as it considers appropriate. This is particularly important as regards manufacturing industry. If the Government do not like voluntary organisations and the partnership council being included in the clause, our other amendments in the group I am discussing would simply amend Clause 115 to make it state,

    "The Assembly shall carry out consultation with representatives of business having regard to the impact".

We should not leave it to the assembly to decide whether it is appropriate to consult.

Over the past 19 years, Wales, like some other parts of the United Kingdom, has seen considerable change in its industrial base. It still has steelworks at Llanwern and Port Talbot, although perhaps I should not say that too loudly in Scotland. It has seen a huge growth in its electronics industry, its electronics components industry and its car industry. These new industries are just as important now as was the traditional mining industry in the past. Therefore it is important that businesses are consulted by the assembly. I have no doubt the Minister will tell me that the wording in the Bill,

    "The Assembly shall carry out such consultation with representatives of business as it considers appropriate",

means that the assembly will consult widely and on everything. Ministers always say that when we discuss this kind of amendment. The Opposition have every right not to believe Ministers. That is the name of the game, so to speak. If the assembly intends to consult widely and in virtually every case, why is that not on the face of the Bill, and why not delete the words in the Bill, "as it considers appropriate"?

I wish to discuss Amendment No. 247A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, as it covers the same ground. However, he goes a good deal further than my proposed new clause in Amendment No. 247ZA. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in his amendment specifies a considerable number of businesses and organisations. As I said, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, and I are covering the same ground here. We want to see a little more in Clause 115 than three

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lines of text to cover the relationship between business and the assembly. Clause 114 is lengthy and is devoted to voluntary organisations. Clause 113, which is also fairly lengthy, is devoted to relations with local government. I believe that Clause 115 should be more detailed. If it must be brief, its content should be a good deal stronger than it is. My proposed new clause proposes a way of strengthening the measure. If the Government do not want to go that far, the two amendments to Clause 115 in my name, and that of my noble friend Lord Roberts of Conwy, suggest how the measure could be strengthened a little more. I beg to move.

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