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Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I am puzzled as to why he thinks I am trying to fix the relationships in one particular form. All I have done is put down an amendment to turn into statute what the Government say they wish to happen and believe will happen, and to ask a number of questions about what may be allowed in the present circumstances. I hope feelings will move on, but it is a good idea to know where we are at present.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord was seeking to place on the face of the Bill what the relationships between the national assembly for Wales and the rest of the EU were going to be. Now I understand that that is not the intention, in which case I shall happily sit down and listen to the Minister's discourse about the future.

It is important that we understand that relations between the national assembly, the Scottish parliament and the European Union are, again, concordat-type relationships, conducted at the European level, and the possibilities of developing those relationships is something that we in this House should welcome and not seek to freeze-frame.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, we have heard some interesting speeches. I detect a similarity between the amendment spoken to by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and Amendment No. 63 put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. Both of them have taken at his word the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General on Second Reading, particularly when he described the relationship that the assembly would hope to have with the European Union. He said:

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    Welsh eye on what the impact will be on Wales. Where appropriate, assembly secretaries, as well as officials, will have a role to play in delegations to the Council of Ministers, as agreed by the UK Minister leading those negotiations. Assembly secretaries will be able, subject to the agreement of the lead UK Minister, to take part in relevant negotiations on policy at the Council of Ministers".--[Official Report, 21/4/98; col. 1130.]

I thought that the noble and learned Lord was being optimistic. The prospects that he held before us were glowing. I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, on Second Reading of the Scotland Bill. What he said appeared to be somewhat more guarded. He stated:

    "As the White Paper foreshadowed, the conduct of relations with the European Union is necessarily reserved to the United Kingdom Government because the United Kingdom is the member state. But the Bill gives the parliament and the Scottish executive the full powers they need to observe and implement European Community obligations in so far as they relate to the devolved areas. The parliament will be able to scrutinise relevant EU proposals and legislate to give effect to Community obligations for Scotland. And Schedule 5 also provides that the Scottish executive will be able to play a role alongside the United Kingdom Government in negotiations".

It is interesting to note what Schedule 5 comprises. Paragraph 7 is headed "Foreign affairs, etc", which includes the European Communities and their institutions among the gamut of international organisations mentioned in sub-paragraph (1). But of course, paragraph 2(b) of paragraph 7 of Schedule 5 to the Scottish Bill points out that:

    "Sub-paragraph (1) does not reserve ... assisting Ministers of the Crown in relation to any matter to which that sub-paragraph applies".
Are we to understand that that degree of non-reservation is tantamount to providing,

    "that the Scottish executive will be able to play a role alongside the UK Government in negotiations"?
What kind of assistance and role is that? Is it not a little too far-fetched to interpret Schedule 5 in that way?

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, felt obliged to go on to say:

    "Much has been made in another place of the omission from the Bill of a right in law setting out exactly when ministers of the Scottish executive will participate in meetings of the European Council of Ministers and other negotiations. I have explained that the Bill contains enabling provisions, to make clear that they may take part in such negotiations. But the UK is the member state; we must have a common UK position and a single UK delegation. The emphasis in negotiations will continue to be on working as a UK team; the delegations will be led by a UK lead Minister who will retain overall responsibility for the negotiations, the same as now".
Before we read much further into this speech there is a reference to the concordat. The Minister stated:

    "We envisage that these matters will be covered by concordats between Edinburgh and London, but we are firmly of the view that it would be neither sensible nor appropriate to try to prescribe the detail of who should speak when on the face of the legislation".--[Official Report, 17/6/98; col. 1572.]

I do not believe that the Welsh position is very different. If one reads the closing speech of the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General on Second Reading of this Bill and couples that with the somewhat greater detail spelt out in the introductory speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, to the Scotland Bill we arrive somewhere nearer the truth.

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My noble friend referred to the situation between the European Union and the Lander. That was a subject raised by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and was acknowledged by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, who has written to my noble friend saying that,

    "During the second day of the committee stage of the Government of Wales Bill, you asked for examples where representatives of regional administrations had attended, on behalf of their Member State, formal meetings of the European Union".
The answer given by the Minister was:

    "The more obvious instances which have been identified relate to the German Lander. Because of its particular expertise, Bavaria, for example, has represented the German Government at EU meetings where cultural issues have been the main agenda item; similarly, members of the Catalan autonomous government have attended meetings on behalf of the Spanish when language issues were under consideration".

I expected to find a reference to agriculture or fisheries. I accept that Bavaria may not quite rank as a fishing Land; although in respect of agriculture it would certainly do so. But no; it is in those areas that have been mentioned that those Lander and provinces have featured.

Then there is the very strong point made by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell quoting my noble friend Lord Cockfield about the status required for attendance and indeed for direct participation in the Council of Ministers. My noble friend covered the ground extremely adequately. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, commenting on what my noble friend said, referred to the changing situation. Yes, the situation may be changing but we are, in legislation, bound to recognise the situation as it actually is, as we have experienced it. I do not believe that there is any real difference between the two sides on that. That is what the Government have been doing. They have been acting on their historical knowledge and experience. That is precisely what we have done with our Amendment No. 51.

We recognise that the Bill fails to guarantee a strong voice for Wales in the European Union. There is nothing to dispel the fear that the role of Wales in the Council of Ministers will be less than it is now. And so our proposed new clause seeks to give the assembly the right to be consulted before a Minister attends the Council of Ministers--a very important right; to be advised on proceedings in the Council of Ministers; to question the Secretary of State after a meeting of the Council of Ministers; and to attend with and participate in the United Kingdom delegation with the Minister's consent. Again, like my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, we have accepted the Government at their word and have defined our amendments accordingly.

10 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. How does he say that the position of Wales within the European Union, under the devolved arrangements, in relation to the Council of Ministers and the structure of the Union will be less than it is now?

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Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, that is simply because we are currently represented by Ministers who belong to a unitary government. When any United Kingdom Minister represents the United Kingdom at the Council of Ministers he represents Wales as well as England, and indeed in many cases, Scotland too. Before he goes to the Council of Ministers he has usually been consulted by the Secretary of State for Wales, who has had his input into the position that the Government and the Minister representing them takes at the meeting of the Council of Ministers.

In future, it appears that our unity under the United Kingdom Government is changing, if it is not under some threat--but let us leave such words out of it--and there are doubts as to how that unity is going to be expressed in constitutional terms in relations between Ministers and between government departments. There are whole areas where there are question-marks, to which we have referred in relation to the concordats. Therefore we are very concerned about the future representation of Wales--and I am sure this extends to Scotland--in the Council of Ministers and about how our interests in Wales are to be safeguarded.

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