some default text...

13 Oct 2014 : Column 1

House of Lords

Monday, 13 October 2014.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Truro.

Introduction: Lord Suri

2.38 pm

Ranbir Singh Suri, having been created Baron Suri, of Ealing in the London Borough of Ealing, was introduced and made the solemn affirmation, supported by Lord Popat and Lord Leigh of Hurley, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Death of a Member: Viscount Allenby of Megiddo

Announcement

2.44 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D’Souza): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby of Megiddo, on 3 October. On behalf of the House, I extend our deep condolences to the noble Viscount’s family and friends.

Retirement of Members

Announcement

2.45 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D’Souza): My Lords, I should also like to inform the House of the retirements, with effect from 1 October, of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and, with effect from today, of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, pursuant to Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House, I should like to thank both noble Lords for their much valued service to the House.

Scottish Referendum

Question

2.45 pm

Asked by Lord Sharkey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the main implications of the Scottish referendum for the rest of the United Kingdom.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, I am pleased that people in Scotland have decided to stay in the United Kingdom. A process and timetable have been announced to deliver the commitments on further devolution to Scotland made by the three pro-UK parties; further powers are being devolved to Wales; work continues to ensure that the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland function effectively; and a committee has been established to consider governance arrangements for England.

Lord Sharkey (LD): Can the Minister confirm, preferably by just saying “yes”, that further Scottish devolution will not be linked to the question of English votes for English laws? Can he confirm that a constitutional convention will be considered by the Cabinet committee he mentioned, looking into possible solutions to the West Lothian question?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, a constitutional convention is one of the many ideas that clearly will be discussed. We need to take these things as fast as possible but not in a hurried way. It is a very difficult balance. I can assure my noble friend that the transfer of powers to Scotland will not be held to ransom by any particular reservations.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab): The result in Scotland is both welcome and decisive, but it also sends a clear signal to these Houses of Parliament, to this Government and to future Governments that there is a disconnect between the centre of government and the people of this country, not just in Scotland.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 3

Therefore, it would be a mistake to see the next steps as being either only the devolution of further powers or simply welcoming the result and moving on. Will the Government also look at other ways in which government at the centre of the UK can re-engage with the regions and nations to show that everyone in the country feels that they have a voice at the centre of government in this land?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the enthusiasm, the high rate of turnout and, earlier, the high rate of registration in Scotland was a lesson for the rest of us. It is very much part of the Government’s response to consider the devolution of power not only in further devolution in Scotland, Wales and perhaps in Northern Ireland, but also within England.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, does not my noble friend accept that the biggest danger to the union would be to encourage rampant English nationalism?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I entirely agree. I trust that my noble friend has not the slightest temptation to give way to that.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister recall that, before the recess, again and again I raised the question of setting up a UK constitutional convention and the Minister equivocated again and again? Surely now is the time for action. If the three party leaders can get together to sign a vow, surely they can get together to set up a UK constitutional convention to work in parallel with what is being done for Scotland.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I have said that this is one of the items that is currently being considered. As the noble Lord well knows, I could agree with him that we have a constitutional convention, but that would leave a great deal to be discussed as to what sort of convention, how it should be constituted and so on, which are also issues that we need to consider.

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, does my noble friend recognise that it is not just the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who feel that this country is woefully overcentralised in Whitehall and Westminster, but also people in Yorkshire and in Cornwall? Are the Government prepared to consider the early introduction of a devolution enabling Act so that Parliament can at least discuss how these procedures can follow, rather than trying to have an all-purpose, all-singing, all-dancing convention that could go on for many years considering all the issues relating to the UK constitution?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am old enough to remember the Kilbrandon commission, which took minutes and years in its own time and achieved very little. Indeed, one will even find in the eighth volume a memorandum which I, as a young academic, wrote. I suspect that no one has read it for the last 35 years. We are clearly concerned to move as

13 Oct 2014 : Column 4

fast as we can. City deals within the United Kingdom have begun to decentralise economic power to some of the major cities throughout England and elsewhere. City deals are the beginning of what might become a major devolution of power from Whitehall to our regions.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, I, too, am delighted that the kingdom remains united. I am well aware of the implications that the Minister has mentioned—in particular, addressing the English question. However, I think that they go much wider than that, asking and redefining what it means to be British in the 21st century. I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that the timetable will not be held to ransom—I think those were his words. However, as it is absolutely crucial that there is no ground on which anyone can suggest bad faith in relation to the vows given by the three party leaders during the referendum campaign, will he say in simple language that the timetable, as outlined—that was part of the vow—will be kept?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, later today there will be a Statement, which will constitute the first part of the timetable, and I hope that many noble Lords will be here to listen to my noble and learned friend the other Lord Wallace repeat it. Therefore, the timetable is already under way; we are observing it and intend to continue to observe it. However, we are conscious that any form of substantial devolution which will include the regions within England will necessarily take longer. Perhaps I may repeat what the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, said. Part of what we all have to understand is that one of the many things that drove the Scottish yes vote was a sense of disillusion with London as the centre and with Westminster itself. All of us in all parties need to take account of that, think it through and adjust to it on a non-partisan basis.

Lord Elis-Thomas (PC): My Lords, I do not speak for him in this House but the First Minister of Wales, the right honourable Carwyn Jones, has consistently called for a proper constitutional convention. Will the Government now heed his call?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I repeat that we have heard these calls, that we are currently considering them and that we will wish to proceed as far as possible on an all-party basis.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, the Minister mentioned that disillusionment with London and Westminster in particular is a problem that has been thrown up by the referendum and in more recent polls, so why are the Government bent upon having a government Cabinet committee of all-white, all-male privy counsellors as a way of taking devolution forward?

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston): I am on it.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I beg noble Lords’ pardon. Clearly, there is going to be one woman on the committee, which is fantastic; nevertheless, it is a London-based committee. Why can we not now have

13 Oct 2014 : Column 5

an agreement in principle from the Government on a constitutional convention to take these things forward rather than the piecemeal way in which the Government are doing things at present?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I think it is a little harsh to refer to the immediate reactions in the weeks since the Scottish referendum as piecemeal. We are moving fast to produce a number of draft clauses next January, before the election. We recognise that there is a limit to how much we can achieve before the forthcoming election but if the noble Baroness would like to suggest that the Cabinet committee should meet regularly in York, Lancaster or Chester just to make sure that it has less of a London perspective, I expect that the committee will think about that as well.

EU: Reform

Question

2.54 pm

Asked by Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made so far in their negotiations regarding reform of the European Union.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, we have made real progress, cutting the EU budget, ending the UK’s bailout obligations, cutting red tape through the Business Taskforce recommendations, agreeing three major trade agreements and launching talks with the United States. Support is growing. In June, the European Council recognised that the concept of ever closer union allows for different paths of integration and Commission President-designate Juncker agreed that reform is needed, including a strengthened role for national parliaments.

Lord Dykes (LD): My Lords, on this, her first day answering Questions on foreign affairs from the Dispatch Box, may I wish my noble friend well in that role in the future and with these negotiations? We have been encouraged recently by the enormous number of member states that are now signed up to a much greater role for national parliaments in the EU’s policy formation, and by Jonathan Hill’s truly moving and very warm and strong words in the European Parliament confirmation hearing about the importance of Britain remaining in the European family of nations. Will my noble friend then urge all coalition colleagues now to concentrate on explaining the huge merits of our membership of the EU rather than being distracted by the dark forces that appear all too often in the British tabloid newspapers?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am sure that this House knows nothing of dark forces. It is full of light and enlightenment on this matter, although we may occasionally come to different conclusions. I thank my noble friend for his kind words of welcome.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 6

It is certainly a fascinating brief and I know that there are many Members of this House with the greatest expertise in it.

We agree that strengthening the role of national parliaments is a key way of addressing the EU’s democratic deficit. So, of course, we are looking at reform; we have said—the Prime Minister has said very carefully and clearly—that it is important that we remain part of the European Union, but part of a reformed European Union. The work that we have been doing has shown our determination to achieve the right result for both the UK and the rest of the European Union. My noble friend refers to the benefits. We know that at least 3.5 million jobs in the UK depend on trade with the EU. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has already spent the summer visiting other European capitals. He has had a good reception and knows that they are working towards developing our negotiations with Europe.

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, from these Benches I welcome the Minister to her important new position. It is certain that she will not be short of work, as today’s Order Paper shows. However, she has the respect of the House and we look forward from this side to working with her on the difficult issues that she will have to deal with.

On this Question, why have the Government not yet published a comprehensive list of reforms that the United Kingdom is seeking, so that the general public can take part in this debate, and when do they intend to do so?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bach, for his kind words and look forward to working with him. We may come to different conclusions, as with my noble friend Lord Dykes at times, but I know that we have putting British interests first at the core of our belief. Prosperity and security are key to what we do.

At the moment, we are deep into negotiations with Europe. As I have just mentioned, the Foreign Secretary is visiting his colleagues throughout the rest of Europe. We have already set out some of the reforms that we wish to take through. Clearly, we have already made advances on banking reform, fisheries, and certainly with regard to the budget, making sure that a £29 billion cut in the previous budget would be over a seven-year period, while also protecting British positions on other matters. As these matters develop, we announce them clearly to the British public. I suspect I will be here on a few more occasions giving more details.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on her vital new role. I think we all understand that the strategy is one of negotiations in a reformed European Union. Those are the words of the Prime Minister. I understand about the negotiations side of it, but could she say a word more about the reform strategy? It has to be fundamental. How will it be formulated, who will plan it, with whom will we work and how will it be carried forward?

13 Oct 2014 : Column 7

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I feel a debate coming on. The work that we are doing between now and the general election has been clearly set out by the Foreign Secretary. For example, we have listened carefully to voters over this year. It has been made clear that the British public feel that change is needed. We will not make any rapid response to some of the tabloid stories to which the previous questioner referred. We shall look very carefully at issues such as migration. Although we agree that free movement is an important principle for the EU, it is not a completely unqualified right. That in itself requires one particular body of people to look at it and to negotiate it. All I can say is that I know my Foreign Secretary has an even busier life than I do and will be well advised.

Lord Liddle (Lab): My Lords, I add my most sincere congratulations to the noble Baroness on her translation to the Foreign Office. Has she noticed the remarks of the Mayor of London, who wishes to include in the Government’s renegotiation strategy the imposition of numerical limits on the number of migrants from existing members of the European Union? Does she agree that such a proposal would be totally inconsistent with the founding principles of the treaty of Rome? Would she therefore agree that it should not be included in the Government’s renegotiation agenda?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, who could miss statements by the Mayor of London? As I have just made clear, free movement is not an absolute right within the European Union. The noble Lord has great experience in these matters and is aware of that. We want to make sure that we return free movement to its former position, whereby we avoid large-scale migrations in the future wherever possible. We are already discussing that with our colleagues in the rest of Europe. We want to ensure that migration is for the purpose of work and not to exploit welfare benefits. We have made a great deal of progress on that and we have done it in a non-discriminatory way. We are also finding that other countries are now beginning to look at the same kind of work, as in Germany. In that way, one can address the problem without necessarily having to go to the finality of quotas.


Ukraine

Question

3.02 pm

Asked by Lord Spicer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they took to encourage negotiations between the two sides at the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, we have been encouraging dialogue and pushing for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine from the very outset, both bilaterally and through the EU, the OSCE and the United Nations. President Poroshenko attended the Wales NATO summit where allies agreed to support

13 Oct 2014 : Column 8

Ukraine with a range of non-military measures, including technical assistance. We fully support the efforts of the OSCE in helping to facilitate the Minsk protocol of 5 September, which must be implemented fully.

Lord Spicer (Con): My Lords, I warmly congratulate my noble friend on her new job. Can she give us the latest position concerning relations between Russia and Ukraine? For instance, is it true that President Putin is planning to withdraw his troops from the border of Ukraine, as announced in today’s Daily Mirrorwhich I concede is not exactly a paper of record?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, and I have of course read his contributions earlier this year to the debate on the crisis in Ukraine. In direct answer to his question, I understand that the Russians are now pulling back some of their troops from the border with Ukraine. There have been some thousands of Russian troops on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine, and we are of course aware that there are hundreds of Russian troops within Ukraine. Unfortunately the Russians are seeking to do a bit of smoke and mirrors and will not admit that they are there, but they are there. My understanding is that those on the Russian side of the border have been told that they will be pulling back, and some have moved; let us see how many. Is this really the end of a summer exercise or are they there just waiting for a return?

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, senior Russians have said that Ukraine is not a real country and have been very ambivalent about the democratically elected President. If that is so, and if there had been negotiations at the outset, what would have been the purpose? Is it the Government’s view that, from the outset, Russia had the intention to annex Crimea and to destabilise those parts of eastern Ukraine that have a Russophone majority?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the position of Ukraine is clear, it is a sovereign state, and Russia has sought to undermine that by its illegal annexation of the Crimea. The noble Lord tempts me to try to go into the mind of Mr Putin as regards his ultimate plans not only for Ukraine but for all the other countries that were once within the USSR. Clearly, from the very beginning, we entered into negotiations in good faith to try to ensure that the sovereignty of Ukraine was maintained. It is Russia that has broken the UN declaration. It is in breach of the UN; it is also in breach of international law. In all the discussions that we have carried forward, what we have tried to achieve is to give the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Government space within which, in a ceasefire, they can work to have elections. President Poroshenko said that those parliamentary elections will be on 26 October.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, we all welcome the withdrawal of the 17,000 troops that was announced yesterday, but we also look forward to seeing the evidence of it. Does the Minister agree

13 Oct 2014 : Column 9

that the greater danger is the number of Russian troops who are operating within the Donbas region in unidentifiable combat gear? This is a new dimension to European warfare. Even when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979 its troops were identifiable, and therefore the UN Geneva conventions covered them. We now have a new framework for conducting warfare and Mr Putin should not be let off the hook for doing this. We look forward to a good meeting on Friday between President Poroshenko and President Putin, but we must be extremely cynical about his motives in everything that he does.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My noble friend is absolutely right to be so concerned about the presence of unidentified persons—those who are not saying who they really are—in combat positions in Ukraine. It is the same kind of approach that Russia carried out when it brought a convoy of alleged humanitarian aid into Ukraine in unmarked lorries with young drivers who were, I understand, very much combat ready. We have to be watchful.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, as well as seeking a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk, it is vital that we do not forget those Ukrainians who remained in Crimea and now find themselves under the Russian state. Can the Minister tell us what representations have been made on their behalf, and what progress, if any, has been made by the OSCE monitors in gaining access to Crimea?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate points to a very difficult area indeed from the point of view of the security of those Ukrainians who remain within Crimea. I am certainly aware of discussions that have taken place about trying to ensure that their humanitarian needs may be met. When I was in Geneva I had discussions with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross and with the Ukrainian permanent representative to the Human Rights Council about the difficulties faced. However, I do not in any way seek to encourage the right reverend Prelate to believe that the position of the Ukrainians there is anything other than extremely dangerous. I am sure that all efforts are being made to continue to negotiate about their position.


NHS: Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Question

3.08 pm

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the report by Cancer UK highlighting gaps in the provision of National Health Service cancer diagnostic and treatment services.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, there has been significant growth in the provision of

13 Oct 2014 : Column 10

cancer diagnostic tests and treatment over the course of this Government. For example, urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer have increased by more than 50% since October 2009. NHS England is taking action to support the NHS to improve performance, including establishing a cancer waiting times task force. We are investing an additional £750 million over four years to improve diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, on the question of waiting times, can the noble Earl confirm that the 62-day target for cancer treatment has been breached in the last two quarters? Can he say why that is and can he confirm that it is really a result of the shambles that Mr Lansley’s changes have brought to the NHS?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct that although most waiting time standards are being maintained there has been a dip in the 62-day pathway standard in the last two quarters. However, survival rates are improving and we are treating a record number of NHS patients for cancer. Last year, 450,000 more patients were referred with suspected cancer than in 2009-10. That is an increase of 51%. In addition, campaigns such as Be Clear on Cancer have been exceptionally successful in raising awareness of symptoms. In large part, that is what has accounted for the pressure on the waiting time standards: in a way, the campaigns are a victim of their own success.

Lord Sharkey (LD): My Lords, it is still true that the chances of surviving cancer can vary dramatically depending on where you live. Can the Minister say what progress has been made in understanding the reasons for those variations and what progress has been made in reducing them?

Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. He will know that medical opinion is clear that a variety of reasons such as lifestyle and others account for regional variations. We want to see a uniformity of speedy diagnosis throughout the country. That depends on early presentation by the patient and speedy diagnosis when the GP first sees the patient. It is with those two things in mind that a lot of work has been going on, particularly to support GPs, but also to inform the public.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): I declare my interest as president of the BMA. Will the Minister outline what action has been taken? Given the crisis in recruitment in general practice, the increased pressures on GPs now that they are also involved in commissioning services and the pressures in emergency medicine, how will GPs have time to tackle obesity? In the obese patient, early diagnosis is much more difficult than in the less obese patient. Also, the incidence of some cancers such as breast cancer is higher in those who are obese.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a number of important points. In August, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced a

13 Oct 2014 : Column 11

joint piece of work with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan, which will see GPs offered more support to ensure that cancers are diagnosed as quickly as possible. More generally, NICE is updating its referral guidelines for suspected cancer to ensure that they reflect the latest evidence. GPs already have a guide related specifically to direct referral for diagnostic tests, for which we have provided extra money, and early last year the department part-funded a six-month pilot run by Macmillan of an electronic cancer decision support tool for GPs. That pilot is being evaluated, but Macmillan is working with IT software companies to disseminate an updated version of that tool.

Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab): My Lords, given the importance of early diagnosis and of the significant role that GPs play in that, is the Minister concerned that some patients facing the problems that many now have of finding a GP quickly will be put off presenting with those early symptoms? That will thus get in the way of the early diagnosis that is so important.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am aware that in some areas of the country access to GPs is proving problematic and a number of work streams are under way to address that. But we are confident in the light of the statistics that patients are not holding back in presenting to their GPs. As I said, referrals have gone up dramatically over the last few years and the NHS is treating a record number of patients.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, I declare an interest as a cancer patient. What arrangements are made for determining eligibility for treatment by the CyberKnife at the Royal Marsden and UCLH and does it involve any financial assessment of the likely cost to the NHS of the treatment of a particular patient?

Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend mentions a particular type of radiotherapy, the CyberKnife. At present there is only limited research evidence of the clinical and cost effectiveness of stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy—the full name. Therefore, it is available only for certain patients with lung cancer. Having said that, NHS England has agreed to make £6 million available over the next few years for new clinical trials which will involve trials on prostate cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and biliary tract cancers. It is important that we generate that clinical evidence before encouraging the NHS to apply this form of radiotherapy to those cancers.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): Will the noble Earl give the House an indication of when the deteriorating waiting times for cancer treatment will be reversed?

Earl Howe: My Lords, clearly a lot of work is going on in the NHS to ensure that we are back on track with the cancer waiting times. Local area teams of NHS England are looking at the causes of those waits and whether there are diagnostic tests that are responsible for the dip in performance. But I can assure the noble Lord that we place a high priority on this area.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 12


Wales Bill

Wales Bill

Committee (1st Day)

3.16 pm

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Wigley

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Report on reserved powers

The Secretary of State shall lay a report before each House of Parliament which shall lay out a timetable for the transfer of the National Assembly for Wales to a reserved powers model of governance within six months of the passing of this Act.”

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to move Amendment 1, standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas, who will be speaking a little later. He brings a valuable insight into matters relating to the National Assembly’s competence, having served with distinction as its first Presiding Officer for 12 years.

It is particularly appropriate that this should be the first legislation with which we deal in our first day after the Summer Recess, coming as it does within a month of the Scottish referendum. Scotland and Wales are, of course, two different countries, and we are, as nations, at different stages in the process of securing greater independence. The debate about, and the outcome of, Scotland’s referendum does not of necessity impact on the Bill, but in reality it cannot but do so.

As the Prime Minister, David Cameron, acknowledged within hours of the outcome being known, there will be a need for constitutional change in order to deliver the commitments made to Scotland by all three UK parties, and that, in such a process, the needs of Wales and Northern Ireland, and indeed those of England, will be taken fully on board. Mr Cameron said that it will be vital to achieve,

“a balanced settlement, fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well”.

A tight timetable for bringing forward such proposals and acting upon them has been promised to Scotland and has been repeated today. No doubt the Government will be eager to keep their pledges. I trust that they will be equally committed to delivering for Wales in a timely fashion.

We in Wales are fortunate in that regard, as we have not only this Bill before us today, which provides a vehicle for legislative change, but also the benefit of the two reports of the Silk commission that have been published. The commission was of course set up by the present Government with all-party representation and came to unanimous conclusions. The Government do not have to go away and start from scratch. They have the work of their own commission readily at hand. It would be strange, indeed perplexing, to the people of Wales if the Government did not move forward with alacrity on that basis.

My first amendment, which I am now moving, goes to the very heart of the issue regarding the National Assembly and to the weaknesses of the devolution provided by the 1998 Act. The proposals for Wales were fundamentally different to those provided for Scotland. Scotland’s 1998 Act provided a reserved

13 Oct 2014 : Column 13

powers model of government. In contrast, the powers of the National Assembly for Wales were prescriptive. That has led to a lack of clarity and to the unfortunate spectacle of legal wrangles in the courts as to whether the Welsh Government acted within their powers. My noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas will no doubt have much more to say about those issues.

The Silk commission, in its wisdom, recognised the significance of this problem and recommended that Wales should also have a reserved powers model of devolved government. It said that,

“a reserved powers model for Wales … would bring greater consistency and coherence across the United Kingdom … After careful assessment of the evidence we formed the firm view that a reserved powers model would be superior to the current arrangements, and that it would better satisfy our principles of clarity, coherence, collaboration, accountability, subsidiarity, stability, effectiveness and efficiency”.

I am very pleased to see that Amendment 18A, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, has been grouped with these amendments. I am delighted that our minds are working along similar tracks. As I understand it, all four parties in Wales are fully signed up to supporting such a change. So what we propose here is in no way controversial. I suggest that it is something that noble Lords from all Benches in this House would be proud to support.

I can almost hear the words forming themselves in the mind of the Minister—the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. She might eagerly agree with me that such a move would have the Government’s unqualified support but might say that now may not be the right time or that this Bill is not the appropriate vehicle. I will address those considerations. The most pressing reason for us to legislate on this matter in this Parliament is to ensure that in May 2016, when the next Assembly elections take place, they will be held in circumstances where all parties and electors know that Wales’s Government, after May 2016, will be working within a reserved powers system. The beginning of a new Assembly is the appropriate time to do that and the parties, in drawing up their manifestos for that election, can do so happy in the knowledge that they will not become enmeshed in the sort of legal challenges that sadly we have seen under the present basis of devolved power.

Some might argue that including these provisions in this Bill does not give Parliament adequate opportunity to consider the detail of the legislative changes proposed. I would answer that in two ways. First, we are not venturing into uncharted waters. For both Scotland and Northern Ireland, the reserved powers model exists. All we need to know is the detail of what will be reserved. The Silk commission has done invaluable work in this area.

Secondly, we might recall that the time that elapsed between the Wales Bill of 1998 receiving its Second Reading and the completion of Lords amendments was just seven months. This amendment is immensely generous in its time provision, giving the Secretary of State up to six months to bring forward his report for a firm timetable, which would aim at having the matter concluded and the necessary legislation enacted to be operational by the Assembly elections of May 2016.

There is a third argument: as there is all-party consensus in the matter, it should not warrant the odium that some might feel in the other Chamber that

13 Oct 2014 : Column 14

the initiative has come from here. If we build into the Bill the appropriate legislative hook by passing the paving amendment of the type I have proposed, MPs in the other place can use that to put forward their own proposals to provide a reserved powers model. If we do not pass an amendment in this place, the other place will be technically unable to return to the matter. In other words, we are providing for them the platform they need to consider and—I hope—achieve such a change.

My colleagues and I fully realise that this amendment goes beyond the provisions of the Long Title. That is why we have tabled Amendment 63 to the Long Title to enable us to consider in the Bill such matters as have been raised by the second Silk report. There is nothing unusual in amending a Long Title to broaden the scope of the Bill. Indeed, the Government have tabled Amendment 62 to do likewise for another purpose.

I move briefly to Amendment 2A, which is grouped with this amendment and was tabled in case Amendment 1 is rejected for any reason. Amendment 2A lists in detail the legislative subjects that we in Plaid Cymru believe should now be transferred to the competence of the National Assembly. They include matters such as police and prison services, broadcasting, natural resources and energy, and transport, which the second Silk report recommended should be devolved to the Assembly. It also goes further than Silk in proposing that matters such as criminal justice and the Welsh constitution should be devolved immediately.

We put forward these proposals in the spirit of the proposals for substantial new devolved powers being given to Scotland’s Parliament and in the spirit of the Prime Minister’s pledge that Wales should not be left behind. As the First Minister for Wales intimated, if devo-max is appropriate for Scotland it should also be appropriate for Wales, even if some of the detail of necessity will vary.

There is a remarkable degree of cross-party unity in the National Assembly on this matter. Given the way that Scotland has been urged to work on the basis of cross-party consensus, I very much hope that this will not be rejected when it is happily seen to be arising in the context of Wales. However, having gone to the lengths of laying out in detail the type of matters we feel should be devolved—and the list is neither exclusive nor exhaustive—I readily concede that we would much prefer to have the issue addressed by moving along the lines of Amendment 1 on the basis of reserved powers.

Devolution has been seen rightly as a process, not an event. Today’s Bill gives a most timely opportunity for that process to move forward. My party, Plaid Cymru, aspires to see very much greater independence of political action being in the hands of the Welsh people. However, we accept that in the context of this Bill we are able to move towards a home rule Parliament, with some matters still being reserved for Westminster. We put these amendments forward in a positive and constructive manner to improve the government of Wales. I hope that we shall have a positive response from all parts of the Chamber. I beg to move.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 15

Lord Elis-Thomas (PC): My Lords, I did not realise that this would be merely a double act, so I hope I shall say a few things that will excite other people to take part in the debate.

Amendment 3 in this group, which stands in my name as well as that of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, gives the Government another simple option, which is within the existing structure of the Government of Wales Act 2006, in the relevant clause, Clause 108, and the relevant schedule, Schedule 7. This is not the place for me to discourse at any length on the convoluted—or “crablike”, as it was called by the Electoral Reform Society Wales—forward movement of devolution in Wales. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was part of all this and knows it as well as I do. However, it may be an opportunity to remind the House how far we have come in so short a time.

We moved from an executive Assembly, which was in essence a corporate body and therefore a type of local government structure, established at a time when local government was already moving to a cabinet and a scrutiny system. In effect it was the 1978 Act, taken off the shelf of the library of the old Wales Office, dusted down and put forward as a new Bill. I will not say who told me that; it would not be fair to him, because he is now a distinguished retired public lawyer in Wales—I have just given away his identity.

The effect of that was that we were set on a development that was unworkable. The first important and essential act of the Members of the Assembly, when they arrived there in 1999, was to take over the function of debate for themselves. The key outcome, early on in 2000, was a resolution passed by the Members of the Assembly to seek the maximum possible powers within the Act: the maximum possible opportunity to act as a parliamentary-type body.

The first First Minister was called the First Secretary, but when the right honourable Rhodri Morgan came to power, by a change of leadership within the Labour Party and a vote of the Assembly—it is still a matter of dispute; I recollect very clearly what happened, but I will not bore noble Lords with my version—he decided to call himself First Minister. He also decided to call his colleagues in the Cabinet not Cabinet Secretaries but Ministers and to call the Government—previously, we did not really have a Government, although there was a Cabinet—the Welsh Assembly Government.

3.30 pm

Unfortunately, as I have said in other places and will not repeat for too long here, that only confused matters even more, because to set together the two terms “Assembly” and “Government” in the same name is to deny the basic separation of powers between scrutiny and executive action. Then along came my distinguished friend, the noble Lord, Lord Richard. In a major report delivered to the Welsh Government in 2004, he set out a route through this mire which still stands at my bedside—if I ever wake up early, rather than am unable to get to sleep, I turn to it. That report set out a clear structure for how the Assembly should function.

We did not quite get to that, but we moved from executive devolution into a form of influencing primary legislation by the request for Orders in Council and

13 Oct 2014 : Column 16

legislative consent Motions of this House and the other place. That was a recipe for further conflict, because it became a political argument between the Westminster Government and the Welsh Government as to what we could do. Then we came to the second part of the 2006 Act, which was later implemented by the referendum in 2011 and enabled us to initiate primary legislation—but all that was still within what is known as the conferred powers model.

Amendment 3, inspired as it partly is by the most brilliant recent judgment of the Supreme Court on the issue of the Agricultural Wages Board, sets out that it is possible to retain our present constitutional model—that is, conferred powers—and achieve far greater competence simply by removing exceptions. The Minister will say that I am seeking to remove all exceptions. Yes, I am by the amendment, but I am just giving the Government something to think about. The exceptions that I seek to remove would raise all sorts of interesting issues, such as hunting with dogs—not a controversial issue in the part of Wales that I represent, but I appreciate that it is controversial elsewhere. In more important areas, it would include energy and transport policy. The effect would be to simplify the way in which the legislation and the constitution of Wales are defined.

My question to the Government arises from my amendment. Before I say this, I have to declare a personal interest. I have been reselected. There was a vote, but the other candidate was AN Other, so I got through. My next term may or may not be my final term at the Assembly; that is a matter for divine providence as well as for me and my constituency party. Why are we now likely on the present timetable—unless the statement to come or the Minister in her response make it clearer to us—to delay the substantive reform of our constitution again beyond 2016 to 2021, if Scotland and Northern Ireland are proceeding apace? Merely to implement either the first report from the commission on the constitution, or even the second one, by 2016, will not give the National Assembly the full powers in its current area of responsibility—whereas this amendment, which removes exemptions, will do so.

Therefore, I ask the Minister to address in particular the need to timetable change in Wales at least at the level of Northern Ireland, if not of Scotland. Clearly, at the moment Wales still has third-grade devolution. It is time we changed that. This matter has to be debated fully, not just in this House but in Wales itself. There is an emerging consensus—and every time we move forward on devolution in Wales it is through all-party consensus. I am very keen to retain that. So I am not pushing any particular amendment; I am asking the Government to give us the assurances that we require.

Lord Crickhowell (Con): My Lords, I have followed one basic principle fairly consistently: when one has had major responsibility, one should stand aside when one hands over and not be a nuisance by pursuing the matter much further. After eight years as Secretary of State for Wales, I have deliberately kept out of debates about Welsh affairs and left it to others, so I had not intended to say much during today’s proceedings. My second reason for not saying much is that I am in the

13 Oct 2014 : Column 17

middle of some uncomfortable medical tests this week and I will not be here for the whole of this evening’s proceedings, or the proceedings over the next couple of days.

However, I was struck by these amendments and thought that a few words might be constructive and helpful. I listened with a good deal of sympathy to what was said about Clause 1 and the report on reserved powers. That caused me no great difficulty and I shall listen with great interest to what my noble friend on the Front Bench has to say about it. I was, however, somewhat alarmed by Amendment 2A. I was rather relieved when, in his introduction to it, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, at least qualified his enthusiasm for the proposed new clause. I think that he was suggesting that it was a testing amendment and might not be pursued too vigorously, at least at this stage.

Similarly, I sympathise with some of what the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, had to say on Amendment 3, particularly his final comments about the pace of change. There are important issues to be considered in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum. I am not unsympathetic to that. I was, however, a bit startled by the omission in the amendment of all the exceptions.

That takes me back, rather neatly, to my doubts about Amendment 2A. I confess that it is a long time since I have looked at the Government of Wales Act 2006. I must have done at the time, but it is not as familiar to me as it clearly is to the two noble Lords who have just spoken. I got it down from the shelf and read Schedule 7. I find the extent of what is proposed in Amendment 2A rather alarming. We see the proposed transfer of, essentially, the responsibilities of the Home Office, including youth justice, criminal justice and the courts, sentencing, legal aid, the Crown Prosecution Service and judiciary, and the prison and probation services. That takes us to some of the responsibilities of my right honourable friend Mr Grayling.

What struck me about these provisions is that many of them involve matters of constitutional significance. As a member of the Constitution Committee, I feel almost certain that if these matters were being pursued with vigour at this time, the Constitution Committee would want to examine them carefully and draw its thoughts and conclusions to the attention of the House. I am pretty certain that we would not want to go further along the road at this time without that kind of advice.

The same goes for Field 38, which refers to,

“the Welsh constitution and electoral arrangements”.

That is broad and sweeping, too. If you want to start on that, it would have implications not just for the constitution of Wales in electoral arrangements but almost certainly for other parts of the United Kingdom as well. Again, therefore, I am sure that those issues would need to be looked at much more closely before we pursued them further.

On the subject of broadcasting, I note only that now that I live about 500 yards from the border of Wales with England, I find myself in the extraordinary situation where my Sky set is directed to England rather than Wales, although I live in Wales. I have to have an adjustment on my set so that if I wish, as I often do, to look at the Welsh news in the morning,

13 Oct 2014 : Column 18

I have to switch to the appropriate item. I make that point only because it identifies the fact that broadcasting is not a simple and straightforward matter, confined to only England or Wales. Broadcasting has a much wider sweep and I think that we would want to think a good deal more carefully before we moved down that road.

My only point in rising at this time is to say that, yes, I will listen with sympathy and some interest to what my noble friend on the Front Bench has to say about the report on reserved powers and, possibly, the timetable. However, I urge caution about how far the other amendments may take us. It would be rash at this stage in proceedings on a Bill, which, after all, has already been examined in considerable detail by another place, if we were to sweep on to what would be a major set of changes to the devolution settlement. That might make progress on the Bill more difficult and not easier.

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, many of us warned that the referendum vote in Scotland between Second Reading and Committee was likely to change the nature and tone of the debate on the Bill and it has very much turned out that way. The Scottish referendum has changed the tone of that discussion and the discussion of the constitutional development of the UK as a whole, with our hitherto ad hoc approach to constitutional reform found wanting. There is a desperate need now to review the entire constitutional structure of the UK—and Wales, of course, needs to be at the centre of that discussion.

We have to remember that the cri de coeur from Scotland was not just about constitutional arrangements but a cry from members of civil society and the public, who feel cut out of that political process. It was a plea from people to heed the fact that they do not feel as if they are being listened to. We have to recognise the depth of the disillusionment that has developed regarding the nature of government and its relationship with citizens. It is imperative that we now reach a new constitutional settlement that will lay the foundations for a new, reformed democracy throughout the United Kingdom. There has to be a wider process to draw a settlement reflecting the aspirations of all the UK’s constituent parts. It is time for our constitution to be put on a much more coherent footing. It is also important to respect and honour the promises that were made to Scotland during the referendum campaign. The appetite for more powers in Wales has also been stronger.

3.45 pm

We need to recognise that much of what we debate in this Bill needs urgently to be set within that UK context. It would be a mistake to stop the Bill in its tracks, pending the establishment of a convention. We must press on with the Bill, but not compromise any future discussion about Wales’s relationships with the rest of the United Kingdom As far as possible, we need through this Bill to future-proof what we have before us. It is also worth noting that, since the referendum

13 Oct 2014 : Column 19

in Scotland, the appetite in Wales for independence has gone down to 3%: for “Wales”, do not read “Scotland”.

It is important that we press on with the Silk 1 commission proposals, which are the basis for this report. That is not least because the Assembly desperately needs the borrowing powers to inject further energy into the growth of the economy. Since Second Reading, the new Secretary of State for Wales has settled into his new role—we noted with interest his interventions at the Conservative Party conference. We are delighted to see that he is coming round to our position on changing to a reserved power model for the Assembly.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, for talking us through the tortuous attempts at working towards the devolution settlement that exists today. We are delighted that the coalition Government have seen sense in relation to the issue of reserved powers. They have said publicly that they will legislate to change from the conferred model to the devolution of reserved powers model, but we are disappointed that they have not come forward with an amendment to this Bill.

This has been extensively covered within Silk 2. As this is such a fundamental issue, where we now have cross-party agreement, why can we not get on with the work of changing the model of devolution in the Bill, or at least prepare the groundwork for it? It is not a party-political issue. Anyone setting up a new constitutional settlement would not start from where we are now. We need to remember that there were some difficult birth pangs to the establishment of the Assembly, which came about with a hair’s breadth of a majority. This is one of the reasons why we developed this rather Heath Robinson approach to devolution. However, we have moved on. Devolution is now the settled will of the people of Wales. Indeed, they are asking for further devolution of powers.

As outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, the reserved model will clarify and simplify where responsibility for which policies resides. It will produce greater certainty about the scope of the Assembly and the responsibilities of Welsh Ministers. We have a long way to go with this. More than half the Welsh population thinks that it is the UK Government who are responsible for health matters, so it is a good job that the Prime Minister has stopped attacking the Welsh health system, as the Welsh think that he is responsible for it.

The reserved powers model would increase accountability by empowering people in Wales to understand that settlement better. The UK’s Changing Union project has said that the reserved powers model would benefit civil society organisations, politicians, civil servants and the general public—in short, the democratic process as a whole. It would place the relationship between Cardiff and London on a much more stable and adult footing.

On two occasions, the UK Government have taken the Welsh Government to the Supreme Court to question the Assembly’s ability to legislate in certain areas. They have done this because of the lack of clarity in the conferred model system. Every time this happens, it costs the Government £150,000. They have lost on

13 Oct 2014 : Column 20

two occasions, most recently, as was said, in relation to the Agricultural Wages Board. The five Supreme Court judges decided unanimously that it was within the Welsh Government’s competence to set the minimum rates and benefits for agricultural wages.

Once again, it is worth emphasising that we need to get this right for Wales, but there needs to be a discussion within the broader context. I think that our advice to any future proposed constitutional convention, which may look at devolving powers away from Westminster to the regions of England, would be, “For goodness’ sake do not follow the conferred model of devolution”.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD): Before the noble Baroness moves on from that point—I do not mean to interrupt her speech, in which I find much common ground from a Scottish perspective—perhaps I may offer her one observation, although not necessarily one for her to comment on much further. It is certainly the case that we found in the referendum in Scotland that a considerable number of Scots did not appreciate that the NHS had been devolved to the Scottish Parliament since 1999, under a different model. Perhaps it is not just the fact that the power resides in the institution but the continuing need to have citizenship awareness among the population that is vital. Whichever model is going forward for the Assembly, perhaps that reflection may be of assistance.

Baroness Morgan of Ely: The noble Lord makes valid points about clarity about where the powers are and the fact that information to the public is crucial so that they understand who is responsible for what. There is still a degree of confusion about this and we need to think it through in a very clear way if we are looking at a much more structured response to the devolution settlement within the United Kingdom as a whole.

I now turn to Plaid Cymru’s amendment to link the reserved powers to an immediate transfer of the recommendations of Silk 2. It is worth emphasising that the whole Labour Party feels quite positive about the vast majority of the recommendations contained in Silk 2. The case for further devolution of power has been well made by the commission. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, for his work on that commission and welcome him to the Front Bench. We are delighted to see him there. It is important that people understand that the Welsh Government have also responded positively to the recommendations.

With this amendment, Plaid has gone further than Silk in recommending, for example, the wholesale transfer of power over broadcasting, as was suggested, and energy, where the recommendations by Silk are far more nuanced. We are anxious to support many of the recommendations in Silk 2, but we feel that it would be more appropriate for us to include those recommendations within an election manifesto so that we can have the endorsement of the general public for this additional significant transfer of powers.

On Plaid Cymru’s Amendment 3, I do not blame them for attempting this power grab—that is what you would expect of nationalists—but to remove all current

13 Oct 2014 : Column 21

exceptions to current permitted areas of the Assembly would entail a huge extra amount of responsibility and the duplication of roles that are better shared at UK level. It would seem rather unnecessary that in the field of agriculture, where Wales already has legislative competence, we should establish our own legislation on, for example, scientific or other experimental procedures in relation to animals. Do we really want to establish our own agricultural import and export rules? Imagine the bureaucracy that that would entail. For every job that we would have to create to make that work, we would have to cut one from our health or education services or from another area that currently receives funding. We understand what the amendment is trying to do but think that it is going a bit too far.

Lord Elis-Thomas: This is about competence. It is the ability to do things, were one wanting to do them in that way. In the United Kingdom, we already have institutions, such as the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, which are virtually federal and in which powers and responsibilities are shared between Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is not about, of necessity, compelling the Welsh Government or the National Assembly to accept the competence; it is the indication, especially after the Supreme Court ruling of July, that the competence of the National Assembly in the current model is based on those definitions, made by subject in Schedule 7 of the 2006 Act, with exceptions. By deleting exceptions, I sought to highlight the nature of the competence and the possibility of using the reduction of exceptions as a way of translating further powers.

Baroness Morgan of Ely: I understand what the noble Lord is saying. The problem is probably that we need a much more detailed discussion about what those exemptions should be and to what extent they should or should not be duplicated. If this is a probing amendment, that is fine—we understand that that is the case. But taking this big step at the moment would be wrong.

Finally, I ask the Minister why an amendment on reserve powers has not been submitted if the Government have changed their position. Why cannot we now get on with the job? We know that there is cross-party consensus on this; let us not waste any more time.

Lord Rowlands (Lab): I support Amendments 1 and 18A, but I do so from a rather different position. I am not a censorious critic of the conferred powers model. In the early days of the devolution settlement it was a reasonable and sensible way in which to confer powers. Indeed, in paragraph 4.3, even Silk acknowledges that there was value in the conferred powers model. The incremental argument made for additional powers made sense; it helped the Assembly and the Assembly Government to have greater competence and capacity in those fields.

However, I am now overwhelmingly in favour of moving to the reserve powers. The way in which additional powers have been granted, the whole issue of taxation and, down the line, the whole issue of Silk 2, make it imperative that we proceed and create the process to

13 Oct 2014 : Column 22

the greater reserve powers model. I do so not as a critic of the conferred powers model but from the realisation that, in fact, dramatic change has taken place and with that there is a need for the change of model that we have imposed. Therefore, I cannot quite understand why the Government, although they are not perhaps dragging their feet, have not been willing from the Dispatch Box to confirm that it is their objective, too, and that they agree with and support the processes described in Amendments 1 and 18A to proceed towards the reserve powers model. I hope that we hear a different tone from the Dispatch Box today.

Having said that, I, too, like the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, cannot support Amendment 2A—and nor does Silk. There is a much subtler discussion in Silk of the issues of criminal and civil justice than the rather bald list provided in that amendment. So unless it has been tabled with tongue in cheek, I cannot support that amendment. Silk did a very skilful job in assessing in detail, particularly in Chapter 10, the difficulties of transferring civil and criminal justice issues, even in police areas. In Silk one often reads that we will have to have cross-border co-operation—a real, meaningful co-operation between either side of the border—to make anything work in the criminal justice and civil fields. So I cannot possibly support Amendment 2A, but I certainly support Amendments 1 and 18A.

4 pm

Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD): We support Amendment 1. As the leaders of devolution as opposed to independence in Wales, we have always supported reserve powers. The Bill that I drafted in 1966 was for a Parliament for Wales on a reserved powers basis, including provision for criminal justice and the courts. I rather fancied the position of Chief Justice of Wales that I laid out in the drafting of that Bill. I was a lot younger in those days, of course, but not lacking in ambition.

The one part of Amendment 2A that I query, however, is on the Welsh constitution and electoral arrangements going to the Welsh Assembly. It is impossible to have a federal system of government and any form of devolution if the proposal is that those should be left to the Welsh Assembly itself. What has occurred to me over the past few weeks is the anomaly that would arise if there were to be English votes for English laws in the other place. English laws would be subject to the scrutiny of this House, and consideration and amendment in this House; whereas laws passed by the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly are not subject to such scrutiny. When one poses or considers that anomaly, it is obvious that there has to be a considerable constitutional discussion as to how the whole settlement eventually evolves.

For example, in my view, this House should be abolished and replaced by an elected—on a proportional basis, of course—federal body that would deal with scrutiny of legislation from all the devolved Governments. A very much more sensible route and settlement lies along those lines, although it would obviously take a considerable amount of time and we are dealing with

13 Oct 2014 : Column 23

this Bill at the moment. The reserved powers issue can be settled much more quickly and that is why I support Amendment 1.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, there is a great deal of agreement in all parts of the House on many of the matters we are discussing. Although we are speaking on certain, limited planes, we are at the same time looking at the whole question of devolution.

Many people will say that devolution in Wales took off with the referendum of 1997. That is not strictly correct because no transfer of authority from Westminster to Wales was involved in that matter. The transfer proposed was a significant transfer from the executive authority of Welsh Office Ministers—of course democratised by that authority being an elected body, meeting in the name of the Welsh people. It was a great, historic event but not classical devolution as such.

Be that as it may, there have been in this discussion a few cautionary voices, as one would expect. I respect much of what has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, one could perhaps say that the voice was rather more than traditionally cautionary, and was somewhat Cassandra-like. However, that is not something that I wish to deal with in detail at the moment.

The thrust of what we are practically all agreed on is that there should be a reserved powers model. There are two excellent reasons for that. One is selfish, if I may say so as someone who has been a solicitor and barrister, and later a circuit judge. It is to avoid a whole generation of Welsh lawyers having constitutional neuroses. It means that if you want to be sure of whether something has been transferred in a particular field, you might have to look at not just a score of different legislative sources but perhaps much more than that. It is like confetti—all over the place—when it could so easily have been done in a different way by a total bulk transfer, subject to exceptions (a), (b), (c) and (d).

It would not be all that difficult if one were to tackle this straightaway on the basis of Part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006. Under the provision, the House will recollect that there were 20 areas of devolved authority ranging from agriculture to the Welsh language. What is referred to in each and every one of those paragraphs is just a heading. It might well be argued that although you could easily draft a Bill—you could write it out almost on the back of an envelope, and that seems to me to be the way in which some legislation has been proposed over the past few weeks—you could never be absolutely certain of what you were including if you dealt with it in that bulk umbrella way. However, I doubt whether the difficulties are as great as that, because when the Government of Wales Act was passed there was careful scrutiny as to the content of each and every one of those 20 categories. Thus I should think that successive Governments and those who advise them have a pretty clear idea in each case of exactly what has been devolved and what has not been devolved.

Therefore it seems to me that on a selfish basis, as far those who practise the great vocation of the law is concerned, there is much to be said for cleaning up in

13 Oct 2014 : Column 24

this particular way. In so far as constitutional maturity is concerned, there is everything to be said in favour of that model. I hope that the Government will not plead the vehicular defence and say that this is not the vehicle by which to do this, but will say that this is something that can be done quickly. I suspect that some thought has been given to it over the years. I suspect too that the Government may well have anticipated what Silk concluded in this particular context.

Turning to Amendment 2A, I am a great admirer and respecter of both the noble Lords concerned, the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Elis-Thomas. I have known them almost since boyhood. Both have been committed home rulers since boyhood. Few people now alive in Wales have contributed more to the effort to raise the constitutional level of this land and nation. They have cast a generously broad net. One might well say that if one looks in detail at some of what that net might contain, then clearly there might be certain difficulties. However, I do not think that the situation is as bleak as is suggested.

In fact, many responsible bodies in Wales, whose membership cuts across party loyalties of all sorts, have spoken for many years about the position of the police in relation to the Welsh Assembly. I speak as one with knowledge of the matters that come before the courts from time to time—or used to when I was in practice—and the general case is this. The matters relating to the police, youth justice, drugs and various other agencies—some of which have clearly been devolved and others which have not—make out a case for at least the transfer of certain police functions. I am not arguing for the total transfer of certain police functions that have not already been devolved to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly. Such arguments are found in Silk, and indeed many other responsible bodies have come to much the same conclusion. So it is not chimerical or irresponsible to mention that matter.

Let us take broadcasting again, for example. Paragraph 20 of Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act transfers all responsibilities in relation to the Welsh language, save and except the legal position of the Welsh language in the courts—nothing else. An intelligent layman would therefore be well excused if he said that broadcasting in Wales in the Welsh language must have been included within the umbrella of paragraph 20. That is not so, as we found very much to our cost some years ago when the issue of S4C arose. I shall not go into the detail of that now but something that was crucial to the very future and success of the Welsh language had not been devolved in the slightest degree.

I think that the 20 areas of authority included in Schedule 7 to the 2006 Act could easily and safely be transferred, and very little would need to be done in addition to the information that the Government already have in that regard. It would show good will on the part of the Government and responsibility, candour and integrity in relation to the promises made some weeks ago in the heat of the Scottish referendum. If they mean what they say—and I am prepared to accept that they do mean what they say—this could be in earnest of that good will and integrity.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 25

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): My Lords, this has been an extremely interesting debate to start the Committee proceedings on this Bill. In response, I begin by reminding noble Lords of the intention behind the Bill. It encompasses three strands: first, issues flowing from the Green Paper issued by the Wales Office early in this Parliament; secondly, amendments to the Government of Wales Act requested by the First Minister; and, thirdly, measures to introduce fiscal accountability and borrowing powers recommended by the Silk 1 report, which so far have been sadly lacking in the Welsh devolution settlement.

Many of us here today are anxious to see the Silk 2 recommendations implemented, and I assure noble Lords that the Wales Office is working actively on that at the moment. Unfortunately, the Silk 2 report was produced too late for us to bring forward legislation in this Parliament. The Silk commission acknowledged that fact and said that it realised that many of its recommendations were for manifestos. The fact that it brought forward its second report too late in this Parliament does not mean that we cannot achieve anything from Silk 2 before the election. We can make a number of recommendations on which we can make progress. We can also prepare for further legislation, and we are doing so.

The Scottish referendum has ensured that a new devolution settlement for Wales is very much on the agenda, and I hope that there is cross-party agreement on that. However, Silk 2 was clear that its legislative recommendations were for party manifestos, and rightly so because, as has been referred to this afternoon, there needs to be discussion, debate and public information before people vote on a number of issues, obviously including this one.

These amendments from the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Elis-Thomas, seek to leapfrog that manifesto process—understandably perhaps. Plaid Cymru wants to air its manifesto in advance and this is a very good opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, the amendments are poorly thought through, for reasons that I will outline in a moment. It is also important to note that some of the new powers suggested in the amendments, as other noble Lords have said, were not recommended in Silk 2. We therefore need that manifesto process and an element of public discussion in order to have the cross-party agreement, which, I am sure noble Lords will agree, is essential if one is to move forward firmly on constitutional reform.

4.15 pm

In tabling Amendments 1, 2A and 3, the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Elis-Thomas, seek to devolve additional powers to the Assembly. It is worth pointing out that Amendment 18A, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Morgan and Lady Gale, is nearly identical in wording to Amendment 1. Amendment 2A seeks to put Silk 2 recommendations in the Bill in a broad-brush manner that is not appropriate for such far-reaching changes. Through this amendment, the noble Lords seek to insert 18 new subjects into the list of devolved subjects in Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act 2006 on which the Assembly can pass

13 Oct 2014 : Column 26

measures. Amendment 3 seeks to amend Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act to remove all the non-devolved exceptions to the devolved subjects. This would broaden significantly the 20 subjects on which the Assembly can already legislate and have the effect of going very much further than the Silk 2 recommendations. Amendments 1 and 18A require the Secretary of State to set out a timetable in a report before both Houses of Parliament for the move to a reserved powers model in Wales.

I am delighted that there is now a broad consensus that moving to a reserved powers model of devolution is desirable. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, pointed out that I had worked within the current Government of Wales Act in the Welsh Assembly. Of course, I deal with the Act daily in the Wales Office and I understand its complexities. In the Wales Office we are working proactively on how we go forward to a new reserved powers model. I assure noble Lords that there is no hanging back on that issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, talked about the six-month timetable on reserved powers. Of course, any timetable of that nature comes across the issue of the general election. The important thing that we must do now is ensure that sufficient work is done on the reserved powers model so that there is cross-party agreement and, after the general election, a commitment to move forward with all possible speed. We must also enable that commitment to be kept where possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, talked about how far we have come in a short time. When we get impatient on the development of devolution, it is useful to remember how far we have come in 15 years, but there is very much further to go. We are certainly not looking at a delay until 2021. I remind the noble Lord that this Government ensured that there was a referendum in 2011 to give the Assembly full legislative powers. That meant that the Assembly assumed those additional powers mid-term. It is important to bear in mind that it is quite possible for the Assembly to move forward mid-term.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, spoke very positively about moving forward with devolution. I strongly welcome the Labour Party’s conversion to the reserved powers model. Some of us have been criticising the original model for Welsh Assembly legislation for a very long time. I agree with the noble Baroness that it is important to note that the tone and nature of the debate on devolution has changed, and that we need to respond to that and to create a new constitutional settlement. I agree with her that the danger is that if you move forward too fast, you can do so in a haphazard manner. You need to ensure that you have a full public discussion about the aspects of this and that you move forward in a certain way. We have concerns about the complexity of the current devolution settlement. The last thing we want is to replace it with one that is equally complex.

I want to make absolutely clear to noble Lords that none of us in government—I am sure that this is shared across the Chamber—wants to see repeated legal challenges to the competence of the Assembly. It is not good for the Assembly, the Welsh Government or the UK Government. We need clarity. We are

13 Oct 2014 : Column 27

committed to making progress on that. Unfortunately, in the short term, the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Elis-Thomas, would deliver anything but clarity. They would broaden the settlement and, crucially, Amendment 3 would remove exceptions and carve-outs that currently ensure that issues such as monetary policy and the regulation of international trade remain decided at a UK level. I am sure noble Lords would agree that it is appropriate that monetary policy and international trade are decided at a UK level.

Lord Richard (Lab): I was very interested in what the noble Baroness had to say about the reserved powers model. She comes from one branch of the coalition—if I may put it that way—which has been in favour of reserved powers for a long time. Will she assure us that the other branch of the coalition is now also in favour of the reserved powers model?

Baroness Randerson: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales made it absolutely clear at the recent Conservative Party conference that he believes that Wales needs to move to a reserved powers model. It is also worth noting that the recent legal judgment, to which reference has been made today, on the Agricultural Wages Board was sufficiently far reaching to ensure that many people have reconsidered the situation in the light of that judgment.

The amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Elis-Thomas, would put in place in the short term a broad but poorly defined settlement until the Government put forward a timetable for putting in place reserved powers. It will disappoint noble Lords in some cases that the Government have made clear repeatedly that this Bill is not the appropriate place for implementing Silk 2 recommendations. If we seek to use the Bill for that purpose we risk—I say this very seriously to noble Lords—lengthening the process and causing serious problems for the Bill in the other place. I remain completely committed to ensuring that we get the Bill through and I do not want to put the Bill at risk in any way. By widening the Bill considerably, it would have a very difficult passage in the other place. Given the proximity of the general election, we would find it difficult to ensure that the Bill passed before the end of the Session. Therefore, I certainly do not intend to put this at risk.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): I thank the Minister for giving way. I have listened to her with great attention. I can well understand the need for extensive discussion in manifestos as well as in the other place and the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and various other people. However, as there is such unanimity about the reserved powers model, why can this not be accepted in principle in the Bill, leaving the question of its implementation and the timetable open? It does not have to be six months, but it could be accepted in principle if it is now accepted by all parties. The only point that has not been made about why it should be accepted is a very important philosophical and political point about subsidiarity. The Minister

13 Oct 2014 : Column 28

has not addressed the issue of why it cannot be accepted in principle in the Bill, with all the details to be worked out in due course.

Baroness Randerson: The noble and right reverend Lord raises an interesting point and I will obviously take it away and think about it. In so far as thought has been given to this so far, we have been thinking about the scope of those reserved powers being included in legislation at the same time as the principle of reserved powers. There would possibly be issues and problems with separating out the principle from the scope of those powers, but I will certainly reflect on what the noble and right reverend Lord has said.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): On that point, potentially some substantial time may have elapsed before the principle of reserved powers comes into operation. The extent of the conferred powers has been shown by the Supreme Court judgment in fact to be highly flexible. To what extent has the Wales Office taken on board the effect of that judgment? Can we be assured that there will be no unnecessary legal challenges in future and that we have learnt the lessons of that judgment?

Baroness Randerson: Noble Lords can certainly be assured that, first, the Wales Office has studied that legal judgment very carefully and, secondly, that across government there is a determination to move ahead with devolution, and the development of devolution, on a cross-party basis, where it is possible to do so. There is a determination to ensure that we work proactively with the Welsh Government on issues. Indeed, that refers back to the Silk 2 recommendations, which included a number of mechanisms for improving relationships between the UK Government and the Welsh Government. That is very much at the forefront of our minds at this moment in terms of making progress.

In conclusion, our focus in the Bill is on implementing the first part of the Silk commission’s recommendations, and that must remain its focus. I urge noble Lords not to put the Bill at risk in the hope of something even better. Do not reject jam today in the hope of even more jam tomorrow. Use the progress in devolution that the Bill encompasses as a sound basis for further devolution. Do not for one moment entertain the idea that the best way of moving forward is to stand still and in some ways set this Bill aside and start again. We insist that this is a positive step forward and it is important that we demonstrate the cross-party agreement that exists on the further development of devolution.

4.30 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons chairs the new Cabinet Committee, which is looking at devolved powers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland alongside powers for Scotland. This afternoon, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales is meeting Welsh spokespeople from the other place across the parties in order to discuss devolution. Similar cross-party meetings have taken place within the Assembly among the leaders of the political parties

13 Oct 2014 : Column 29

there. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have made it clear that they want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on further devolution. The devolution committee includes the Secretary of State for Wales, and I also attend. It is important to note that the Wales Office has a strong voice at those meetings. Events are moving on rapidly. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate: my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas, the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell, Lord Thomas of Gresford, Lord Elystan-Morgan and Lord Rowlands, the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and a number of Peers who intervened. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson for her response. I am somewhat disappointed at the tone of the Minister’s response, particularly given the virtual unanimity in relation to Amendment 1. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, to his Front-Bench responsibilities. There is some irony: I look at the Front Bench where there are two Members who were in the Assembly in 1999. I look at this Bench and at the Back Bench opposite. It seems that the Assembly is slowly taking over here. Some of us want to see the process happening in the other direction.

The consensus that was reached by the Silk commission on this matter and the consensus of this House with regard to the reserved powers are ones that need to bring out of the Government a firmer commitment that we have had today. I appreciate that work is going on on these matters, but that is not enough. I accept the comments that have been made in relation to Amendment 2A. Of course that goes further. I understand that it would not carry a consensus and that may be a reason for not going forward on that basis. But I remind the House that the powers in Amendment 2A are ones that have been committed now with regard to Scotland and have been committed with alacrity. We may very shortly hear more about that in this Chamber. If there is an imperative that drives those forward with great speed in Scotland and if there is a total commitment by the Prime Minister to make sure that Wales does not fall behind, how on earth can they be rejected out of hand? I accept that they will not be taken into the Bill, but I very much hope that between now and the new year there will be some indication of further legislation to meet those points. Otherwise, the commitments that have been made do not have the value of the print in which they have been expressed.

The Prime Minister’s pledge that Wales will not miss out means that these issues must be considered, and quickly. But even if the Government cannot accept the matters covered in Amendment 2A, and if they are not prepared to go down the route of Amendment 3, which was addressed by my colleague, we should certainly have a commitment that specific proposals will be brought forward in this Parliament and that further legislation can be concluded quickly after the general election of May 2015 to be in force from May 2016, when the new Assembly comes into being.

Lord Purvis of Tweed: I just have a point of clarification. I listened very carefully to the noble Lord’s speech, and I agree with the Minister that there is some

13 Oct 2014 : Column 30

awareness. However, some elements of the powers within this clause were of course part of the Scottish Parliament, understandably because of the legal system, which was there beforehand. Some were devolved because of the Scotland Act 2012, and some aspects of these are being considered by the Smith commission, so it is perhaps not entirely the case that they all reside in the Scottish Parliament alone.

Lord Wigley: We have in the grouping of these amendments brought two different fields into play, and they need to be addressed separately to that extent. Of course matters related to the Home Office are already devolved to Scotland. We are very much aware of that, and that is one reason why matters such as policing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, referred a moment ago, have wide support across the party-political divide in Wales and should be devolved rapidly.

Even though I accept what the noble Baroness said with regard to bringing in changes mid-Assembly, that may be appropriate with regard to some of the background systems and the concept of reserved powers without changing any of the actual detail of the portfolios being devolved. But if we are talking about further devolved portfolios of the sort that will come into play in Silk 2, they most certainly need to be specified before the 2016 election so that the issues within those portfolios can be addressed by the parties putting forward the manifestos for that election. I understand what the noble Baroness is saying in regard to the theory, but in regard to the practice we need to have that further detail.

I return to Amendment 1. I reject the suggestion made by the noble Baroness that this has been poorly thought out. It has been drafted on very good advice.

Baroness Randerson: I—

Lord Wigley: I am sorry, but those were her words.

Baroness Randerson: I hope the noble Lord will accept that I was referring to Amendments 2A and 3.

Lord Wigley: I am very grateful that the noble Baroness is taking the opportunity to clarify that, because that will be helpful for Members in all parts of the House. It is quite clear that we have a cross-party consensus, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, mentioned a moment ago. It will be very helpful if we could have some indication between now and Report as to how exactly this is going to be taken forward.

Although there is a mention of “within six months” in the amendment as a period for bringing forward proposals on reserved powers, that does not mean that we need to take the whole six months. I believe that the process can be completed within four months, before Prorogation for a general election. It will be very useful if this has been clarified at that stage, even if some of the detailed legislation has to be taken forward thereafter.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 31

I also reject the suggestion—it is always made at this stage of a Bill, as we are coming nearer Royal Assent—that if we send it back with changes to another place that will open a can of worms. I do not believe it will because I think the same cross-party consensus exists in another place as exists here. If there is that general agreement with regard to the reserved power model, let us just get on with it, not hold back.

Baroness Randerson: The noble Lord might reflect that while there might be consensus within Wales on this issue among political parties, there are a very large number of English MPs in the other place who will quite rightly want to discuss this in the context of their own situation. I fear that we could find the process very heavy going if we started to expand this Bill beyond its original intention.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, heaven help us if English MPs are going to start voting on matters of purely Welsh concern, but I take the point. I am sure the other point is understood across this Chamber as well.

The issue that I want to stress before withdrawing this amendment—obviously at this stage it is a probing amendment—is please, between now and Report, can we firm up the intentions in general with regard to reserved powers? I reserve the right to come back at Report if that is not done. I hope we can achieve that without that being necessary and that the consensus in this Chamber today will be carried through and can work for the benefit of Wales. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendment 2 had been retabled as Amendment 2A.

Amendment 2A not moved.

Amendment 3 not moved.

House resumed.

Ebola

Statement

4.40 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier this afternoon by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health on the subject of Ebola.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the Government’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. I shall start with the Chief Medical Officer’s assessment of the current situation in the affected countries. As of today, there have been 4,033 confirmed deaths and 8,399 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola recorded in seven countries, although widespread transmission is confined to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This

13 Oct 2014 : Column 32

number is doubling every three to four weeks. The UN has declared the outbreak an international public health emergency.

This Government’s first priority is the safety of the British people. Playing our part in halting the rise of the disease in West Africa is the single most important way of preventing Ebola infecting people in the UK. I would like to start by paying tribute to the courage of all those involved in this effort, including military, public health, development and diplomatic staff. I particularly commend over 650 NHS front-line staff and 130 Public Health England staff who have volunteered to go out to Sierra Leone to help in our efforts on the ground. You are the best of our country and we are deeply proud of your service.

Among the three most affected countries, the UK has taken particular responsibility for Sierra Leone, with the US leading on Liberia and France focusing on Guinea. British military medics and engineers began work in August on a 92-bed Ebola treatment facility in Kerry Town, including 12 beds for international health workers. In total, we will support more than 700 beds across the country, more than tripling Sierra Leone’s capacity. With the World Health Organisation, we are training more than 120 health workers a week and piloting a new community approach to Ebola care to reduce, and hopefully stop, the transmission rate. We are also building and providing laboratory services, and supporting an information campaign in-country. We are now deploying the Royal Navy’s RFA “Argus” and its Merlin helicopters along with highly skilled military personnel, bringing our military deployment to 750. They will support the construction of the Kerry Town Ebola treatment centre and other facilities, provide logistics and planning support, and help establish and staff a World Health Organisation-led Ebola training facility to increase training to over 800 health workers a week.

Taken together, the UK contribution stands at £125 million plus invaluable human expertise and is the second-highest bilateral contribution after the US. But we need other countries to do more to complement the efforts of ourselves, the US and France. On 2 October, the Foreign Secretary held an international conference on defeating Ebola in Sierra Leone, during which over £100 million and hundreds of additional healthcare workers were pledged.

I will now move on to the risks to the general public in the UK. The Chief Medical Officer, who takes advice from Public Health England and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, this morning confirmed that it is likely that we will see a case of Ebola in the UK, and that this could be a handful of cases over the next three months. She confirmed that the public health risk in the UK remains low and that measures currently in place, including exit screening in all three affected countries, offer the correct level of protection. However, while the response to global health emergencies should always be proportionate, she also advises the Government to make preparations for a possible increase in the risk level.

Therefore I can today announce that the following additional measures will take place. First, on screening and monitoring, rapid access to healthcare services by anyone who may be infected with Ebola is important,

13 Oct 2014 : Column 33

not only for their own health but also to reduce the risk of transmission to others. While there are no direct flights from the affected region, there are indirect routes into the UK. Therefore in the next week Public Health England will start screening and monitoring UK-bound air passengers, identified by the Border Force, coming on the main routes from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This will allow potential Ebola virus carriers arriving in the UK to be identified, tracked and given rapid access to expert health advice should they develop symptoms.

Those measures will start tomorrow at Heathrow, which receives around 85% of all such arrivals, beginning with terminal 1. They will be expanded by the end of next week to other terminals at Heathrow and Gatwick and on the Eurostar, which connects to Paris and Brussels-bound arrivals from West Africa. Passengers will have their temperature taken and complete a questionnaire asking about their current health, recent travel history and whether they might be at potential risk through contact with Ebola patients. They will also be required to provide contact details. If neither the questionnaire nor the temperature reading raises any concerns, passengers will be told how to make contact with the NHS should they develop Ebola symptoms within the 21-day incubation period, and allowed to continue on their journey. It is important to stress that a person with Ebola is infectious only if they are displaying symptoms.

Any passenger who reports recent exposure to people who may have Ebola, or symptoms, or who has a raised temperature will undergo a clinical assessment and, if necessary, will be transferred to hospital. Passengers identified as having any level of increased risk of Ebola, but without any symptoms, will be given a Public Health England contact number to call should they develop any symptoms consistent with Ebola within the 21-day incubation period. Higher-risk individuals will be contacted on a daily basis by Public Health England. Should they develop symptoms, they will have the reassurance of knowing that this system will get them first-class medical care, as the NHS demonstrated with nurse William Pooley, and the best possible chance of survival.

We expect these measures to reach 89% of travellers we know have come to the UK from the affected region on tickets booked for the UK. However, it is important to note that no screening procedure will be able to identify 100% of the people arriving from Ebola-affected countries, not least because some passengers leaving the countries will not be ticketed directly through to the UK. So today I can announce that the Government will ensure, working with the devolved Administrations, that there is highly visible information displayed at all entry points to the UK asking passengers to identify themselves, in their own best interests, if they have travelled to the affected region in the last 21 days. This information for travellers will be available by the end of this week.

We are also taking other important measures. We have tested operational resilience with a comprehensive exercise that took place on Saturday, modelling cases in London and the north of England. Local emergency services across England are holding their own exercises this week and will share lessons learnt.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 34

It is vital that the right decisions are made on Ebola following any first contact with the NHS. So we have put in place a process for all call handlers on NHS 111 to ask people reporting respiratory symptoms about their recent travel history so that appropriate help can be given to higher-risk patients as quickly as possible. The Chief Medical Officer has also issued a series of alerts over recent months to doctors, nurses and pharmacists setting out what to do when someone presents with relevant symptoms. We will also send out guidance to hospital and GP receptionists.

The international profile of the UK as a favoured destination inevitably increases the risk that someone with Ebola will arrive here, so a great deal of planning has also gone into procedures for dealing with potential Ebola patients in the UK, working closely with the devolved Administrations. All ambulances are equipped with personal protective equipment, PPE. If a patient is suspected of having Ebola, they will be transported to the nearest hospital and put in an isolation room. A blood sample will then be sent to Public Health England’s specialist laboratory for rapid testing. If they test positive for Ebola, they will be transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in North London, which is the UK’s specialist centre for treating the most dangerous infectious diseases. We also have plans in place to surge Ebola bed capacity in Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield, making a total of 26 beds available in the UK.

We will always follow medical advice as to whether any measures we adopt are likely to be effective and are a proportionate response to risk. However, I believe that we are among the best and most prepared countries in the world.

Lastly, we are harnessing the UK’s expertise in life sciences to counter the threat from Ebola. The UK Government, alongside the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, have co-funded clinical trials of a potential vaccine which could be pivotal in the prevention effort. We are actively working with international partners to explore how we might appropriately make further vaccine available.

Finally, we should remember that the international community has shown that if we act decisively, we can defeat serious new infectious disease threats such as SARS and pandemic flu.

The situation will get worse before it gets better, but we should not flinch in our resolve to defeat Ebola both for the safety of the British population and as part of our responsibility to some of the poorest countries on the planet. Our response will continue to develop in the weeks and months to come, guided by advice from the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.52 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, first, I thank the noble Earl for repeating the Statement. I start by echoing his words by paying tribute to NHS staff members and members of the Armed Forces and

13 Oct 2014 : Column 35

of the Diplomatic Service who have been heavily involved in the Ebola response both at home and in West Africa for many months. I am sure that we have all been horrified by the devastating scenes reported on TV as the virus has spread. People will also be worried by reports of a second case of Ebola in Dallas. There will be particular concern that that second case has occurred in a health worker. We look to the Government for reassurance.

The noble Earl repeated the point that the Chief Medical Officer expects there to be a handful of cases. Perhaps he could say a little about what modelling has been undertaken to estimate the potential number of cases. What is the range of those estimates? Is a handful of cases the worst-case scenario? He will be aware of the independent review of the Government’s response to the swine flu pandemic by Dame Deirdre Hine, who said that the only predictable thing about such events is their unpredictability. Can the Minister confirm that the Government are planning for the worst-case scenario so that there can be no sense of complacency?

It is also right that we should consider further measures to ensure that we are fully prepared should an Ebola case be identified here. I would like to ask the noble Earl about the Government’s position, as there seems to have been some confusion. Last Thursday, a statement on the Department of Health’s website read:

“Entry screening in the UK is not recommended by the World Health Organisation, and there are no plans to introduce entry screening for Ebola in the UK”.

Just 24 hours later the Department of Health changed its position. Will the Minister say what official advice on screening his right honourable friend received from the Chief Medical Officer and from Public Health England? Did screening have the support of the Chief Medical Officer? In interviews over the last 48 hours the Chief Medical Officer seemed to be saying that there is no evidence to support the effectiveness of the screening programme that the Government are putting in place. Can the Minister confirm that?

Can the Minister also say who is in charge? He will remember concerns as the 2012 Health and Social Care Bill went through the House about the fragmentation of public health and about responsibility for it seeming to be split between Ministers, the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England, local authorities and the NHS at local level. There will be questions about who is in charge and who is accountable.

The preparation exercise undertaken this weekend was of course extremely welcome. The Minister will know that a patient was transferred from Newcastle, where they have negative pressure beds, to the Royal Free, where they have what are called Trexler beds. The current advice—which has recently been revised—from the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens is that patients can be handled in either type of bed. Can the Minister comment on that? If only Trexler beds are recommended, is he satisfied that the NHS currently has only two such beds, both at the Royal Free? Can the Minister update us about progress on the proposed second unit planned in Newcastle, which he mentioned when he repeated the Statement?

13 Oct 2014 : Column 36

While border checks and preparation exercises are important, the public will want to be reassured on three key issues. The first is that treatment is available, and that all necessary steps are being taken to develop a vaccine. The second is that the NHS is prepared and that staff are sufficiently aware of the symptoms. The third is that public information is readily available. I will take each in turn.

On treatment, although there is currently no specific treatment for Ebola, there is an experimental medication called ZMapp which the British nurse who was treated here was offered and took. Will it be standard practice to offer that medication to patients, and are the Government satisfied with the current supply of it in the NHS? The best assurance we could give people is that there will be a vaccine which will be made easily accessible to those who need it most. Can he update the House a little more on progress in its preparation?

With regard to preparation, is the Minister satisfied that all relevant NHS staff, including GPs, know how to identify Ebola, the precautions to be taken in any presentation and the protocols for handling it once it has been identified? Can he give an assurance that safety equipment is of the standard stipulated by the WHO? He will be aware that it is a cause for concern that breaches of protocol and the quality of safety equipment have been cited as potential causes of the infections in Spain and the US.

What plans do the Government have in the area of public awareness? Has the Minister considered introducing a telephone advice line? Does he consider that it would be wise to temporarily increase the number of clinicians available to answer NHS 111 calls?

The UK has, rightly, pledged £125 million to assist Sierra Leone in fighting the outbreak. However, with cases doubling every three to four weeks there is widespread agreement that the response of the international community in general has to date been slow and inadequate. The window of opportunity to halt Ebola will close very shortly, and I ask the Minister what extra steps the Government are taking to help the affected countries with resources and clinical expertise? What are they doing to mobilise action by the international community?

Finally, do the Health Secretary and the noble Earl accept that improving global health systems is the best way to prevent these outbreaks, or at least to ensure that such outbreaks are caught before they get out of control? It is indeed shocking that the index case for this outbreak was identified 10 months ago. My own party, along with the Governments of France, Germany and Senegal, among others, has called for universal health coverage to be placed at the centre of global development, yet the UK is currently opposing such plans at the UN. Can the Minister explain the Government’s opposition to this?

5 pm

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his comments and questions. I shall endeavour to cover as many as I can. First, let me turn to the advice that we have received in recent days from the Chief Medical Officer. It is important for me to underline that she has made it clear that we can expect

13 Oct 2014 : Column 37

a small number of cases over the next few months but that the degree of risk to the UK remains low. That is the point which noble Lords should keep in mind. It makes sense that we should identify people who have been to the affected areas and give them clear advice, making sure that they know exactly whom to call to get access to the best possible advice and care. The evidence from the Texas case, which the noble Lord cited, is that early identification of cases is absolutely critical and screening will help with that.

The noble Lord mentioned that the position of the Department of Health has changed over recent days. He is right; the Chief Medical Officer has been very clear that we are in uncharted territory so far as Ebola is concerned. We will learn as we go and base our policy on the best possible advice but we took the view that, as a Government, we would be failing in our duty if we did not take proportionate and targeted steps to safeguard the UK. The situation is developing all the time. No system of screening, as the Statement made clear, can offer 100% protection against an imported case of Ebola but our aim is to ensure that as many people as possible arriving from affected countries know the symptoms and how to get access to healthcare services as quickly as possible. We can be entirely confident in our ability to isolate and treat a case in this country, should it emerge, and we believe that the measures which we have announced will help to improve our ability to detect and isolate Ebola cases.

The noble Lord asked what modelling had been done on the number of cases. I am advised that a great deal of work has been done in an endeavour to predict numbers. I cannot give a precise number but the CMO’s advice is based on a risk assessment from Public Health England and she has been clear that, although the risk remains low, we should be prepared for a handful of cases over the coming months.

The noble Lord asked whether we had been planning for a worst-case scenario. As I said, the NHS has capacity available to cope with a number of cases. We are confident that the NHS’s capacity is adequate. We have two specialist beds available using the Trexler system at the Royal Free. There is further capacity at the Royal Free itself and surge capacity at a number of other units around the country. It is important, however, to understand that Trexler beds are not the only type of beds that can be used; other beds are appropriate for treating Ebola patients, given that the staff have appropriate PPE.

Turning to the prospects for treatment of Ebola, we are using our position as a global centre of research to understand Ebola better and help prevent a future outbreak. Working with the Wellcome Trust, we have launched a global call for research which could produce evidence to better manage the current outbreak and any that occurs in the future. The UK, alongside the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, has also co-funded clinical trials of a potential vaccine, as was mentioned in the Statement, which could be pivotal in preventing outbreaks. At the moment I am not in a position to give further details of that work.

The reassurance to the House is that there is now an expert group, chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, alongside Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust. The Chief Medical Officer and Sir Mark Walport, the

13 Oct 2014 : Column 38

Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, have agreed that this group should be a SAGE group—that is, a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. This will include the best experts that we have available.

The noble Lord asked me about international support for the effort in Sierra Leone on top of the support that we are providing from this country. As a result of the conference held in London on 2 October, a number of countries and organisations have made pledges. Australia has pledged £6.2 million, Canada £18.6 million and Switzerland £3.25 million. Cuba has pledged a significant number of staff. At the African Development Bank a further £94.9 million package of grants and loans has been approved, of which £31 million will go to Sierra Leone. Save the Children is launching a £44 million appeal, with £25 million for Sierra Leone.

Turning back to the UK, the noble Lord asked me about GPs and whether they know how to identify Ebola and what to do. As the Statement mentioned, the CMO has sent out a number of alerts, including to GPs. We are not at all complacent about this. We are asking the Royal College of General Practitioners and the BMA about how we could get messages out more effectively to their constituent members, as they have very good channels of communication.

Finally, I hope that I have sufficiently conveyed to the House that there is clear responsibility for the efforts that we are making in this country and in Sierra Leone to contain this outbreak. Ultimately, Ministers are accountable but, as I said, we have a SAGE group in operation; we have Public Health England providing advice to that group, along with the advice of other experts. The lines of accountability are clear.

5.08 pm

Lord Patel (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his Statement. I have two quick questions. One relates to the staff who have volunteered to go out to Sierra Leone and to all soldiers. If any of them get infected while they are working there, will they be brought back to the United Kingdom for treatment? My second question relates to the treatment. While there are likely to be early trials of the vaccine that is being developed, it may well prove ineffective. But there are other companies developing other treatments. Are there plans to fast-track approval of these drugs if they are found to be effective? We know that the stock of ZMapp is now exhausted; further monoclonal antibodies development is likely to take some time.

Earl Howe: There is a limited amount that I can say to the noble Lord about his second question. A general answer is that we would naturally want to give as fast a passage as possible through the regulatory process to any breakthrough treatment for Ebola. It should be borne in mind, however, that safety is the paramount concern. This is why it is important that the vaccine, which is now in clinical trials, is thoroughly tested for safety as well as efficacy. If there is further news on this that I can impart to the noble Lord, I will be happy to write to him.

The noble Lord asked whether staff who volunteer will be repatriated if they contract the disease. My advice is that decisions on repatriation would be taken

13 Oct 2014 : Column 39

on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the clinical condition of the person and the benefit they may gain from repatriation. Repatriation involves a long journey that can potentially be dangerous for the patient. Once there is high-quality treatment available in Sierra Leone, it will not necessarily be in the best interests of the patient to be repatriated. That is why we are building the 12-bed unit specifically for national and international healthcare workers.

Lord Fowler (Con): My Lords, I totally support the measures set out by the Minister. It is obviously sensible, as it has been in past events, for the Government to follow carefully the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer. Is not the real long-term task permanently to strengthen the inadequate and underfinanced health systems in so many parts of Africa? Would that not be to the benefit of tackling not just Ebola but other life-threatening conditions such as malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS?

Earl Howe: My noble friend has immense experience in this area and I completely agree with him. I attended a conference in Washington a few days ago which was called by the President of the United States at which 44 Health Ministers from around the world were present. I emphasised the very point my noble friend has made: yes, it is important to provide assistance to deal with the current emergency—everybody is agreed about that—but we must not lose sight of the need for the health systems in those poor countries to be bolstered in the way my noble friend mentioned and for there to be adequately trained clinicians and healthcare staff on the ground as well as diagnostic facilities so that in future those countries are capable of some resilience if they are hit by such an emergency again. I can tell my noble friend that DfID funding is going into that effort, as it has been systematically over the past few years.

Lord Boateng (Lab): My Lords, the President of Ghana and chair of ECOWAS—the affected region—will be visiting the United Kingdom next week. He will be received graciously by Her Majesty the Queen, and he will come to this House on 22 October in order to address Members of this House and the other place. The success of the welcome measures outlined by the noble Earl will depend on the active engagement and involvement of West Africa and the whole of the affected region. Will the Minister ensure that the request that the President has put in to meet the Prime Minister and Cabinet members in order to discuss the appropriate co-operation between West Africa and the United Kingdom on these measures will be granted? The President has already made clear, and will make it clear to Members of this House next week, the appalling shortage of PPE and safety equipment on the ground in West Africa as we speak. There is a vital need for further resources and increased co-operation. The Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers need to hear that message.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me prior notice of his question. We very much look forward to the visit of the President of

13 Oct 2014 : Column 40

Ghana. His wish to discuss the Ebola emergency with the Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet has been fed through at the highest governmental level. I cannot yet confirm whether or with whom such a meeting might be arranged, but I have asked that a response be forthcoming to the Ghanaian High Commission as soon as possible.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, the noble Earl mentioned information to GPs, pharmacists and so on. Can he tell the House anything about information to be given to the general public about the symptoms that we should be looking out for? Obviously I appreciate that one does not want to cause alarm, although I think the public are likely to be alarmed anyway, nor to overwhelm the services, but I imagine the Minister would agree that information is important.

Secondly, can he say anything about advice to air passengers? I do not mean those coming directly from the countries that we know are affected, but all air passengers. I imagine that all of us after a plane journey have got off thinking, “Hmm, with all that stale air, I think I’m about to go down with something—I can feel it at the back of my throat”. Are there precautions that air passengers generally should be taking? If so, will there be advice about this?

Earl Howe: My Lords, we are reviewing those very questions all the time. Our position at the moment is that it would be disproportionate to alert the general public to the risk of Ebola, because it remains low. As for air passengers generally, it is important to understand that the virus is transmitted only by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. It is not an airborne infection. So while I do not in the least belittle the importance of a public health campaign should that prove necessary, we do not consider that it is warranted at the current time.

Lord Winston (Lab): My Lords, I am slightly concerned—I hope the noble Earl will forgive me for not giving him advance notice of this question—about the possible risk of seeming a little complacent about saying that this is low-risk. We know that viruses mutate, for example, and we know that the Ebola virus can mutate. We know perfectly well that it is not airborne at the moment, and we know that the pharyngeal and upper respiratory tract cells are unlikely to harbour the virus. However, can the noble Earl assure us that people are looking at the risk of mutation of this virus so that we can make certain that its mode of transmission does not change and that, therefore, it will continue to be low-risk?

Earl Howe: I can give the noble Lord that assurance. There is very close monitoring of the virus itself and the way in which it mutates. I repeat that the official advice is that risk to the public in this country remains low. That advice is based on the fact that we have robust, well developed and well tested systems for managing infectious diseases when they arise, supported by a wide range of experts. The Chief Medical Officer has estimated that we should expect Ebola in the UK, but not more than a handful of cases, and we would be able to cope with those cases.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 41

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, does not the handful of cases to which the noble Earl has just referred contrast very sharply with the prediction that 1 million people may die in West Africa? Given the fetid conditions and grinding poverty in places such as Monrovia and Freetown, does he not agree that this public health epidemic has been brought about because of the conditions that we have allowed to fester for so long?

Would the noble Earl not agree that the WHO was very slow in responding when this was first identified? Does he not also agree that an immediate problem is the disposal of corpses, which carry the risks of contagion? Furthermore, when will the 700 beds in Sierra Leone to which he alluded actually come on line?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I believe that the WHO itself has acknowledged that its response could have been swifter. It is easy to say this in hindsight, but I am sure that the noble Lord’s view on that is shared by others. Nevertheless, the WHO has not been slow in rallying support for efforts in the three countries affected. It is now working energetically with many developed countries to provide support, and I would not wish to criticise the WHO in those respects.

On the disposal of corpses, the noble Lord makes an important point. We know that many cases of Ebola in the three countries have arisen as a result of people being in contact with the corpses of people who have died from the disease. That has been as a consequence of the cultural traditions in those countries, which are very hard to displace or persuade people not to follow. It is nevertheless part of our effort in Sierra Leone that we should inform people there that their burial customs need to be set to one side for the duration of the epidemic. This is a very difficult thing to do, for understandable reasons, but that is the effort we are making and it is bearing fruit.

As to the programme for building 700 beds, I do not have a precise date to give the noble Lord but if I receive advice before the end of this debate, I shall tell him.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, manifestly, this is a terrible disease, not only in its nature but in its scale. According to the rate of growth indicated by the Minister, within around six months we could be looking at between 150,000 and 500,000 deaths, and between 2 million and 5 million suspected cases. Let us hope that that does not occur. However, in view of that, may I ask him one question about screening and entry? I welcome the fact that there is to be extended screening at Heathrow, Gatwick and the Eurostar terminal—two airports and one train station. Manifestly, this does not cover anything like the potential entrants to this country from those regions. With cheap travel and so on, I understand the difficulties in covering every airport, particularly as people break their journeys and do not come directly. However, is it not possible, given the use of so many biometric passports and the technology introduced to UKBA, somehow to target at least people from that area as potentials for screening, wherever they arrive in this country, rather than limit the coverage to three geographical in-ports? Does the Minister have any information on whether this hypothesis has even been tested?

13 Oct 2014 : Column 42

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. Existing technology used by the Border Force can inform it about individual passengers coming to this country and identify those who have recently travelled from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea on routes with onward connections to the UK. Systems are therefore in place. We know that fewer than 1,000 passengers arrived by air from the affected countries in September. We are not therefore dealing with huge numbers. We know that around 85% of such people arrive at Heathrow, which is why we are starting there. However, it is important to look as widely as we can; the noble Lord is right. Again we should be reassured by the fact that there is screening on departure from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea but we are starting the in-country screening in the UK at the three ports I mentioned, with the intention of scaling up screening, based on our experience. Plans are in place for a further rollout to other UK ports, if that should prove necessary.

The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, my noble friend Lady Finlay of Llandaff has asked me to apologise to the House for her absence; she had to go to Wolverhampton. I hear the noble Earl saying that the department will consult the BMA and the RCGP about getting the message across to GPs. My noble friend asked me to ask whether a diagnostic algorithm was going to be posted on all appropriate websites, including those of the royal colleges and the BMA.

Earl Howe: I am not aware that the system being conveyed to GPs, which is not for diagnosis but for the referral of patients, can be called an algorithm, but there is a checklist of questions that we are recommending GPs use. That advice has been adapted for use in all healthcare settings, including NHS 111, as I mentioned in the Statement. Naturally, we shall take advice on whether the questionnaire and the sequence of questions are adequate. If it needs amending, we shall certainly not hesitate to do that.

Baroness Andrews (Lab): The Minister mentioned SARS in his Statement. We have very few precedents, and he has already described this as being uncharted territory in relation to Ebola. What lessons were learnt after the SARS epidemic, particularly in relation to the organisation of global research? It was a different case because the virus was unknown but the same issues of mutation came up as those to which my noble friend referred. How will the lessons learnt be applied?

Earl Howe: The main lesson learnt from SARS, which in general was a very successful exercise, was that there are two keys to this. The first is informing people what to do if they think that they have symptoms, and the second is making sure that the NHS knows what to do if presented with a possible case of the illness. I hope my comments have conveyed that those two things are the focus of our activity in this country. We also need to make sure that adequate isolation facilities are available for patients with these highly transmittable conditions. That work has been done in the mean time, hence the isolation facilities at the Royal Free and other hospitals to which I have referred.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 43

Baroness Warnock (CB): With regard to research, could the noble Earl reassure us that the clinical trials will be speeded up by waiving the normal practice of control procedures? It seems unethical to use blind control in a case where the consequences of not being treated are fatal.

Earl Howe: I completely take the point of the noble Baroness, and there are processes on which we can draw to ensure that breakthrough treatments are fast-tracked. There are, however, certain necessary stages in testing any new vaccine or treatment that comes forward to make sure that it is safe. It may be clinically effective in its own way but have unacceptable side-effects, so we need to test that. I can reassure her that regulation will not stand in the way of making a breakthrough treatment available.

To answer the earlier question of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I shall write to him with further details, but the 700-bed facility is under construction now. The first facility as part of that will be open by the end of October in Kerry Town.

Scotland within the United Kingdom

Statement

5.28 pm

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, as Deputy Leader of the House I wish to repeat a Statement made in the House of Commons by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland entitled “Scotland within the United Kingdom”. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement to the House about the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom. As honourable Members will well know, on 18 September 2014 the people of Scotland voted in a referendum on independence. I am pleased to report to the House that by a margin of 10.6%, or 55.3% to 44.7%, the people of Scotland have voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The referendum was underpinned by the Edinburgh agreement signed between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government in October 2012. That agreement ensured that the referendum would have a clear legal base, that it would be conducted in a way that commanded the confidence of both Parliaments, Governments and people and, most importantly, that it would deliver a fair, legal and decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland—a result that everyone would respect.

Over 2 million people made a positive choice for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. The franchise for the referendum included for the first time ever in this country 16 and 17 year-olds, and, at a time when our elections have suffered from declining participation, the turnout across Scotland was nearly 85%—something that I am sure all across this House would welcome. Politics works best when people take an active interest in supporting the things that matter to them most. It also adds emphasis to the democratic result.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 44

The decision of the people of Scotland was clear. They voted to continue to be a part of this family of nations, they voted to continue to work alongside people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and they voted for us all to remain together as a United Kingdom.

It is important that everyone now accepts this result. We should all move on from the 55% or 45% to working for 100% of people in Scotland, and that is what we are doing. The vow made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition during the referendum campaign is already being put into practice. The Smith commission, chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was up and running on 19 September. Lord Smith will convene cross-party talks to reach agreement on the proposals for further devolution to Scotland. His terms of reference make clear that the recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.

But this process is not just about the parties. The referendum opened up civic engagement in Scotland across sectors, communities and organisations, and Lord Smith has made clear he wants to hear from all of these groups to ensure that the recommendations he produces are informed by views from right across Scottish society.

By St Andrew’s Day, Lord Smith will publish heads of agreement. The Government are committed to turning these recommendations into draft clauses by Burns Night 2015. The timetable is demanding but that is because the demand is there, in Scotland, to see change delivered, and it is a demand we will meet.

On Friday, 10 October, all of the five main Scottish parties submitted their proposals to the commission. In the case of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, these proposals reflect the positions published by the parties prior to the referendum campaign. The SNP and Green Party agreed to join the cross-party talks after the referendum, and they too submitted proposals on Friday.

Today I can confirm that the Government are meeting the first step in the further devolution process with the publication of a Command Paper. The Command Paper we are presenting today provides a clear, factual summary of the proposals for further devolution in Scotland published by each of the three pro-UK parties, as we committed to do during the course of the referendum campaign.

These party plans encompass a broad, complex and often interlinked range of topics from taxation to borrowing and from welfare to regulation. To inform and assist consideration of each of these proposals, the paper also sets out factual information about the current situation in these key policy areas, as well as presenting some background information about devolution in Scotland to date. This publication is wholly without prejudice to the work of the Smith commission, which will look at proposals from all of the parties and others and seek to establish the ground for consensus.

This will be the first time, in the development of Scotland’s constitutional future, that all of its main parties are participating in a process to consider further devolution: this is a truly historic moment and one that I very much welcome.

13 Oct 2014 : Column 45

I am confident that with all five main Scottish parties working together, in collaboration, we will reach an agreement that will provide the enhanced powers to the people of Scotland and accountability for the Scottish Parliament while retaining the strength and benefits of being part of the United Kingdom. That was the message heard loud and clear during the referendum campaign and it is one that this Government—and all of Scotland’s political parties—are committed to supporting”.

5.33 pm

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and I record our gratitude to the Government for making copies of it available to us in advance.

Just over three weeks ago, in unprecedented numbers, the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. This was an historic decision. The result was emphatically clear and should be accepted by all participants. The Scottish people voted for pooling and sharing resources across the United Kingdom, they voted to continue with devolution and they voted for a stronger Scottish Parliament. Today, I pay particular tribute to my right honourable friends Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, who put the case for the United Kingdom with so much passion throughout the campaign. As well as all the people who took part in the campaign, it is also worth mentioning the 100-town tour of the right honourable Jim Murphy on top of his Irn Bru crate. Following the referendum, we can say with confidence that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people and that we shall have a stronger Scottish Parliament.

A vital part of this campaign was the commitment made by the leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to a strengthened and empowered Scottish Parliament. Led by the right honourable Gordon Brown, we guaranteed a clear and definitive timetable for further powers, and Her Majesty’s Opposition are pleased to see the Secretary of State publishing the Command Paper, ahead of time, today. Can the Minister confirm that a Motion now appears on the Order Paper detailing this timetable?

The process that is ongoing under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, will guarantee that more powers will come to the Scottish Parliament. The Labour Party will enter these talks in a spirit of partnership and co-operation with all the other parties, and we will apply a simple test to reaching a conclusion: what outcome respects the result of the referendum and will make people across Scotland better off? The people of Scotland have voted for pooling, sharing and prosperity, and that is what should guide the Smith commission’s discussions.

The referendum attracted the highest level of participation of any national poll ever held in Scotland, as was mentioned by the Minister. It is important that, as we develop the next stage of devolution, we reflect that. The Secretary of State mentioned in the Statement how voluntary organisations can participate. Can the Minister give us an indication of how individual members of the public can contribute, and can he tell the House how the noble Lord, Lord Smith, intends to engage with people across every area of Scotland?

13 Oct 2014 : Column 46

When we debated the agreement for the referendum two years ago, my honourable friend Margaret Curran said that we would spend the campaign vigorously defending devolution from those who would seek to bring it to an end. Over the last two years, that is what we in the Labour Party have done. This campaign concludes with the devolution settlement not only secured but strengthened. We will continue to argue that the best future for Scottish people comes from pooling and sharing resources inside the United Kingdom, with a powerhouse Parliament that can again change the lives of people across Scotland. That is what the people of Scotland want and that is what the Scottish Labour Party will fight for.

5.37 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, for his welcome of the publication of the Command Paper and indeed for what he said about the referendum. I join him in paying tribute to Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Jim Murphy. Gordon Brown’s speech on the day before polling day was one of the most electrifying that I have heard in a long, long time and it was very influential. I do not think that I know about even a fraction of the time and energy that Alistair Darling put into the Better Together campaign. He deserves all credit and praise for that. I think that Jim Murphy took more than one Irn Bru box as he went round Scotland. I know that his campaign was a great inspiration to many people who themselves were promoting the Better Together campaign up and down the country.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, that as a result of this we should and must have a stronger Scottish Parliament. He asked about a Motion on the Order Paper. I understand that there is a Motion on the Order Paper of the other place in, I think, the names of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, Mr Alistair Darling and Mr Gordon Brown. As I understand it—I do not know whether it has been confirmed—there is to be a debate tomorrow. I should perhaps indicate that there will be a debate on devolution in your Lordships’ House on the 29th of this month, and I am sure that noble Lords from all sides of the House will want to take part in that.

The noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, also asked me about engagement with the commission under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin. I understand that the noble Lord will be undertaking a stakeholder engagement process, and I encourage all interested parties to respond to that. The commission also has a website, which is up and running and into which people can input ideas and proposals. He said that the test for the Labour Party would be whether the outcome of the discussions respects the outcome of the referendum. I very much endorse that. The importance of pulling resources across the United Kingdom was a message that came through very strongly, particularly in the latter stages of the campaign.

When the Scotland Bill 2012 was going through this House and the other place, the Government set out three principles: any proposal should have cross-party support; it should be based on evidence; and it should not be to the detriment to other parts of the United

13 Oct 2014 : Column 47

Kingdom. I believe that these are sensible proposals and, within the context, as emphasised by the people of Scotland in the referendum, they should also secure Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.

5.40 pm

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD): My Lords, it is remarkable that a 300 year-old union between nations peacefully and democratically renewed itself. It is incumbent on this Parliament and the parties within it to carry through their vows. As the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, said, it is very welcome that the publication is ahead of time in commencing its work. Liberal Democrats, with our colleagues and friends in the campaign for Better Together, indicated that a vote of no in the referendum was not a vote for no change.

The Command Paper’s analysis of the proposals by the three parties will assist in informing the public for their participation in the Smith commission. If the vow by the SNP is to be held, that this is a once-in-a-generation vote, then the proposals coming out of the Smith commission and those that will form the draft clauses, as the noble and learned Lord indicated, will also need to stand the test of time for the long term. That is why I and others in this Chamber have put forward for consideration a conference on the new union with a wider scope for other parts of the United Kingdom reform process too.

Will the noble and learned Lord also reflect on my view that if these proposals are to stand the test of time, and if the results of the Smith commission and the draft clauses will, in effect, be home rule proposals, then every household and voter in Scotland will need to be aware of them and their consequences? It will be insufficient for the Government simply to publish draft clauses that may well form part of a referendum. It will be important for the Government to make sure that every household in Scotland, through a publication direct through the letterbox, will be aware of the proposals and the potential opportunities for them, so that this is for the long term and for our lifetime.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I agree that these proposals must stand the test of time and re-emphasise the fact that Scotland and the United Kingdom remain united. It would not be right for the people of Scotland, who voted so decisively to remain part of the United Kingdom, if we then adopted proposals that started to unpick and unravel the union. I do not believe that that is what people expect.

My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, are right to draw attention to the fact that the Command Paper has been published ahead of time. I am not sure whether there ever was a budget, so I cannot say that it was within budget. My noble friend asked me to make commitments about sending things to every household. I am not sure that I can make such commitments on the hoof, but I take his point. It is an important point because I sometimes think that we have never been given the full credit for what Parliament passed in the Scotland Act 2012. Indeed, someone who was campaigning on the yes side said to me, “Why did you guys and girls never make more of the powers that

13 Oct 2014 : Column 48

have actually been transferred?” We have seen in the past few days, with the Finance Secretary John Swinney making tax proposals on the replacement of stamp duty, land tax and landfill tax, that these powers are now real. With the Scottish rate of income tax kicking in in April 2016, substantial powers are already in train and being delivered on the back of a commitment made by each of the three parties in their manifestos at the last election. So when some people question our willingness to hold to what we commit to, we need to point not only to what we did then, but also to what the Labour Government did in 1997.

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke (Lab): My Lords, I am very glad that the noble and learned Lord emphasised the 2012 settlement, because I think that is something that people were not aware of in the course of the referendum campaign. I also thank the noble and learned Lord for emphasising the scale of the majority for the no vote, because, in the past few weeks, I have sometimes wondered if we did actually win. We have learnt that those who shout loudest do not necessarily find themselves on the winning side. It was the quiet majority in Scotland that voted no and were sometimes frightened to admit that. Does the Minister agree that, regardless of the outcome of the Smith commission and the conclusions of all the major political parties in this House, that will not assuage the views of the separatists and that we will have to return again and again to emphasise the scale of the majority for remaining part of the United Kingdom?

On a specific point, the Command Paper contains a number of proposals for variations in income tax and other economic measures. What action will be taken to ensure that there is no adverse effect on macroeconomic policy, because any adverse change in macroeconomic policy will affect not just the people of Scotland but the people of all of the United Kingdom.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right to emphasise that there was a decisive outcome. Just as we are being held quite properly to give effect to the commitments which all parties made in the referendum, so the Scottish National Party should be held to the commitment made by the First Minister that the referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-generation matter.

I have already named three Members of the other place. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the noble Baroness. Many Members of your Lordships’ House contributed much in terms of campaigning for this referendum and I wish to thank them too.

The noble Baroness asked about the macroeconomic powers and specifics with regard to proposals in the White Paper. It is fair to say that the purpose of the White Paper is to bring together the different proposals and put them in the context of the current situation. It is not therefore doing a subsequent analysis. It is very much a matter for the Smith commission to consider the implications for particular proposals. I have no doubt that a view from the noble Baroness would be properly considered by members of the commission.