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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, we have already discussed that. He only has to consult them on such matters as he thinks fit. That is how the provision is phrased. I have already attacked the thinking on that issue, so if all the Secretary of State has to do is to consult on matters he thinks fit, he may think fit not to consult them at all.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I made it clear that I thought, although the noble Lord appears rather belligerently to have a different view in relation to this, that on the central issue of Clause 31 we were broadly thinking along the same lines; namely, he would consult on legislative proposals that would affect Wales on such matters as the environment and other matters directly in the remit of the assembly. So I take issue with the noble Lord when he seeks to underplay the effect of the obligation to consult on the Government's legislative proposals.

The important point is that when all is said and done the Secretary of State will not be accountable to the assembly. He will remain accountable to Members in another place for the performance of his official duties, just as the first secretary will be accountable to the assembly for the performance of his. If that is the true constitutional relationship, it must surely follow that the Secretary of State should not be required to attend the assembly even if he could be--and will be--invited to attend on occasions. The reasoning here is precisely the same as in other parts of the Bill. Bodies which are accountable to the assembly may, in the last resort, be summoned to the assembly to give evidence. Bodies whose activities may be of particular interest to the assembly but which are not directly accountable to it may be invited to give evidence.

We debated this earlier in the context of amendments moved in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, to what is now Schedule 5. As was said in that debate, invitations from the assembly to attend and give evidence would not be lightly declined, and I dare to say that invitations to the Secretary of State to attend particular meetings of the assembly, or one of its committees, will be treated with the equivalent

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seriousness, given his key role as the conduit of assembly opinion to the UK Government. But to give the assembly powers to require him to attend seems to us to be a step too far and one not consistent with the more general theme underlying our proposals that relationships after devolution should be based on non-legal concordats rather than statutory provision.

In the light of my explanation of our views, I hope that the noble Lord will see his way to not pursuing his amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I do not propose to pursue the amendment to a vote at a quarter to one in the morning, but I have to say that I believe that the Government's thinking is wrong. I think they are hung up on the word "accountability" as though it implies that, because the assembly has a right to require the Secretary of State to come before it, in some way it can control his every movement and everything he does; that it can fetter his discretion in some way. That is not so. All it can do if it requires him to attend is to put questions to him and it has to accept his answers. The concept of accountability has come from a constitutional text book and is to a large degree slanting the thinking of the Government on this topic. I respectfully urge the Government to rethink the position before Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 77 [Defamation]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 99:

Page 40, line 35, leave out ("with any person") and insert--
("(i) between any person and a person").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 99 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 100 and 102. The purpose here is to give clearer protection in respect of privilege. The amendments are concerned with absolute privilege in the context of the law of defamation.

Amendments Nos. 99 and 100 widen the scope of the existing privilege in subsection (2)(e) of Clause 77. This relates to communications about registration of interests. At the moment, protection would be given in respect of a communication to a registrar of members' interests; but if the letter instead was sent to the person's assembly member, which is entirely possible, it would not be so protected. That does not seem to be right. Therefore, we seek to broaden the protection.

Amendment No. 100 has a new element--subsection (2)(f). This gives protection to the same extent as amended subsection (2)(e), but this time in relation to complaints of maladministration on the part of individuals who are members of or employed by the

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assembly. Therefore, we believe that this is the appropriate protection for these circumstances. Amendment No. 102 is simply a consequential drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 100:

Page 40, line 36, at end insert (", or
(ii) between any person and an Assembly member,
in connection with such registration, or
(f) any communication--
(i) between any person and a person having functions in connection with the investigation of complaints about actions or failures on the part of the Assembly, or
(ii) between any person and an Assembly member,
in connection with any such complaint.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 78 [Contempt of court]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 101:

Page 41, line 11, leave out ("made by or under the authority of the Assembly") and insert ("which either is made by or under the authority of the Assembly or is fair and accurate and made in good faith").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a short amendment. It is designed to protect the freedom of the press in reporting assembly proceedings. Obviously, press reporting is extremely important, and media reporting generally, in the work of any assembly. The current drafting of subsection (1) is too tightly drawn. The effect of Amendment No. 101 is to disapply the strict liability rule in the Contempt of Court Act 1981, not only in relation to reports of assembly proceedings made by or under the authority of the assembly, but also--and this is very important--in relation to reports by others, providing that they are fair, accurate and made in good faith. This is a very important amendment as a matter of principle. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 102:

Page 41, line 15, leave out ("(e)") and insert ("(f)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at fourteen minutes before one o'clock.

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