Government of Wales Bill — Decisions affecting vital interests of a region — 2 Mar 1998

Considered in Committee [Progress, 25 February].

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin):

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new schedule 1-- Forestry Commisioners.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

beginning with the establishment of the Residuary Body" substitute "period beginning with the establishment of the Residuary Body and ending with 31st March 1999".

(3) Omit--

(a) in sub-paragraph (3), "Subject to sub-paragraph (4),", and

(b) sub-paragraph (4),

(under which the Secretary of State may specify a period longer than the transitional period as the period at the end of which the Residuary Body is to be wound up).

(4) For sub-paragraphs (5) to (7) (duty of Residuary Body to submit scheme for its winding up and to make arrangements for transfers etc. and power of Secretary of State to make orders) substitute--

"(5) The Residuary Body shall, before the end of the period of three months beginning with the day on which the Government of Wales Act 1998 is passed, submit to the Secretary of State a scheme for the winding up of the Residuary Body.

(6) The scheme shall include in relation to the Residuary Body's remaining functions, property, rights and liabilities--

(a) a statement of arrangements made by the Residuary Body for their transfer by the Residuary Body to another body or bodies,

(b) proposals for their transfer by the Secretary of State to another body or bodies, or

(c) such a statement in relation to some of them and such proposals in relation to the rest.

(7) The Secretary of State may by order make provision for giving effect to the scheme (with or without modifications) and for the transfer of functions, property, rights and liabilities of the Residuary Body to another body or bodies (whether or not as proposed in the scheme).".'.-- [Mr. Ron Davies.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The First Deputy Chairman:

With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 515.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

As a body corporate, under common law the assembly will automatically be entitled to a seal. The new clause relates to the significance that courts attach to documents

2 Mar 1998 : Column 728

submitted in evidence and bearing the assembly's seal. Such documents are to be regarded as properly made unless the contrary is proved. There have been many similar clauses in recent legislation, including equivalent clauses in the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause relates to the issue of private legislation and is, to some extent, a probing new clause, if that term may be used. Clarification is needed on several questions regarding private Bills--I emphasise that we are talking about private Bills, not private Members' Bills.

I imagine that the answer to the first question will be yes. Does the assembly, as a geographically defined body within the United Kingdom, have the right to promote private Bills, as would a local authority or any other body, and the right to oppose private Bills?

The second question is: can Wales, as a unit, be considered as an area for which it is appropriate to initiate private Bills--can the assembly initiate private Bills that apply to the whole of Wales but which would need to pass through the private Bill mechanisms in the House?

The third aspect of the new clause concerns the extent to which the assembly may deal with private Bills. In the fairly recent past, fairly controversial private Bills from Wales have taken hours and hours on the Floor of the House. The Cardiff Bay Barrage Act 1993 is a perfect example of legislation that should be dealt with in the assembly instead of swallowing time on the Floor of the House of Commons.

There are less controversial examples--such as the Porthmadog harbour revision order that affects part of my constituency. From time to time, all hon. Members become involved with such legislation. The hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) is in the Chamber. A few years ago, a Bangor Market Bill passed through the House by way of the private Bill procedure--and no doubt another resembling it will do so again in future.

4.45 pm

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Thank you for your patience, Mr. Martin. This new clause concerns the power of the assembly to hold referendums. I want to probe whether the assembly will have that power--I certainly believe that it should and I believe that the absence of primary legislative powers strengthens our case.

The power exists already at varying levels of government. Parliament has the power to hold a referendum after it has passed an Act specifically for that purpose. The Scottish Parliament will also be able to do that as it will have primary legislative powers. At the bottom level of government, schedule 12, part IV of the Local Government Act 1972 confers the power to hold community polls on any question to be decided at a community meeting if the chair of the meeting consents and if the poll is demanded by at least 10 local government electors present at the meeting, or by at least a third of local government electors present at the meeting. That power exists at the basis of government at the community level.

The power of unitary or county councils to hold referendums is more ambiguous. However, section 141 of the 1972 Act allows those bodies to conduct an investigation and collect information concerning the county or any part of it. I am told that that could involve holding a countywide poll in certain circumstances. A parallel power in Scotland enabled Strathclyde regional council to conduct a referendum in March 1994 on the Government's proposals for the water industry in Scotland. That referendum was influential in the debate about whether the Scottish water industry should be privatised.

I believe that the national assembly should be given this power unambiguously--although it might not use it and, if it did, it would be used sparingly. It could be particularly useful in the kind of circumstances that arose in Scotland--if a future Government tried to impose upon Wales a set of policies that were unacceptable to Wales, which is not unheard of in Welsh history. For example, a future Government might wish to impose selection in the school system. We are currently debating education legislation that does that to a limited degree: it allows schools to apply to select pupils for certain subjects on the basis of aptitude. A future Government might introduce far more sweeping selection proposals.

If the national assembly could not prevent the introduction of such policies through secondary legislation--it might not be able to do that because of the way in which the legislation is designed--it might express its objections. Although the Government should take the assembly's views into account, they might decide to override them. The Secretary of State of the day could claim to have public opinion on his or her side--it would not be the first time that politicians have claimed to speak

2 Mar 1998 : Column 734

for the people; they have an unpleasant tendency to do that. Even my colleagues are sometimes guilty of claiming to speak for the community at large.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause deals with the important matter of the right of members of the Executive Committee of the assembly to obtain advice from staff of United Kingdom Government Departments, or other public bodies, on matters that are relevant to their functions. Existing, and particularly proposed, legislation on subjects whose executive and administrative dimensions have been devolved will have implications for Wales. A member of the Executive Committee who is in charge of, for example, education or health in Wales might need advice from UK governmental staff in London who are drawing up legislation that affects Wales.

Mr. Denzil Davies:

I am interested in the right hon. Gentleman's reference to UK Government Departments.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn .

(b) how the Assembly proposes to monitor the extent to which any proposed subordinate legislation is consistent with sustaining or promoting business in Wales and the extent to which it imposes obligations or costs on businesses in Wales.

(5) The Assembly shall keep the scheme under review and in the year following each ordinary election shall consider whether it should be remade or revised.

(6) The Assembly shall publish the scheme when first made and whenever subsequently remade and, if the scheme is revised without being remade shall publish either the revisions or the scheme as revised (as it considers appropriate).

(7) After each financial year of the Assembly, the Assembly shall publish a report of how its proposals as specified in the scheme are implemented in that financial year.'.-- [Ms Lawrence.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 14 would require the assembly to establish a scheme stating its proposals on sustaining and promoting business in Wales. From the commencement of our debates on the Bill, and following publication of the White Paper, the Secretary of State has maintained that the legislation is built around partnership and inclusivity. In clause 64, the Bill is already innovative in stating a commitment to consult business in Wales, which has not previously been consulted. The new clause attempts to recognise that innovation, but goes a little further and gives business interests parity with the interests of both local government and the voluntary sector, which are already more comprehensively provided for in clauses 110 and 111.

The proposals in the new clause attempt to establish a proactive approach in the relationship between the assembly and the business sector, rather than a merely reactive approach by the assembly, which might have a knock-on effect on the Welsh business sector.

I have determined from my discussions with businesses in my constituency that there is widespread support for the Bill's proposals requiring the assembly to assess the cost implications for business of any proposed regulations and to consider businesses' views. There is widespread support also for a strategic approach to economic development in Wales--via the new Welsh Development Agency--by establishing links with the four economic forums, by placing renewed emphasis on indigenous businesses and, therefore, by implication, by placing emphasis on sustainable development.

The Federation of Small Businesses has stated that there are 3.45 million small and medium-sized enterprises across the United Kingdom, and that if the economic climate enabled each of them to take on one more employee, there would be no unemployment in the UK. UK-wide, 80 per cent. of jobs are provided by companies employing fewer than 20 people. In my constituency, that percentage is even higher.

In the spirit of the partnership and inclusivity promised by the Secretary of State, the views of SMEs must be heard and listened to if we are to make real progress in the battle to improve gross domestic product in Wales. Within the framework of the national assembly, there must be a recognition of the role of business in that process. Every effort must be made to improve Wales's ability to produce competitive goods and services.

2 Mar 1998 : Column 749

The assembly's economic structures and policies must promote Welsh business as the basis of improving the standard of living of everyone--not only selected parts of Wales.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn .

(2) In making such determination, the presiding officer--

(a) may not be overruled by any resolution of the Assembly, and

(b) shall have regard for the views of the region possibly affected through its regional committee and the individual members thereof, which views shall be binding upon the presiding officer unless he certifies that he is satisfied that the same are without any reasonable weight.'.-- [Mr. Ancram.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord):

With this, it will be convenient to discuss new clause 24-- Decentralisation within Wales --

Question put , That the clause be read a Second time:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 144, Noes 271.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 120 (+2 tell)075.3%
Lab269 (+2 tell) 0065.0%
LDem0 24052.2%
PC2 0050.0%
Total:271 144066.6%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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