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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 265:

Page 72, line 4, after ("Wales,") insert ("the Welsh Administration Ombudsman, the Health Service Commissioner for Wales,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 145, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 14 agreed to.

Clause 146 [Examinations into use of resources]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 265A:

Page 72, line 30, at end insert--
("( ) The Comptroller and Auditor General shall--
(a) consult the Auditor General for Wales, and
(b) take into account any relevant work done or being done by the Auditor General for Wales,
before he carries out an examination under section 6 or 7 of the National Audit Act 1983 (economy etc. examinations) in respect of a body or office specified in Schedule 14.").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment to ensure consistency. It will bring Clause 146 into line with comparable provisions elsewhere in Clause 103 and Schedules 5 and 6 where the Comptroller and Auditor General is required to consult. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 146, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 147 [Transfer etc. of functions of Comptroller and Auditor General]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 266:

Page 72, line 39, leave out from ("Wales") to end of line 40 and insert (", Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in Wales, the Welsh Administration Ombudsman, the Health Service Commissioner for Wales, a county council, a county borough council or a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 147, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 266A:

After Clause 147, insert the following new clause--

Environment Agency

(".--(1) The Secretary of State may by order--
(a) make provision for any function of the Comptroller and Auditor General relating to the Environment Agency to become a function also of the Auditor General for Wales

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so far as it relates to any of the Agency's Welsh functions or to any funding provided to the Agency by the Assembly, or
(b) make provision about reports to the Assembly by the Environment Agency on the Agency's activities in exercise of its Welsh functions (including provision for the giving of directions by the Assembly about such reports).
(2) An order under subsection (1) may contain any appropriate consequential, incidental, supplementary or transitional provisions or savings (including provisions in the form of amendments or repeals of enactments).
(3) An Order in Council under section 22 may include any provision that may be included in an order under subsection (1).
(4) In this section references to the Environment Agency's Welsh functions are to its functions so far as exercisable in relation to--
(a) Wales,
(b) an area of the sea adjoining either the coast of Wales or an area of the sea forming part of Wales, or
(c) a cross-border body, or an English border area, in relation to which environmental functions of the Assembly are exercisable;
and "environmental functions of the Assembly" means functions of the Assembly in a field in which the Environment Agency also has functions.").

The noble Lord said: In this group are Amendments Nos. 266A, 270A and 270B. Their purpose is to allow the Secretary of State by order to provide that the Auditor General for Wales may have the same functions as the Comptroller and Auditor General as regards the functions of the Environment Agency in relation to Wales and to permit the Auditor General for Wales to undertake value-for-money exercises in relation to those functions.

At present, the Auditor General has powers only in respect of public bodies whose functions relate exclusively to Wales or to a part of it. The Comptroller and Auditor General will not lose any functions by virtue of these amendments. Under the reporting process, the Environment Agency will continue to produce a single set of accounts covering England and Wales which will be laid before Parliament. As is the present practice, the Comptroller and Auditor General will be entitled to inspect those accounts under Section 46 of the Environment Act 1995. The accounts will include a set of figures covering Welsh activities. It will be presented to the assembly, so it is appropriate that the Auditor General shall be able to inspect them. Under the order-making power of the new clause, the Environment Agency, which is an England and Wales body, will be required to make a report to the assembly about the exercise of its Welsh functions. These are necessary provisions. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clauses 148 to 150 agreed to.

Lord Moran moved Amendment No. 267:

Before Clause 151, insert the following new clause--

Review and amendment of this Act

(" .--(1) Subject to subsection (2), the Secretary of State--
(a) shall, if the Assembly passes a motion to that effect; and
(b) may, in any event,
conduct a review of the operation of some or all of the provisions of this Act.

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(2) A review under subsection (1) above shall not include--
(a) any provision of Part I or III or sections 108 to 110, 152, 153, 155, 156, 158 or 159; or
(b) any provision less than two years after it has come into force.
(3) In conducting a review under this section, the Secretary of State shall--
(a) publish an announcement of the review, setting out--
(i) which provisions of this Act are included within the scope of the review, and
(ii) the period, which must be of at least two months' duration, within which interested parties may make representations to him on the outcome of the review;
(b) consult such persons and bodies as he thinks appropriate; and
(c) take account of any representations made to him by--
(i) the Assembly, or any committee of the Assembly,
(ii) any of the Welsh public bodies mentioned in Part VI in so far as they are affected by the provisions under review, and
(iii) any other individual, body or organisation in Wales exercising statutory functions which are or might be affected by the review.
(4) The outcome of a review under this section shall be published in the form of a report and shall be laid before Parliament.
(5) Where a report under subsection (4) recommends changes to the provisions of this Act, the Secretary of State may, not less than one month after publication of the report, make those changes by order.
(6) An order under subsection (5) shall not be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing it has been laid in draft before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Amendments Nos. 267 and 270 are intended to be uncontentious. They are designed to be constructive and to make the Bill more, not less, effective in practice. When I spoke on Second Reading on 21st April, I said:

    "If after some time it becomes clear that there are aspects of the new arrangements which do not work well, the introduction of new, amending legislation might well cause disquiet and controversy by suggesting that the Government might be going back on their commitments. Would it not therefore be sensible, and very much in the interests of the people of Wales, to have a clause in the Bill providing for a review of the arrangements after, say, two years, so that any necessary or desirable changes and improvements could be made without bringing in new legislation?".--[Official Report, 21/4/98; col. 1094.]

This amendment produces the clause I then suggested. It provides a simple mechanism to enable any small defects which become apparent to be corrected. It applies to only parts of the Bill and the review can be initiated either by the assembly or by the Secretary of State. Any changes will be subject to the approval of Parliament. I commend the amendments to the Government and to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: There is some merit in the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, especially as he clearly exempts parts of the Bill which I suspect the Government would not wish to have reviewed. It seems sensible that we should accept that this Bill, as with the Scotland Bill, will not be perfect. This is a novel arrangement for people in the United Kingdom and therefore it is

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sensible to include some procedure for the review of certain aspects of the legislation. If as a result of the review it is decided that changes are necessary there is a procedure for making those changes. I believe that the amendment deserves favourable consideration by the Government and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As always, I regard the noble Lord's amendment as intended to be constructive and helpful. I am not able to support it. It would be unusual for a Bill to have a self-amendment clause. I believe that the way forward is to think of Clause 34 which allows the assembly to consider any matter affecting Wales and to make representations accordingly. Therefore, if there were occasions such as those referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, the assembly is able to make representations according to what it finds to be a defect.

Then there is the proposal that would enable the Secretary of State by order to amend most of the Bill by enactment. I recognise that the amendment is put forward in a constructive way, but we believe that there are strong reasons to reject it. It gives the Secretary of State sweeping Henry VIII powers to allow him to alter the nature of the assembly without regard to the wishes of those who elected it or the assembly itself. The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee has already drawn your Lordships' attention to the number of Henry VIII powers already contained in the Bill.

More fundamentally, we fear that if the noble Lord's amendment were passed it would prevent the emergence of a stable devolution settlement. The Secretary of State could at any time overturn nearly all the relevant provisions without--and I stress this--bringing forward fresh primary legislation. The mere presence of those powers on the statute book would be a recipe for permanent uncertainty and we do not believe that that would be good for the assembly, for Wales or for the Union.

We support flexibility. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the enormous amount of time and trouble he has taken and for the courteous way in which he has always approached me with his amendments, privately and in correspondence. I am sorry to have to reach the disappointing conclusion that we cannot accept them.

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