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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, Amendment No. 20 proposes that whereas limits may be set for election expenses relating to assembly constituencies and the electoral regions, no limit should apply on an all-Wales basis.

The introduction of the additional member system for elections to the assembly will bring with it a new form of political campaigning. Alongside the familiar constituency contests focusing on individual candidates we shall have the contests in the electoral regions. The latter will be conducted on the basis of party lists and, inevitably, much of the campaigning in the electoral region contests will be party-focused. Election literature will exhort voters to vote for the Labour Party list, the Conservative Party list, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and so on.

In those circumstances the Government believe that some form of limit on the expenses of political parties is essential and appropriate. We need to ensure that all party list candidates are treated fairly and equally. It is only by imposing a limit on the expenses of the political parties that we can achieve that goal.

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As I have said, we believe that it is a matter of intellectual consistency and electoral propriety to impose expenses' limits on the parties in the same way that there are limitations on the election expenses of individual constituency candidates. However, I stress that no decisions have yet been taken on the mechanics of applying limits on party expenditure above the constituency level. We are awaiting the report and recommendations of the committee chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neill. What is clear is that some form of limit is both necessary and appropriate. Indeed, the tenor of Amendment No. 20 shows that the noble Lord opposite shares that view.

The order providing for the limitation of election expenses would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in both Houses of Parliament and will present the opportunity for your Lordships to examine the detail of the proposals. When we have absorbed the findings of the Neill Committee report, we shall come forward with our proposals and, again, both Houses will have ample opportunity for scrutiny and comment. In view of my explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Clearly, we are somewhat in advance of other things that are to happen, including future proposals after consultation and advice from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neill. I reiterate my original point. We hope that the limitation on expenses can be confined to the electoral constituency or electoral region and will not go wider than that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 [Disqualification from being Assembly member]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn) moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 8, line 15, after ("Wales") insert ("or the office of Welsh Administration Ombudsman").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, originally grouped with Amendment No. 21 were Amendments Nos. 22, 23, 70 and 73. I understand it is now desired that Amendment No. 23 should be decoupled. It is probably convenient therefore to your Lordships if I deal with Amendment No. 21, and then the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, deals with his amendments because they are positive amendments in the sense that they are assertive amendments. Then there is the variant which has been put forward by the Liberal Democrats and is slightly different again. I understand that the Liberal Democrats wanted the decoupling which I have indicated.

I shall speak briefly to Amendment No. 21. This is to make good the notice I gave at the Committee stage that if your Lordships agreed to the amendments establishing the office of Welsh administration ombudsman, which were agreed to, we should have to bring back an amendment at Report to disqualify the holder of that office from membership of the assembly, just as we have disqualified the Auditor-General for Wales, whose

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office is also created by the Bill. This amendment is designed to produce that effect only. Accordingly, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Crickhowell moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 8, line 20, at end insert (", or
(e) he is a Minister of the Crown.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 22, which would prevent a Minister of the Crown also being a member of the assembly. I intend to speak to my amendment, Amendment No. 70, which would prevent any Minister of the United Kingdom Government being an assembly first secretary or an assembly secretary; and to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Roberts, Amendment No. 73, which would have the same effect and would prevent any Minister of the Crown being a member of the executive committee.

When, earlier during the Committee stage, I referred to the fact that the Secretary of State for Wales is apparently determined to serve both as Secretary of State in the United Kingdom Government and first secretary in the Welsh assembly the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, accused me of having an obsession on the subject. I certainly believe that the proposal is extraordinary, improper, and should not be permitted, which is why I shall ask the House to accept my amendment and shall press the issue to a vote.

There are three powerful reasons for objecting to the idea that Ministers of the United Kingdom Government can also serve as members of the executive of the Welsh assembly. The first is political, the second practical and the third constitutional. I shall deal with them in that order.

In political terms I regard the proposal as offensive and insulting to the people of Wales. Having promised Wales an assembly and independent management of its domestic affairs, it now transpires that the Government are not prepared to let go, but instead intend to put nanny in the nursery to make sure that the children do not do anything naughty. There has been strong support across party lines for the proposition that, following the yes vote in the referendum, the verdict should be accepted and that the assembly should be made strong and effective. I find it hard to believe that those who voted in the belief that the Bill represented a fresh start could ever have imagined that Mr. Davies would be sent from London to ensure that New Labour rules were applied as ruthlessly in Cardiff as they are at Westminster.

If press reports are accurate, there is to be some kind of electoral process to decide who is to lead the Labour Party in Cardiff Bay. Far be it from me to forecast the results of such an election, but as an interested observer, I would have guessed that if Mr. Ron Davies had announced his intention to stand down as Secretary of State and put his name forward for election he would have stood a pretty good chance against the likes of Mr. Rhodri Morgan and Mr. Russell Goodway. But whatever the result, it would have been primarily because of the opinions of party members about the

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candidates. If, on the other hand, Mr. Davies goes down to Cardiff as a member of the Cabinet, it is inconceivable that the full weight of Mr. Blair's powerful machine will not be put behind him, that the spin doctors will not spin with feverish energy, and that there will not be hints of threats and sweeteners. All this will happen because it would be a humiliation for the whole Government if Mr. Davies, as a member of the Cabinet, were to be defeated.

Assuming that with this degree of assistance Mr. Davies wins, and with the majority party behind him he becomes first secretary, he will be obliged to take every possible step needed to ensure that the new executive toes the Cabinet line. He will hold office not as the representative of the Welsh people but as the minion, the servile agent, of his Cabinet colleagues and his master's voice in Cardiff. Incidentally, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the other Welsh Office Ministers (with nothing left to do at Westminster) joining the Secretary of State in Cardiff--and why not the Welsh Whip and a PPS or two as well, just to make sure that control is absolute?

The assumption up to now during our debates has been that the Secretary of State would listen to the assembly and carry back its views to Westminster; and that he would explain and justify government policy to the assembly, while leaving it free to administer Welsh affairs within the constraints imposed by the law and finance. Under the arrangement that we are now considering he would be bound to use all the instruments available to him to silence dissent because of the personal and political embarrassment that would be caused by policy decisions in conflict with those taken in Downing Street. We are told that it may only be for a transitional period when it will be useful to have the experience of a Cabinet Minister to guide the new assembly. I say to those who advance that argument: come off it! If any Secretary of State was to gain the leadership of the assembly, staffed by the civil servants at present in the Welsh Office, there would be no shortage of experience; and once again the suggestion that nanny is needed to hold hands is insulting to those like the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, who will be seeking election to the assembly.

I was puzzled at first as to why in Committee the Government received encouragement from the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, on this proposition; but perhaps we have been too easily seduced by the moderation and good sense with which in this, the autumnal period of his public life, he so often beguiles the House. I still remember the fiery young radical I first knew in another place who is still active politically and an adopted candidate of his party. My suspicion is that he knows full well that the proposal is insulting; that it will provoke fury when its implications are fully understood in Wales; and that the noble Lord will then exploit the political opportunity to the full.

If there are strong political grounds for objecting to what is proposed, there are also practical objections. Already concerns are being expressed in Wales about the time that members of the assembly will have, under the proposed arrangements, to carry out their varied

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tasks but, curiously, nobody seems to have inquired how the Secretary of State would be able to find the time to do both jobs effectively. Thursdays would be out for a start as far as concerns the assembly. Surely he will still attend Cabinet; and even if there are no Cabinet committees on Thursday afternoon and his presence is not required in another place, he could hardly be in Cardiff Bay before the early evening. Presumably, he will attend Cabinet committees on other days, and even in a situation where the Government have a large majority he will be required, on occasions, to carry out his parliamentary duties. The other day he and I were both on a train from Cardiff which was more than half an hour late--a not uncommon event--but even when the Great Western does better than that, each return journey from Cardiff Bay to Westminster will take five hours out of the time available for the leadership of the assembly. Wales is being offered a part-timer to run its affairs.

I turn now to the constitutional issues which are profoundly important. To be a member of two governments simultaneously is bound to create intolerable conflicts of interest. All those noble Lords who have been Ministers will have gone through the experience of having advanced an argument on behalf of their department that has not gained the support of colleagues, and then of having to defend the collective decision. How can an individual do that when a member simultaneously of administrations that may, for perfectly good reasons, come to diametrically opposed decisions?

On the one hand the Government at Westminster may take a decision that is justified in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole--perhaps on regional or agricultural policy--which appears damaging to the particular interests of Wales. In Cabinet the Secretary of State does his best but loses the battle. On the other hand, down in Cardiff his colleagues resolve that the assembly should come out in vigorous opposition to what is proposed; but its leader has his hands tied behind his back; or--like a version of that splendid animal the push-me-pull-you--he has to express different thoughts through two mouths.

We are also about to pass a Bill that gives the Secretary of State important duties to perform in relation to the assembly. The Bill has not been debated, let alone justified by Ministers, on the basis that he is to perform a dual role. I note that there are more than two dozen clauses that impose responsibilities on the Secretary of State. I shall pick on only a few of them. Clause 31(1) states,

    "The Secretary of State shall undertake with the Assembly such consultation about the government's legislative programme ... as appears to him to be appropriate".
On my future journeys on the 125 to Cardiff I shall look forward to overhearing Mr. Davies consulting himself about the legislative programme. Clause 56(6) states,

    "The Assembly First Secretary is accountable to the Assembly ... for the exercise of functions by the executive committee".
That is all right. But he is also accountable to Parliament. Perhaps Members of Parliament are going to have greater opportunities than we had thought so far for questioning the Secretary of State about devolved responsibilities.

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Clauses 83 to 88 are all concerned with the making of payments or loans to the assembly and accounting for them. The Official Report quotes me as using the words "good government" in this connection at Committee stage. I actually said "good governance" in the sense that those words are applied to business and financial institutions in the rules imposed by regulators and the Stock Exchange. Any company coming to the market with a prospectus that included potential conflicts of interest of the kind implicit in these clauses if the Secretary of State is also first secretary, would rightly be halted in its tracks. Even if in practice propriety is observed, it is not seen to be observed and therefore what is proposed is not acceptable.

Clause 108 gives the Secretary of State important duties if he considers actions proposed by the assembly incompatible with international obligations. There are other noble Lords much better qualified than I to comment about the legal proprieties of the Secretary of State giving directions to himself on these important matters, just as they may have views about his exercising Henry VIII powers to amend enactments contained in Clause 151. I simply say that it seems to me to be a thoroughly bad principle.

Let me make it absolutely clear that I have no objection at all to the fact that Mr. Ron Davies aspires to be leader of the assembly and to occupy the office in the splendid Pier Head Building from which he may look out over the new developments that I had some hand in creating around the Bay. Nor would I have the smallest objection if he decided instead that he wished to remain Secretary of State occupying what is perhaps the most beautiful office in Whitehall. I hope that I will not do him great harm if I say that I rather admire the skill and determination with which he has carried forward the devolution programme; and that he seems likely to be a better leader than others who have so far declared themselves. However, I believe very strongly that the political, practical and constitutional objections to him or to any other Minister performing both roles, are overwhelming, which is why I shall ask the House to support my amendment. I beg to move.

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