Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as the noble Lord said, we discussed this quite fully on the last occasion. The assembly does not need this power because it has it under Clause 54(1)(b), and subsection (2)(b) in particular removes the requirement for any such committee to reflect party balance if the committee exists solely to provide advice. So if there were any members under 26 in the assembly they could all be on the committee, irrespective of any party allegiance.

The question of co-option we believe is wrong in principle. One should not co-opt outside members on to assembly committees, since they would not be elected. They are perfectly able to give evidence and to make submissions to the committee, if that is appropriate. I do hope that I was plain in indicating to the noble Lord on the last occasion that of course we want young people to be involved in the assembly and interested in it, because in many ways it is their future that the assembly is going to provide for. I repeat that I support the noble Lord in principle, but we do not need duplication of available powers, because it is plainly there in Clause 54(1)(b), given the absolute freedom of subsection (2)(b). I hope that I have said enough to satisfy the noble Lord. We do agree with the thrust of what he says, but these amendments are really not necessary.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, clearly, since I have failed to excite the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, to de-alienate himself, I would merely like to thank the Minister for his further assurance and his emphasis on the issue. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that he illustrates one of the principles of people from north-east Wales: the further west you go the more trouble you get!

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1 Jul 1998 : Column 814

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 92:

After Clause 64, insert the following new clause--

Cross-border agricultural businesses

(" . The subordinate legislation procedures must include provision for securing that the Assembly makes such provision as it considers appropriate in any legislation it makes to take account of the position of agricultural businesses comprised of land partly in Wales and partly in England.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I moved an amendment in Committee regarding the problem which could be faced by farms straddling the border which was not accepted. That was partly because the noble Lord, Lord Williams, thought that I might be able to "work the system" in having a farm in both Anglesey and Oxfordshire. I have to admit that I had not realised the potential which, I am sorry to say, reflects poorly on my intellect. Indeed, if I had, I would have drafted the amendment more deviously.

However, I gather that the noble Lord really did not approve of the amendment. He suggested that it was cherry picking and said that the problem would be dealt with by "regulatory appraisal". With respect to the noble Lord, I cannot see that such an appraisal would solve anything other than necessitating a few civil servants spending the odd afternoon discussing the problem, shaking their heads in sadness, having a cup of tea and saying that they should not be made to do the job.

The current amendment would be more positive because it would do much more than appraise. It would oblige the assembly, when regulations are made, to consider any effect those regulations might have on farms straddling the border. That would then oblige the assembly to make a special regulation for those farmers if it was considered necessary. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am not sure that I can add much more to what I said on the earlier occasion. From the wording of the amendment, it is not clear what is sought to be achieved. However, I understand what the noble Lord indicates is his hope. We are talking about an agricultural business comprising land partly in Wales and partly in England--indeed, I believe I said "partly in southern England" previously. It was only later that I realised that I ought to have said Oxfordshire, but I was not then quick enough to say so. Nevertheless, the noble Lord has made his confession in that respect.

An agricultural business could easily comprise land in Anglesey and land in Norfolk. Undoubtedly, if the assembly was making subordinate legislation affecting land in Wales, I dare say it would want to consider what consequential effects that might have on a business which was a true cross-border straddle. However, I do not see the point of this amendment which deals with "subordinate legislation procedures"; in other words, the process by which such legislation is to be made.

The Welsh assembly will only be able to legislate within the borders. The noble Lord's amendment would simply enjoin the assembly to take account of the position of businesses which straddle Wales and England. But that is virtually meaningless. If the

1 Jul 1998 : Column 815

assembly believes that there are anomalies, they will be taken into account in any event. I know the intended purpose of the amendment, but I do not believe that it would produce the desired result.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I am not sure that I follow the Minister's response. If he thinks that I am still trying to flog the case of a farm in Wales and one in Oxfordshire, that is not the case. I am really concentrating on a farm which straddles the border. I am saying--and perhaps the Minister is agreeing with me in this respect--that there may be occasions when this will cause a problem with regulations. Therefore, in such a case, I am asking the assembly to look specifically at such farms and make the necessary regulations to ensure that there are no further bureaucratic problems like those that the Minister said in Committee he did not want. That would ensure that the process would work correctly. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 65 [Regulatory appraisals]:

[Amendment No. 93 not moved.]

Clause 67 [Disapplication of procedural requirements]:

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

Clause 70 [Openness]:

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 95:

Page 36, line 11, at end insert ("including in audio-visual or electronic form,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a new amendment which seeks to establish that the word "record" in the Bill as it relates to a record of the assembly's proceedings can indeed be in forms of information technology. This follows on from some concern that we may be replicating in Cardiff Bay--perhaps needlessly or necessarily, depending on one's viewpoint--the procedures of this House. It is certainly not for me, as one who has benefited from having my words recorded in Hansard over the years, to criticise that provision in the Official Report. I merely wish to point out that there are other ways and other procedures adopted by different assemblies to relate their proceedings. In particular, we are now in a situation where an electronic record and an audio-visual and textual record of that kind can be made instantly and easily accessible to those who want to follow assembly proceedings.

For those reasons I think it is important that we should consider what is happening in other countries. For example, I understand that in the Basque country members and officials have instantaneous access to video and audio tapes of proceedings and audio tapes of interpretation. There is a similar linguistic balance between the Castilian and Basque languages as between Welsh and English. They also provide access to electronic transcripts as soon as they are produced. I seek to ensure that we seek the simplest, most accessible, cheapest and most effective way of

1 Jul 1998 : Column 816

providing a record. I suggest that many of the bilingual issues can be resolved by use of the appropriate technology.

As I have argued on previous occasions, simultaneous translation from spoken Welsh into English will be immediately necessary in the context of the assembly and its record. As regards the written record, in the context of the subordinate legislation that has to be produced in a bilingual form, there is clearly an argument for a written record in both languages. I caution here that we should approach the issue of record and of language of record in a pragmatic and sensible way. We should consider the technology used to produce the record alongside the question of languages and content. We should consider the accessibility to the record on the Internet and treating the affairs of the assembly as if they were one great current affairs television production. With the modern techniques of electronic digital recording, time coding and so on, it is possible to retrieve the record rapidly.

Therefore the methods that we adopt in this House for reasons of history and of practice to produce a typewritten record overnight might not be the most efficacious way to deliver an immediate record of the proceedings of the assembly. These are issues that I want to flag up because they are under debate within government and within the advisory group. I want to ensure that the record can be produced in whatever form is appropriate. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, Amendment No. 95 would require standing orders to provide for publication of a report of assembly proceedings,

    "including in audio-visual or electronic form".
While we do not think that this is a matter for the Bill, we sympathise with the thought behind the amendment. As a modern democratic institution, the assembly will want to ensure effective communication with those for whom it is working, and its reporting arrangements will need to reflect that. So, for example, it is quite likely that reports of its proceedings will be accessible through the Internet, and no doubt the fertile mind of the noble Lord will have other suggestions to make on assembly communications with people in Wales if the electorate of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy are bold enough to select him as their representative.

If the noble Lord will accept that we applaud the spirit of the amendment but cavil at its insertion into the Bill, perhaps he will be minded to withdraw it.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page