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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord says and will not trespass on the time of the House for more than a few moments.

The noble Lord is quite right. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and I have been in correspondence. I said that we have an open mind because our present view is that, to have an unwieldy ballot paper may be undesirable as long as one has proper publicity immediately outside the polling booth for the list. I recognise that there are different views on that.

The noble Lord is correct in that there will be an affirmative resolution procedure, as provided for within the Bill at present. I do nothing more therefore than refer, for the sake of the record, to Clause 12.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, made it perfectly plain that he and his colleagues view this matter seriously. I hope that I have indicated, in correspondence with him on other matters and the amendments I tabled to deal with the point he raised on earlier occasions, that we are open to rational argument. One always has rational argument from at least one section of your Lordships' House.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am grateful for the attention the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has given to the correspondence we exchanged on this topic and for his acknowledgement that the Government take the issue seriously, as does our entire party. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Clause 16 [Salaries and allowances]:

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 11, line 3, leave out subsection (4).

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is linked with Amendment No. 23 which raises a similar point. Incidentally, it was raised at Report stage when the Minister said that he would like to consider it, without commitment, and I therefore withdrew the amendment.

It is a plain case. Clause 16 deals with salaries and allowances. Subsection (1) says,

of the assembly's choice. Subsection (2) says that the assembly may pay allowances. Subsection (3) says that there may be different levels of salary. That is obviously

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sensible because higher salaries would be commensurate with greater responsibility for those who hold executive positions in the assembly.

However, subsection (4) says,

    "A determination or direction under this section may provide for different allowances for different cases".

The only thing that one can say about that is, "Of course it does". At Committee stage the Minister, in rejecting an amendment which in his view was not necessary, said, "It goes without saying". If anything goes without saying it is a provision that,

    "A determination or direction under this section may provide for different allowances for different cases".

The only reason for this provision is that it is a variant which turns up time and again because it has got into a computer in Parliamentary Counsel's office. It is practically always unnecessary and particularly so in this case.

I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Bledisloe is not in his place. I was going to quote the final words of his intervention on this matter. As he is not here and as his speech was extremely short, I shall quote almost all of it. He said,

    "Indeed any provision where you could not make different allowances for different cases would surely need express legislation the other way".

One must remember that my noble friend is an eminent Queen's Counsel with specific expertise on statutory construction. He went on to say,

    "If you could make only one allowance for different cases, you would have to award the same expenses allowance for the man who has travelled five miles as for the man who has travelled 50".

I was going to quote only the next two sentences, but I do so with enthusiasm:

    "Not only is this unnecessary but it is totally fatuous. The sooner it is removed from the Government computer, the better".--[Official Report, 1/7/98; col. 729.]

I have no hesitation in commending this amendment to your Lordships. Unfortunately, we do not know what argument the Government have manufactured in resisting the amendment--if it is to be resisted--because the Minister merely said that he would like to consider it. I took that to mean, hopefully, that he would consider it favourably. But there is always an alternative explanation; namely, that he did not think that the amendment could be sensibly resisted, but he is having his arm twisted by those who control the computer. They warn him that terrible things can happen if he interferes with a computer. No doubt dark warnings were given about computer viruses and what might happen in the millennium. At any rate, I gather that, as he did not add his name to the amendment, it will be resisted and your Lordships will be all agog to know what has been thought up this time. I beg to move.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I rise to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, not that he needs my support, because I have studied Clauses 16 and 18 and the subsections to which he referred. They appear self-evidently superfluous. I am conscious of the fact that the Bill has grown since it has been in your Lordships' House. It came to us 135 pages in length and it is now 178 pages in length. If my

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mathematics are correct, that is an increase of about a third. While we may be proud of some of the improvements we have made to the Bill, we would certainly not wish the Bill to include any superfluous verbiage.

Lord Kenyon: My Lords, in supporting the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, I read two different implications in the clause; not only the one that the noble and learned Lord expressed, that it would mean paying the same allowance for someone to travel 50 miles as to travel 500 miles, but also that it would allow a different dinner allowance to be given to the First Secretary from that given to a mere back-bencher. I look forward to the Minister's response to that point.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the latter seems entirely reasonable to me. I do not think that the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, at Report stage is a good one. An allowance is an allowance per mile, not an allowance per 50 or 500 miles.

I have not had any warnings about the millennium from anyone who controls me, or seeks to, except that I have had the injunction and hope pressed upon me that we might actually finish the Government of Wales Bill before the millennium. I therefore remain reasonably hopeful.

I promised your Lordships, and in particular the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that we would look, without commitment, at these provisions. The context is pay, allowances and pensions. It is a quite sensitive context. We think it should be clear on the face of the Bill exactly what the powers of the Secretary of State and, in due course, the assembly, are, and that one can find that by reference to the Bill. We have not been overtaken by a computer. We have not been threatened by a computer virus. No disconsolate draftsman has threatened either the Solicitor-General or myself. We just think it sensible to have the provision there. This will be a cause of deep mortification and disappointment to the noble and learned Lord, for which I am personally sorry. But obdurate we remain, just in case anyone was going to suggest that we were ever obdurate.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has gone back to the argument of the Solicitor-General; namely, it does not matter that it is unnecessary; on the contrary, there is positive virtue in saying what is unnecessary because it makes the situation plain, which I think was the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Williams.

If we are really going to go on like this, the statute book will swell and swell. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, mentioned how the Bill has grown by well over the current rate of inflation. We really must seriously tackle this question of statutory inflation. It simply is not good enough to go on making these frivolous responses to weighty interventions. I particularly refer to the speech of my noble friend Lord Bledisloe.

Unfortunately, although cumulatively these points of drafting are highly important when it comes to inflationary verbiage in the statute book, they are not

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suitable for a Division. It is only because of that--and out of consideration for the noble Lord the Chief Whip who has come in to listen-- and not because I was in the least convinced by the Minister's response, that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 [Pensions etc.]:

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 24:

After Clause 26, insert the following new clause--


(" . All concordats between a Minister of the Crown, or a Government Department, and the Assembly shall be laid before each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when we last discussed the matter of concordats, to which this amendment relates, there was a fair measure of agreement in all parts of the House that concordats should be "open, clear and available for the public to read and to understand". I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for that precise form of words which appear in col. 764 of the Official Report on 1st July. I do not think that the Minister can properly object to our new clause--but of course we shall see--because it simply requires that every concordat shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament. It is clear that such documents will be laid before and agreed by the assembly. Therefore, the major objective of the new clause is to ensure that Parliament is informed of what is proposed by Ministers and civil servants.

In response to the comments that concordats must be flexible and not overly legalistic, we have dropped the subsection giving either House the power to annul. Your Lordships will recall that such a power was included in the new clause which we presented at Report stage. If a concordat is laid before both Houses, Members may take such action as parliamentary procedures allow in the case of documents formally laid.

There can be no doubt about the growing importance of concordats in the coming era of devolved government. They will provide the basis for co-operation between civil servants, whose first concern will be to serve the interests of their respective representative bodies and their executives in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and in England, too. England will be the biggest player and her Ministers will in effect take the lead in representing the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole when non-reserved devolved subjects such as agriculture, fisheries and, increasingly, environmental concerns become matters for European or international negotiation. There must be an agreed basis for such negotiation between the various parties involved in the government of different parts of the United Kingdom.

Devolutionary government will be different from the unitary government to which we have been accustomed. The concordat will be the substitute for the formal and informal understandings that have existed between departments of central government in Whitehall, Cardiff and Edinburgh. If such liaison continues, as indeed it must, its character will be defined in the various spheres

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by concordat, which is essentially an interdepartmental agreement on how different areas of government will be approached within the United Kingdom context.

While we recognise the diversity of the concordats that will be evolved at different levels, as anticipated by the Government's helpful guidance notes on what they have in mind, we think it important that Parliament should at least be kept in the picture. We also respect the Government's wish that concordats should be non-statutory and flexible, so we are not asking for any specific parliamentary procedure other than that of laying these documents before both Houses.

The Government may say that some concordats may not be published on the grounds that publication might cause substantial harm, as described in the White Paper Your Right to Know: The Government's Proposals for a Freedom of Information Act. So be it. I am sure that the Government can devise means of informing Parliament that a concordat exists, but remain secret and confidential as regard its contents. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I support my noble friend and his amendment. We have just had an amendment rejected which will cause the Bill to be cluttered up with something which is wholly unnecessary, as we have heard, on the grounds that everything must be made clear. Here we are simply asking that, on the important question of the concordat, everything should be made clear to Parliament.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, put a powerful case in Committee about the importance of concordats being presented to Parliament. The debates that we have had on the relationship of the assembly with Europe have emphasised the crucial importance of concordats. We shall return to that point in a later amendment so I need not pursue it now.

It has been made absolutely clear that the vital matter of the way in which the assembly will deal with European issues is to be covered by concordats. I can think of nothing more important for these Houses of Parliament and for the assembly. It is no good Ministers simply saying that all must be made transparent and that the concordats will be published somewhere. It will not be adequate if a summary is put in the Western Mail or some outside advertisement. Parliament is entitled to have these things. There is a very strong case indeed for concordats to be laid before both Houses so that we are fully aware of their contents. I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.

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