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Lord Rennard: My Lords, I thank the Minister and all who have worked with him on the Bill for the careful consideration given to much of what I have said. I know that they now believe that closure must be brought to the matter. On what the Minister has just said about which region should have all-postal pilots, the original government brief given to the Electoral

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Commission did not consider any regions in the south at all. It looked only at regions in the Midlands and further north. Scotland was a third choice of the commission, Yorkshire and Humber the fourth and the north-west the fifth. The Electoral Commission remained of the view that four pilots would be too many and that the fifth choice—the north-west—was no longer suitable.

The issue is not about whether to have three or four pilots, nor is it about the unelected House of Lords or the elected House of Commons; the issue is whether an independent body should decide the matter and whether Parliament collectively should act upon the will of that independent body. For that very important reason I want to test the opinion of the House.

12.21 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1K) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 108; Not-Contents, 138.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Avebury, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Byford, B.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cockfield, L.
Coe, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Crickhowell, L.
Cuckney, L.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elles, B.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Greaves, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Kingsland, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Liverpool, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Moynihan, L.
Newby, L.
Noakes, B.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plumb, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L. [Teller]
Rotherwick, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Saatchi, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandberg, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Windlesham, L.
Wright of Richmond, L.
Young of Graffham, L.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. (The Lord President of the Council.)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackstone, B.
Boothroyd, B.
Borrie, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Freyberg, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Greengross, B.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hannay of Chiswick, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskins, L.
Hattersley, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollick, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jordan, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Laming, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Listowel, E.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Marsh, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Ouseley, L.
Palmer, L.
Patel, L.
Paul, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Robertson of Port Ellen, L.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sandwich, E.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Southwell, Bp.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Sutherland of Houndwood, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Turnberg, L.
Uddin, B.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Warnock, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Weatherill, L.
Whitaker, B.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

1 Apr 2004 : Column 1457

Motion agreed to.

Higher Education Bill

12.32 p.m.

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Public Audit (Wales) Bill [HL]

Report received.

Clause 3 [Studies for improving economy etc in services]:

Baroness Noakes moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 4, line 41, leave out "(other than a registered social landlord in Wales)"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am disappointed to see a mass exodus from the Chamber because we have one of the most interesting Bills that the House will consider.

Amendment No. 1 deals with whether the Auditor General for Wales may carry out value for money studies of registered social landlords when he thinks it appropriate or whether he must have permission to do so. The amendment deletes the words,

    "other than a registered social landlord in Wales",

from subsection (4)(c) of new Section 145A of the Government of Wales Act which is inserted by Clause 3 of the Bill. New Section 145A is important because it gives the Auditor General wide powers to conduct value for money studies but it explicitly excludes from its ambit registered social landlords. Our amendment is designed to remove that exclusion.

We debated the issue in Grand Committee in connection with different amendments to Clause 5. The Government were unconvincing in their response to those amendments, which is why we have returned to the fray.

One of the Government's arguments was that it is an important principle that an existing Assembly power should not be taken away. Our earlier amendments were to Clause 5, which gives the Auditor General power, with the Assembly's agreement, to carry out value for money studies of registered social landlords. We have not touched that clause. It will remain possible for the Auditor General to agree studies with the Assembly on the terms provided by Clause 5; namely, that the Assembly agrees to meet the full costs.

Our amendment to Clause 3 thus adds to the ability of the Auditor General for Wales without touching the Assembly's existing power to agree a programme of

1 Apr 2004 : Column 1458

value for money studies. If the Government do not accept our amendment, it is tantamount to saying that the Assembly has a veto on the work that the Auditor General may carry out. I do not believe that the Government can seriously defend that as a sound principle of public audit.

Another argument deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, was that,

    "it would not be appropriate to give the Auditor General a free hand in undertaking studies related to bodies for which he does not have wider statutory audit functions".—[Official Report, 23/2/04; col. GC 27.]

I respectfully submit that that is not a valid argument either. Under new Section 145A the Auditor General may carry out studies of various bodies within new Section 146A, which is inserted by Clause 1. We debated the scope of the clause in Grand Committee, and while it is by no means clear precisely which bodies it covers, it is clear that it extends beyond registered social landlords. So, if the Government were consistent, they would say that value for money studies under new Section 145A should not extend to any bodies within new Section 146A. But that is not what they have done. They have singled out registered social landlords.

The Government's position is illogical. Of course illogicality is not a fatal objection to the provisions of Bills—if that were so we would have precious little legislation. Much more importantly, the Bill as drafted adds an unnecessary restriction on the role of the Auditor General, who should be able on an unrestricted basis to follow public money for audit purposes. Large amounts of public money go into registered social landlords. To fetter the Auditor General would be a grievous mistake. I beg to move.

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