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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, has pointed out, I have expounded at length on the importance of concordats being clear and available as they change and that the public should be able to inspect them. I wait with interest to hear the Government's response.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I believe that we have debated these matters at some length on two previous occasions. Your Lordships will forgive me if

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I do not rehearse all the arguments. It seems to me that there are two points. The first is whether it is necessary or appropriate for the Bill to refer to concordats to give them some form of statutory backing, as the noble Lord's amendment suggests. We do not believe that it is necessary. The White Paper plainly sets out what we intended concordats to be. It was not proposed that they should be on a statutory footing. I reiterate what I said: it is intended that they should be open, clear and available for the public to understand.

I respond to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. The intention is not that it should simply be a summary in the Western Mail, but a public document. I do not believe that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, at the moment would cater for the exceptional circumstances; for instance, national security and a "substantial harm" test. I do not believe that that would be available within his present amendment. I recognise that that concerns a minority of cases and it is an example that was given to your Lordships on earlier occasions.

The second point is whether or not concordats should be subject to parliamentary procedures. In the case of this amendment, the requirement that the noble Lord identified is that they should be laid before both Houses of Parliament. The concordats will be documents signed by the assembly and by the appropriate government departments. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, described them as "Relationships of government". I believe that that is a fair description. They are not going to regulate the relationship between the assembly and Parliament.

There are hosts of such documents signed by government departments every year ranging in importance from treaties and heads of agreement concluded with foreign governments to internal documents as, for instance, something like an accounting officer agreement between the Intervention Board and the Welsh Office or a memorandum of understanding between the Welsh Office and the Teacher Training Agency. I suspect that few of those are subject to a statutory requirement to be laid before Parliament as this amendment proposes.

I reiterate that we expect the concordats to be published, clear and fully available. Members of both Houses can ask Ministers in Westminster about concordats. Nothing is being hidden.

I agree with the thrust of what has been said by noble Lords. The concordats ought to be transparent. The real question between us is what mechanism one wants for that transparency and public awareness to be brought about. I do not believe that it is necessary that every concordat in every circumstance should be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Some documents of relatively modest significance have been subject to that procedure. Therefore, we give undertakings about publication, public accessibility, clarity and transparency, but we do not believe that this is the way to bring all that about.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am very disappointed by the Minister's reply. After all, it is a

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minimal requirement that we are putting to the Government; namely, that,

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

It is almost the equivalent of asking that copies of these concordats shall be put in the Library of both Houses. So it is very much a minimal requirement. It is asked of non-departmental public bodies that their reports should be presented to the House. It is a requirement of, let us say, the Wales Tourist Board, the Welsh Development Agency and so on. Why cannot we have a similar requirement for these concordats? After all, they are instruments of government which will be fully known to the assembly. Presumably, it will have agreed to them. Why cannot these documents be made available to each House in a formal way, as requested in this new clause?

I understand the point that not all of them may be publishable because of the potential harm that publication might cause. In that event I doubt whether either the public or Members of Parliament would know of their existence. In any case if the Government wish to make their existence known I am sure that they could devise ways and means of informing Parliament that a concordat exists, but that it is confidential and cannot be published.

As I said, I am very disappointed with the Minister's reply. I have no option but to test the opinion of the House on this very simple basic request.

6.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 24) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 65; Not-Contents, 88.

Division No. 3


Aldington, L.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Beloff, L.
Biddulph, L.
Blaker, L.
Bridgeman, V. [Teller.]
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Coleridge, L.
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Donegall, M.
Ellenborough, L.
Elton, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gisborough, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Holderness, L.
Hooper, B.
Hothfield, L.
Jopling, L.
Kenyon, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monk Bretton, L.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Newall, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Oxfuird, V.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Rankeillour, L.
Rees, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Savile, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Strange, B.
Sudeley, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Waddington, L.
Wakeham, L.
Wilcox, B.


Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Chorley, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gainsborough, E.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Grantchester, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mallalieu, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Orme, L.
Paul, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
St. Davids, V.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Wilson of Tillyorn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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6.17 p.m.

Clause 31 [Consultation about government's legislative programme]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 20, line 20, after ("State") insert ("for Wales").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group of amendments comprises Amendments Nos. 25 to 28 and 36 to 38. It may be convenient if I speak to them all now. Clause 31 provides for consultation with the assembly on the Government's legislative programme. Amendments Nos. 25, 27 and 28 make it plain that the consultation is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Wales. Amendment No. 26 explains that the

15 Jul 1998 : Column 309

consultation process must include his personal attendance on at least one occasion per session for this purpose.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, raised this matter previously with great moderation and skill. He invited the Government to think about this with care. We concluded that there was merit in the noble Lord's approach. That is why I have tabled this amendment. I have been in correspondence with the noble Lord on this matter.

We believe that in the context of the consultative obligation in Clause 31 it is right to specify that the Secretary of State for Wales should personally attend the assembly as part of the consultative process. Therefore, there will be one personal attendance by the Secretary of State for Wales on at least one occasion each session, albeit not in response to an assembly summons. I indicated previously that the Government believed that a "summons" relationship between the assembly and the Secretary of State for Wales was inappropriate. I hope that this amendment achieves what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has in mind.

As to Amendments Nos. 36 to 38 within this grouping, these go in the opposite direction to the amendments to Clause 31. There we have recognised the distinctive role of the Secretary of State for Wales as a channel of communication between the Government of the United Kingdom and the assembly because we have placed on the holder of that office a specific obligation to attend and participate in the assembly proceedings as I indicated a moment ago.

The amendments propose that any Secretary of State should be able to attend and participate in assembly plenary proceedings. That is wrong. It does not recognise the distinctive role and place of the Secretary of State for Wales in our proposals. The assembly committee could invite any Secretary of State to discuss matters of mutual concern; there is nothing in the Bill to preclude that. It is important that the Bill should clearly mark out the particular responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Wales with regard to dealings with the assembly. The amendments would undermine that and I ask that they are not pressed. In respect of my own Amendment No. 25, I beg to move.

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