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The All Wales Convention has concluded that the changes will save around £2 million per year, which is money that is currently being spent by the rather lengthy process of LCOs. More importantly, they will allow the Welsh Assembly Government to respond to changing circumstances that may require legislative action. I believe that the Welsh Assembly Government and the Assembly Members will be able to deal much more effectively and respond much better to the needs and requirements in the devolved areas, for the benefit of the Welsh people, than they can under the present system. As the Minister said, these three orders were agreed to in another place earlier this week, so agreeing to them today will enable the people of Wales to have their say on whether they want the National Assembly for Wales to have legislative powers in the 20 subject areas.

I am very pleased to support these orders on behalf of my party, as I have campaigned for devolution for many years; I played an active role in the 1997 successful referendum that brought devolution to Wales, and I saw the establishment of the National Assembly of Wales in 1999. Today is an historic day for Wales, and I am pleased to have played my part on behalf of my party, which first gave devolution to Wales. I thank the Minister once again for bringing these orders before us today.

Lord German: My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing these historic orders to the Chamber this afternoon. I declare an interest as I am an executive member of the company, limited by guarantee, known as Cymru Yfory, which translates as Tomorrow's Wales. It has been the campaign organisation for a yes vote in any referendum to come. Obviously, that nails my colours very firmly to the mast. I am very proud to be able to do that because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, says, this is a journey which many of us have travelled for most of our lives and shall continue to travel, but this is an historic step. It is also an historic moment for me because I am probably in the unique position of having been able to vote in the very first trigger vote that took place to set this referendum on its journey in the National Assembly for Wales, and now I am voting on the last vote that sends it on its journey.

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I wish to raise a number of issues with the Minister. Clearly, two of the orders are very practical and deal with how a referendum should be held, which is quite right. If we were to measure the matter by the weight of the orders, clearly one of them is very weighty indeed; in fact, the real substance of the order is what will happen after a successful vote in a referendum-and that is Schedule 7. That order will tell the people of Wales what they will be voting for: the powers that Wales will have as a result of a yes vote in the referendum.

I have watched the current Government of Wales Act grow. Schedule 5 to the 2006 Act deals with the powers that are currently held by the National Assembly. However, this document has four pages; at the moment, the same schedule has 38 pages, which deal with the powers that the National Assembly has accrued by steps since 2007, when the Act came into being for the new National Assembly. In the space of three years, those powers have grown step by step, and it has been a very expensive and time-consuming process.

5.30 pm

I have been engaged in both ends of the LCO process that provides the framework powers, which is an easier way of getting powers into Wales. A successful yes vote in the referendum will make this process far more efficient and effective and will allow Wales to get on with the job of legislating for itself. As the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, said, the present process is expensive. Noble Lords who have been involved in the Constitution Committee of this House may remember that the environment LCO was the subject of a substantial report from that committee, which was very welcome to the National Assembly. I think that that was part of the process of hurrying along the move towards the implementation of Schedule 7, which will be the next step in the process.

The approach in Schedule 7 is quite different from that of the Scotland Act and the Northern Ireland Act. The Scotland Act lays out the areas in which the Scottish Parliament can operate and lists exceptions where it cannot operate, whereas the Government of Wales Act states the areas in which the National Assembly can operate and gives a very specific list of powers. Therefore, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, that the order before us will not be the end of the journey because Schedule 7 will have to change over time as the world around us changes.

However, a unique point for both Houses at Westminster is that, for the first time, future amendments of Schedule 7 will need to be made by co-decision: there will have to be a decision by the National Assembly for Wales and by both Houses here in Westminster. That will be a major shift because it means that there will be a dialogue about any future changes. It is therefore quite right that these orders should be approved today to try to expand and lay out the powers under Schedule 7. It is obvious to many of us that, if Schedule 7 has had to be amended in the way it is to be amended today-after being on the statute book, but not in operation, for just a few years-other amendments to it will be required in future. Some of us would have preferred the Scottish solution, but we are where we are, and we need to move on.

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I have specific questions about Schedule 7. It seems to me that the powers listed are at the heart of what we can do and what can be done within Wales. First, will the Minister reassure me and the people of Wales that no restriction is being made to the current powers of the National Assembly? In other words, will Schedule 7 in any way delimit powers that already exist under Schedule 5? I hope that the answer is no and that the order takes all the powers that we currently have in Wales and moves them into Schedule 7.

Two things concern me. The first relates to highways and transport. For reasons of simplicity, the current Schedule 7 wording has been broken up into four sentences. The first starts:

"Traffic regulation on special roads"

then there are separate sentences: "Pedestrian crossings", "Traffic signs" and "Speed limits". I would like some reassurance that all four powers relate to special roads, given that the National Assembly for Wales currently has power over pedestrian crossings, traffic signs, trunk road speed limits and so on.

I mentioned earlier the report by the Constitution Committee of this House on the environment LCO, which took something like two and a half years from its gestation to its being fully put in place. That LCO provided significant powers under the environment field of Schedule 5 to the Government of Wales Act. I know that there is a move to get powers over, for example, energy generation of over 50 megawatts in Wales. Will the Minister tell me whether there have been any requests for such powers to be added to Schedule 7, so that the people of Wales might know that during the coming referendum?

This has been a substantial journey, in which there have been many milestones. Today is a milestone in setting in train the opportunity for the people of Wales to make their own decisions on whether they would like to have the ability to deal with their own law making-in the specific 20 areas of life over which they have powers at present-without having to come to this House and the other place to seek permission. The order will save a considerable amount of money and time and will give a real opportunity for the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government to bring about the legislative changes which best suit Wales and the needs of the country and which clearly will make the decisions about the life of Wales better.

I hope that the Minister will be able to convince me that there is no clawing back of powers, that there are no delineations and that we can move forward to a referendum campaign on 3 March 2011 in the certainty that a clear set of powers will be available to the National Assembly for Wales.

5.36 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, and my noble friend Lord German, for their contributions to this important debate. As the noble Baroness said, this is a milestone debate. I also thank them both for the positive support that they have given to these orders. That reflects the fact that whatever side people take in the referendum campaign-it is my recollection that

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there was unanimity in the National Assembly for Wales that the referendum should take place-it is important that the orders give substance to that aspiration.

My noble friend Lord German asked me some specific questions, which I will attempt to answer. With regard to whether the powers over signs and pedestrian crossings relate only to special roads, the answer is no. They relate to all roads because that is the current position in Schedule 7, and that will not be changed by the order.

With regard to energy generation, as has rightly been pointed out, electricity generation is specifically excepted from Schedule 5 and Schedule 7. The amendment order before us today does not change that. The Welsh Assembly Government have made regular representations to the United Kingdom Government in respect of the boundary to the Welsh settlement on energy generation. This Government have considered those representations carefully, but we do not propose to change the boundary in respect of energy generation at this time.

The noble Baroness and my noble friend talked about their experience as regards LCOs and framework powers. In my short period as spokesperson with responsibility for the Wales Office in this House, I recall debating in Grand Committee in the Moses Room the LCO on housing. I certainly became aware of the path that an LCO takes to reach the House for approval. It will remain to be seen, with the outcome of the referendum, whether that process will continue or whether it will require the co-determination to which my noble friend Lord German referred.

It is important to mark that, while we are amending Schedule 7 today, there is also a legislative proposal before the House for framework powers in relation to the National Audit Office for Wales and the Auditor-General for Wales. There are also two current LCOs on organ donation consent and on highways and transport for cycleways and walkways. It would be wrong today to anticipate what the progress of those LCOs will be, but it may be that Schedule 7 has not yet finished being amended. Nevertheless, I can reassure my noble friend Lord German that the provisions in the draft order amending Schedule 7 ensure that there will be no restriction on the current powers of the Assembly. There will be no loss of powers for the Assembly as a result of the order.

The noble Baroness and my noble friend both referred to this important milestone and the journey. They are in the slightly advantageous position of

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being able not only to vote-which, obviously, I will not be able to do-but to express their view on the outcome of the referendum. The position of the coalition Government is neutral on the outcome. Through these orders, we are facilitating the referendum. However, perhaps I may conclude by saying that, as a Scot who had the privilege of serving in the Scottish Parliament when it was first established again in 1999, it is a great privilege for me to be able to move these milestone orders. I ask the House to support them.

Motion agreed.

National Assembly for Wales Referendum (Assembly Act Provisions) (Limit on Referendum Expenses Etc.) Order 2010

National Assembly for Wales Referendum (Assembly Act Provisions) (Limit on Referendum Expenses Etc.) Order 2010
5th report Joint Committee Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

5.40 pm

Moved By Lord Wallace of Tankerness

Motion agreed.

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Amendment of Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act 2006) Order 2010

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Amendment of Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act 2006) Order 2010
5th report Joint Committee Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

Moved By Lord Wallace of Tankerness

Motion agreed.

Local Government Bill [HL]

Returned from the Commons

The Bill was returned from the Commons agreed to.

House adjourned at 5.41 pm.

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