Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has made a powerful speech in support of the arguments which I put forward on the last amendment as regards Ministers. I am only sorry that he and his colleagues stayed on their Benches and did not vote on the issue.

However, on this matter, I do not agree with the noble Lord. I want to make it perfectly clear that while I was opposed to a dual mandate among Ministers because I thought there were intolerable conflicts, I do not see that the same conflict occurs in relation to representatives of the assembly sitting as Members of Parliament. Indeed, I remember a number of colleagues when I was in the other place, who served with distinction in both places and made an important contribution to the work of both places.

On the last amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, and the Minister spoke about choice: about people making choices and the assembly taking choices. Here I really do think that there is a situation where people can make choices. I do not understand why the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, should feel that this restriction should be imposed. Indeed, I do not really see the logic of saying that it may be all right for the first four years but not thereafter. Actually, the first four years may be the most difficult ones when the burden is greatest and when the difficulty of reconciling conflicting interests, and so on, will be at their most extreme. So I hope that on this occasion the amendment will be rejected and I find myself supporting the arguments that I think will be put forward by the noble Lord the Minister. That is perhaps a rare event in our proceedings. I think it is the first time it has happened since we began our consideration of this Bill.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I want to put on record my entire agreement with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell and, for once, my entire disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. I just do not understand what this is all about, because it is not about people taking upon themselves a mandate, as I think was the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. Surely you cannot take upon yourself a mandate. The mandate is confirmed by the electorate or not confirmed, as the case may be.

I would argue for a federal European-type approach to this issue, namely, that people are able to move between different levels of government. Indeed, there is a positive advantage in having the same people, or some of them, simultaneously being members of bodies at different levels, depending on the kind of debate that develops. That provides the cross-fertilisation which a number of us are concerned about in the relations between the European Parliament, the member-state

1 Jul 1998 : Column 724

parliaments and the autonomous parliaments of regions and nations at another level, and indeed local authorities. I do not understand why this exclusion should take place or why it should be legislated that there should be a kind of designer-assembly person who is excluded from certain categories.

I would emphasise that in my view it is not for this House, in this case or indeed in the previous case, to lay down the law in these matters. I do say to the Liberal Benches that I think they will regret their decision on the last Division.

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, a remark of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has provoked me to speak on this matter. He equated the situation with Northern Ireland. I believe that it is of the greatest advantage in Northern Ireland that not only is Mr. John Hume a Member of the Parliament down the corridor, he is a Member of the new assembly and also of the European Parliament. Long may he remain so. Whether he is going to be the number two to Mr. Trimble, we shall see. Seamus Mallon is a Member not only of the European Parliament but of the Parliament down the corridor and also of the new Assembly. Long may it be so. Dr. Paisley is a Member of the European Parliament and a Member of this Parliament as well as a Member of the Assembly. He will be on the new executive, and so he should be. I am worried that it may be said that a certain type of person cannot hold other representative offices and be a member of the Welsh assembly. It is of great advantage that they should be, and to lay it down that they should not be is, I believe, a great mistake, from my own experience.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he not agree that in Northern Ireland a concentration of power in so few hands has been one of the problems facing that Province?

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, I do not actually believe that. The concentration of power is on the ground, because they have just had elections and 71 per cent. of the electorate voted in a certain way, and now over in Drumcree there is going to be a great crisis. It will be hard to resolve it because of the strong feeling on the ground, but the power does not lie with the number of people who are involved in politics at--I had better not call it regional level because it would be offensive to use that word in this context--Northern Ireland level. The power rests somewhere else, and until that dichotomy is dealt with we are not going to get very far. I believe it is a great mistake to do as this amendment suggests.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, it seems to me in any case that there is a defect in this amendment, although I shall probably be proved wrong. That is because the elections to the unitary authorities in Wales and the election to the assembly are going to be on the same day, so that the period of office for any member of the assembly or any member of the unitary authority ceases at the end of the day before the poll, and on the day of the poll they will be a member neither of the assembly nor of

1 Jul 1998 : Column 725

the authority. Since the count for the members of the local authority will take place before those for the national assembly, the declaration will have been made. The wording of this amendment would mean that a member of a unitary authority would always be a member of the national assembly.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, this amendment is very different from the one that your Lordships have just passed: the one in the name of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, which actually narrowed down the angle, so to speak, entirely to Ministers in the Government of the United Kingdom. Obviously I agree with my noble friend and I am delighted that the Division was successful. I very much hope that the Ministers will consider this carefully and will not simply be marched into a negative position by the Prime Minister, who seems to have decided to take decisions about Scotland and Wales very much on the hoof and without giving his Ministers too much chance to talk about these matters. So I hope that we will see a reflective view about the narrow amendment which we have just passed.

We now come to a much broader amendment and I must say that I agree with all the noble Lords who have spoken after the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. I do not agree with the amendment at all. I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, on the last amendment was more appropriate to this amendment. In fact, I agree with a great deal of what he said. The interesting point is that the Liberal Democrats did not vote for the narrow amendment, and now they are asking us to consider this very much wider amendment. I am just a little puzzled about that. There does not seem to be any contradiction in voting for the amendment of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and then proposing their much wider amendment--but far be it from me to try to puzzle out the position of the Liberal Democrat Party.

I think it is important in these new arrangements that we do allow people to stand at different levels. I can see no great problem about it. It is very much a tradition in many parts of the Continent that people stand, or sit, if I may call it that, at a number of levels. It does not seem to do them any harm. This is an entirely new form of government that we are instituting in this country, and it seems to me that it is up to the political parties, and then up to the electorate, to decide. I hope that the political parties will not be narrow minded about this. I have certainly played my part in preventing the Conservative Party in Scotland from taking any negative view about dual mandates, and I am pleased to say that I was successful there. I agree with what other noble Lords have said, especially in regard to Northern Ireland. It would be absolutely disastrous in a Northern Ireland context if people like David Trimble and John Hume had to decide between the other place and the new Assembly for Northern Ireland. Therefore I am going to find myself in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, on this occasion.

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, is not an odd constitutional position created by the amendment put

1 Jul 1998 : Column 726

forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, in that a Member of the House of Commons will be disqualified? What about Membership of your Lordships' House?

Lord Hooson: My Lords, the distinction between the two is this: a Member of the House of Commons is elected and a Member of the House of Lords is not. He is either an hereditary Peer or he is nominated to be here and so he does not represent a constituency.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the thrust behind the amendment that my noble friend has moved is really this. We are concerned that there should not be in Wales part-time members of the new assembly. There are 60 of them: that is all. We at Committee stage endeavoured to expand that number because we appreciate the huge amount of business that has to be done by the assembly, with all the committees that have to be manned, as well as the full plenary sessions which have to take place.

In our view, as we put it before your Lordships, it is quite impossible for a person to be a full-time member of the national assembly for Wales and at the same time to play an effective part in representing his constituents in the House of Commons. It may not even be for a Welsh constituency: it could be for another constituency. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, wishes to intervene. I give way.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page