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Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General referred to the Prime Minister as the First Lord of the Admiralty. He meant First Lord of the Treasury.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I apologise for that mistake. Clearly the usage has fallen off.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I do not believe we need an official record of this interesting interchange as to the Prime Minister's role in life, be it the Admiralty or the Treasury.

In view of what the noble and learned Lord said, and in view of the fact that there are always three tries for a Welshman, I shall withdraw the amendment and hope to return to it at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 67 to 70 not moved.]

11.30 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 71:

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause--

Discharge of executive functions of Assembly

("(1) The executive functions of the Assembly shall be carried out by the Assembly Secretaries and by officials acting on their behalf.
(2) In the discharge of all such functions and otherwise, Assembly Secretaries shall be accountable to the Assembly for their actions and those of officials acting on their behalf.
(3) The Assembly may by resolution of no confidence at any time require any Assembly Secretary or Secretaries to resign.
(4) The standing orders of the Assembly shall provide for any motion of no confidence to take precedence over all other business and shall specify a reasonable minimum period of debate on such a motion.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we welcome the Government's decision to set up a Cabinet structure, but the ultimate decision whether to operate the system fully is left to the assembly. That is because functions are transferred to the assembly, which then establishes committees with responsibilities in various fields under Clause 57(1). At the same time there is established an executive committee comprising among others assembly secretaries who are allocated accountability in the committee fields.

The position is made clear in Clause 56(5) where accountability is defined, basically, as answering to the assembly for the exercise of functions in the various fields. But the line between the executive authority of the assembly's secretary and his committee is not clear cut. It is not easy to wrap one's mind around the distinction between the committee's responsibility and the secretary's accountability.

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What happens if the committee takes action of which the secretary disapproves? It is not a problem in the Scotland Bill or here at Westminster where the role of Ministers is clear and distinct from the role of Parliament. Ministers carry both responsibility and accountability here, and of course there are Cabinet committees to help them. However, at the end of the day they are on their own at the Dispatch Box.

The aim of our new clause is to clarify the situation and activate the Cabinet structure. It states unequivocally that,

    "The executive functions of the Assembly shall be carried out by the Assembly Secretaries and by officials acting on their behalf",
and that they will be accountable. Finally, I am bound to say that the mix of committee and Cabinet system, and the resulting uncertainty, could very well cause problems in practice and prove damaging to the working of the assembly. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, in this amendment the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, returns to a matter he previously raised in Committee. As I said then, the Government support much of what lies behind this amendment and I regret that the assurances given then did not fully assuage the noble Lord's concerns.

There are a number of points here. Implicit in the noble Lord's amendments is what one might call a "ministerial" model of decision-making with individual assembly secretaries exercising executive power. While we naturally support a Cabinet system for the assembly, we do not support entrenching it permanently on the face of the Bill, which is what this amendment would do. The assembly must be free to review and, if needed, amend its operating structure in the light of experience.

Nor do I think the notion of assembly secretaries exercising executive functions directly squares with the status of the assembly as an indivisible body corporate. In practice, of course, they may well carry out functions within their portfolios, but action will still formally be taken in the name of the assembly itself. I therefore fear that the noble Lord's amendment would only introduce confusion into assembly secretaries', and the assembly's, legal status.

I am happy to repeat the assurances given to the noble Lord in Committee about votes of no confidence. I agree that provision needs to be made for debating such motions: representative bodies large and small are able to do so, and they are a vital part of democratic accountability. However, this is surely more a matter for the assembly's standing orders than for the face of the Bill. In due course, the national assembly advisory group will come forward with advice on handling motions of no confidence, which will then be reflected in guidance to the commission drawing up the assembly's first standing orders. I am happy to give the noble Lord a categoric assurance on that point. As to the standing of the individual committees, all the subject committees, under Clause 57, will have a make-up which broadly reflects the balance of parties in the assembly. So obviously the first secretary and the assembly secretaries will be in a different position from

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the members of the committee. They will be much more like members of the Cabinet in the traditional Westminster model.

I hope that deals with all the points the noble Lord has raised and that, in the light of the assurances I have given, he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am bound to tell the noble and learned Lord that, despite his assurances, I am still very concerned about the mix, as I call it, of cabinet style and committee style government within the assembly. This will cause confusion and difficulties when decisions and actions need to be taken as to who really takes the initiative and ultimately carries full responsibility. I know it is stated that the committees carry the responsibility and that the assembly secretaries will bear the accountability. Nevertheless, actually to work such a system in practice will be difficult. But, having received the Minister's assurances and with a view to considering them and indeed the entire matter further, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 [Sub-committees]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 72:

Page 28, line 15, leave out ("the same party") and insert ("parties which are represented on the executive committee").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment are grouped three amendments in my name and also amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. This is an interesting subject. We almost stumbled into it, thanks to a probing amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I thought there was a serious point but the Minister did not seem to see it. I was not sure whether that was my fault or the Minister's rather clever device when he does not want to engage in a debate but just passes you like the proverbial ship in the night, which I think is what he did in the debates about the European Union and representation there. The noble Lord, having passed like a ship in the night, actually rethought the position and was kind enough to write to me and say that, while he did not think it would ever happen, perhaps I did have a point. He has brought forward amendments which go half-way to meeting my concerns.

The Bill as it stood envisaged one party--the largest party--forming the executive. I think it was drafted on that basis. There is no doubt in my mind about that. It did not envisage coalition government, despite the fact that Ministers talk about it quite a lot, and it did not envisage the two scenarios of coalition government; namely, largest party and another or, alternatively, two of the smaller parties, not including the larger party, forming the government. Amendment No. 72 deals with Clause 55(1), which is about sub-committees. Subsection(3) states:

    "A committee of the Assembly, other than the executive committee, shall not elect as members of a sub-committee Assembly members who all represent the same party".
That seems to be very good.

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Going back to the point that I made, it seems to me that we should also say, "do not represent all the parties which are represented in the executive committee". I do believe that the Government mean that the minority and the opposition parties should be represented as well as the governing party. I believe that my amendment achieves that.

Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 refer to the chairmen of the scrutiny committees and Amendment No. 88 refers to the chairman of the audit committee. The Bill, as drafted, envisages the largest party equalling the executive and, rightly, as it is drafted, it ensures that the chairmen shall be drawn from the other parties and not from the largest party.

The problem is that in a 60-seat assembly, the largest party might have, say, 22 seats. Two of the other parties have 15 and l2 seats. They combine to make 27 seats and form the government of the assembly, albeit a minority government. The smallest party has 11 seats. One can play about with the figures. I am sure that your Lordships see very quickly my point that the second and third party and, indeed, other combinations, could form the government and the largest party could form part or all of the opposition.

The Bill, as written, would have the largest party not being able to take any of the chairmanships and would frustrate what the Government actually intended; namely, that the executive should not dominate the committees by having the chairmanships. My amendment would stop the coalition partners, if they were the smaller parties, from chairing. In that scenario they would ensure that the largest party would be able to chair. I do not know if the Minister goes that far.

The other scenario of the largest party combining with one of the other smaller parties to form the executive would also create a problem. In those circumstances one would want the chairmanships to be held by the people in the parties outwith the executive.

My amendment says very clearly that, if a party is represented in the executive, then its members shall not be considered as eligible to chair the committees. They may not be chaired by a member who represents,

    "a party which is also represented on the executive committee".
The Minister has gone a little way towards me. He said that they should not be chaired by a member who represents the largest party. That still means that the smaller party in the executive could be chairing the committees. I do not believe that that is consistent with what I believe was the original drafting intention.

Having said that, I welcome the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has moved in some way, but I should like him to move that bit further. He may say to me, "What happens if there is a grand coalition of all the parties?" Dare I say to him that I believe that a suitable amendment could be found to deal with that proposition. It is slightly unlikely, but I fully concede that one ought to deal with it. I am really much more concerned about a situation where two parties are coalition partners and another two parties outside the coalition form the

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opposition. The intention is that it is on those parties that the chairmanships should fall and not those forming the executive. I beg to move.

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