My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Wales Bill, has consented to place her interest and prerogative, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Clause 4: Devolved Welsh authorities
1: Clause 4, page 3, line 33, at end insert “(with the exception of the Open University)”
My Lords, my amendment seeks to make crystal clear the constitutional position of the Open University. The OU itself still has a shadow of doubt, despite the welcome amendments from the Minister, which seek to clarify that the Open University is a cross-UK institution that belongs to no one country but to all countries of the UK. One intention of the amendment, which is simple and straightforward, is to ensure that it is clear that the Open University is not a devolved Welsh body, as referred to in Clause 4, on page 3 of the Bill. That clause relates to devolved Welsh authorities and refers to higher education institutions; the intention is that the Open University be excepted from that.
I am grateful to the Minister for looking again at how the Open University should sit within the Bill, because it is a unique institution in how it has opened up access to higher education for adults. It is nearly 50 years old, was way ahead of the time in how it delivered distance learning and so on, and remains unique in the way it delivers part-time distance education. It is also unique in being the only university in the United Kingdom to receive public funding from, and therefore have formal obligations to, the four nations of the UK. It is a UK university. I know that, as a hugely successful university attracting adult learners from some of our most disadvantaged communities and working with employers across Wales and the rest of the UK, it is very familiar to noble Lords across the House. But it is important to emphasise that it should not be seen as an English institution just because its headquarters are in England, any more than it should be seen as a Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish institution because it has a base in each of those countries. It is a UK institution and belongs to all of those countries—a category all of its own. The amendment serves to clarify this aspect of its status; I am grateful to the Minister for seeking to do so. I make it absolutely clear at this point that this amendment will not pushed to a vote. I am hoping that the Minister will take the opportunity to make it clear that the structure, activities and status of the OU within the Higher Education (Wales) Act 2015, where it is treated as a distinct and special case, is consistent with this Bill.
My Lords, very briefly, I support what the noble Baroness has just said. I am a former chancellor of the Open University and officiated at a number of graduation ceremonies in Cardiff, and there is no question but that the people of Wales consider the Open University to be a thoroughly national institution and not an English institution.
My Lords, I am grateful for those two contributions. Before I speak to the government amendments, I begin by welcoming yesterday’s vote in the National Assembly to approve the legislative consent Motion for the Bill. In particular, I thank Assembly Members, the First Minister and the Welsh Government for their support for the Motion. It stands as testament to how far we have come. Noble Lords’ careful and thorough scrutiny has served to strengthen the Bill greatly and I thank them for their participation as the Bill has moved through this House.
The Government have listened carefully to the issues that have been raised throughout these debates and have brought forward amendments to address many of them. I thank my officials, led by Geth Williams, Peter Newbitt-Jones and Victoria Miles-Keay, and their team for their hard work on the Bill and for working closely with the Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission to resolve outstanding areas of concern. I have brought forward some amendments to address issues that have arisen from these discussions as well.
The Bill we have before us now is a better Bill as a result of the scrutiny of the House and the vast experience of noble Lords across the House. I place on record my personal appreciation for the diligent and constructive way in which noble Lords have approached the debates at each stage. In particular, I am very grateful for the engagement and constructive approach of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Ely. Nearly 20 years ago, we served together on the National Assembly Advisory Group; I do not think we could have expected that we would be here today—nearly 20 years on —discussing this Bill.
As we have also discussed, the historic agreement of a fiscal framework last month was also key to the Assembly’s consideration of the legislative consent Motion. I pay tribute to my right honourable friend Alun Cairns, the Secretary of State; my right honourable friend David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury; and the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford, for their work on that fiscal framework. I also pay tribute to the considerable work undertaken by my right honourable friend Stephen Crabb, who did much of the heavy lifting before Alun Cairns became Secretary of State. Taken together, this Bill and the fiscal framework deliver the clearer, stronger and fairer settlement we set out to deliver.
The government amendments before noble Lords today are largely minor and clarify a small number of outstanding issues. Clause 29(6) provides a signpost to related provisions later on in the Bill, including those requiring consultation between Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State before certain harbour functions are exercised. Government Amendment 3 adds a new provision to that clause to signpost the consultation requirements in the new Clause 36, which was added at Lords Report stage. It concerns the exercise of functions by the Secretary of State in relation to two or more harbours, at least one of which is devolved to Welsh Ministers.
Government Amendment 2 is a drafting amendment that aligns the wording of Clause 29(6)(a) with the new paragraph added by government Amendment 3.
Clause 62(7) inserts new Part 2A into the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 in relation to the cross-deployment of tribunal members. Government Amendment 4 would insert the equivalent Welsh language text into that Measure. Government Amendments 5, 6 and 7 update references to “public” authorities in Schedule 1 to reflect the revised title of “devolved Welsh authorities”.
Government Amendments 8 and 9 concern the status of the Open University and have been touched on. This issue, which I felt needed attention, was raised by noble Lords and noble Baronesses, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, in Committee and on the first day of Report. Noble Lords argued that the Assembly should be able to legislate to modify the functions of the Open University in devolved areas without the consent of a United Kingdom government Minister. The Wales Office has discussed this issue with the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy, and with the Open University itself. On the second day of Report, I confirmed my intention to bring forward these amendments today. They provide that, while the Open University will remain a reserved authority, it will share the same status in the new settlement as other bodies listed in paragraphs 9(2) and 10(2) of new Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act, which include the Electoral Commission, the Food Standards Agency and Ofwat. The Assembly will therefore be able to amend its functions in devolved areas without the need for ministerial consent. I confirm that this is a national UK institution which is rightly valued in all parts of the United Kingdom.
Amendment 1, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, seeks to ensure that the Open University will not be a “devolved Welsh authority”. I reassure the noble Baroness that this amendment is totally unnecessary. The Open University does not meet the definition of a “devolved Welsh authority” as set out in Clause 4 because its activities are not carried on, or principally carried on, in Wales. In terms of statutory interpretation, the qualification of “not carried on” by the words “or principally carried on” means that “carried on” in the first context must mean exclusively carried on. I underline that point to confirm that it is not a Welsh institution. I hope that noble Lords and noble Baronesses will welcome these amendments, and that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Turning to the remaining government amendments, Amendment 10 makes a minor and technical change to the Bill’s transitional provisions simply to clarify that Welsh Ministers’ duty to fulfil obligations under Schedule 9 to the Electricity Act 1989 will not begin until the Bill provisions devolving further electricity generation consenting powers to Wales come into force. It is clearly right that whoever is responsible for consenting these infrastructure projects ought to have regard to their potential impact on the natural and built environment but that, in terms of timing, the obligation ought to mirror the related powers. Finally, Amendment 11 makes a minor change to the Title to recognise that the Bill also amends the Wales Act 2014.
I say once more that the Bill before us meets the Government’s ambition for a lasting devolution settlement for Wales. In our opinion, the clearer, fairer and stronger settlement for Wales delivered by this Bill, and supported by the National Assembly, will bring about a new era of mature devolved governance in Wales. I once again thank noble Lords and noble Baronesses for the constructive manner in which they have scrutinised the Bill. It returns to the other place for consideration of our amendments in finer fettle as a result.
My Lords, I wish to say a few words as we reach the end of the Bill’s passage through the House. Before I do, I have one question for the Minister on the amendments to which he has just spoken with regard to electricity. Will the changes that he has made have any effect whatever on the Swansea Bay project that is going forward? I hope that he will respond to that point.
We have given the Bill considerable scrutiny over recent weeks, which has led to some welcome adjustments but has also focused attention on many issues that we regard as missed opportunities. We feel that the opportunity to enact the carefully balanced Silk package as a whole has been partly lost because of the way it has been approached. The Bill is consequently a bit of a parson’s egg and, as the Minister knows, the reaction in the National Assembly reflects that.
I think that it is a curate’s egg. I am a Welsh Anglican; I know these things.
It is a parson’s nose.
My noble friend is of course far better versed than I am in these matters. It may well be, as the noble Baroness suggests, that the parson’s nose is coming to the fore in my consideration of some of the more controversial aspects of the Bill.
As the Minister knows, the Plaid Cymru group in the Assembly voted against the legislative consent Motion yesterday, for the simple reason that the Assembly is losing some powers, as we noted in a number of debates in the Chamber in Committee and on Report. Some of those powers may well have been assumed or unclear, but none the less they were used, some for substantive pieces of legislation. The existing legislative powers of the Assembly were endorsed by a 2:1 majority in a referendum in Wales in 2011 and some of the powers implicit in that vote are now being retracted. Some of the legislation enacted by the Assembly since that referendum was made using powers that will no longer be available to the National Assembly when the Bill becomes law. That is a perfectly valid basis on which to register a protest vote, as the Plaid Cymru group did in the Assembly yesterday. None the less, I hope that the Government of Wales will make full use of the powers now available to them under the Bill.
Sadly, the Bill does not provide the long-term settlement to which the Minister referred. No doubt in the fullness of time another Wales Bill will clear the uncertainties left by this Bill and address the issues, many covered by the Silk report, that were avoided in this Bill. Undoubtedly, for example, the devolution of police, prisons and justice will drive that demand, as well as more coherent powers over energy. By the way, I noted something that did not come to the fore during our early debates: the Home Office, which was then under Theresa May as Home Secretary, failed to give evidence to the Silk commission on these matters. I am sure that the Minister will recall that from his work on that committee. A whole new debate will arise, post-Brexit, on financial levers and further tax-varying powers.
Finally, I will say a word of tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, for the way in which he has conducted the passage of the Bill. His has been a stalwart performance—single-handed most of the time—and we admire the way in which he has kept on top of his brief throughout, although at times we disagreed with that brief. His experience, both as a key member of the Silk commission and a former party leader in the National Assembly, undoubtedly stood him in good stead in this matter. Many of us feel that there were times when he had to defend a government line when, in a previous incarnation, he may well have taken a different line. None the less, I hope that he will be recognised by his colleagues for the work that he has done and I hope that they will take note in future of the advice that he gives on matters relating to Wales. I hope that the Bill will help to the extent that that is possible within its limitations. I therefore wish well those who will live within the framework that is now being enacted.
My Lords, I echo the remarks of the noble Lord in thanking the Minister for the way in which he has handled the Bill. Its passage would have been a lot bumpier without his conciliatory approach. I also echo what he said about his officials, including the excellent Geth Williams, who once had the dubious privilege of working for me. I am glad that he survived to serve on the Bill, although what he makes of the dog’s breakfast that it serves up we will never know, his being a professional civil servant.
Finally, I appeal to the Minister. In the light of the Division on the question of employment and industrial relations last week, on which there was a tied vote, I have said to him privately and I repeat publicly that there is a way in which the Government could, even at this late stage, when the Bill goes back to the Commons, bring forward an amendment to tweak the amendment that was moved. As I said, there was a tied vote in the Lords last week. He could do that in a way in which the Government could overcome their reservations and satisfy everybody concerned. He will know that the Assembly has since voted on a Bill in this area. The issue is on its way to the Supreme Court. He can avoid that. It is not too late.
My Lords, I do not intend to speculate about what might be done in another place as we debate this issue at Third Reading here. Nor do I think that I will follow the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, in looking far into events that may or may not happen in the future. I very much welcome the amendments moved by my noble friend.
Before I pay some very well-deserved tributes, perhaps I might be allowed to voice just one regret about the way in which we legislate these days. If practical and possible, it would be much better if, instead of having a Bill that amends previous Bills so that we finish up with something almost unbelievably complex and difficult to interpret, we produced an entirely fresh Bill that everyone would be able to follow and understand without a degree of expertise that might be difficult to find even among those who guide the Welsh Assembly and this Parliament. I think that that would be a much better way of legislating.
I think that it was during Report that the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, who is not here today, commented that he had once taken a different view about devolution, and I acknowledge that I had, too. When the final decision was taken by the narrowest of margins to go ahead, I said that I believed that when one crossed the Rubicon one should go on and make a success of it. I subsequently thought about that remark and realised that it was not very wise, because when Caesar crossed the Rubicon we had conflict, murder, civil war and the end of the empire. I am glad to say that that has not been the history of devolution in Wales or of the creation of the Welsh Government.
On this occasion it is right to pay considerable tribute to two Secretaries of State for Wales—the previous and the present ones—for their strong initiative in taking things further forward and producing a settlement that I believe will last for some considerable time. I believe that they and the Government deserve credit for the role that they have played in carrying devolution forward.
I pay a special and particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, whose performance on the Front Bench has been simply heroic and which he has combined with his responsibilities in other departments. I simply do not know how he manages to do it—and do it so well. However, I thank him. I believe that all those who have taken part in the debates on the Bill will at least share in that tribute. His role has been totally outstanding.
My Lords, having observed the passage of this Bill from the Welsh Marches, as it were, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, for the way in which he has led his team through. I want to make one small plea—that he might be enticed to taste the menu put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, regarding that tied vote. I know that it has come at a late stage in the day, but I feel that it has much to commend it.
My Lords, I am, I think, the only historian of Wales present, and I think that this has been a historic event and process, for which the Minister and our Front Bench deserve great credit. I am perhaps among the last of the generation of Welsh children who was brought up to regard the House of Lords—to quote the Daily Mail—as the enemy of the people, hostile to the aspirations of the people of Wales on devolution, land, education, church matters and many other issues. It is historic because in this case, of course, the House of Lords has been enormously positive. Many of us were asked by political figures in Wales to be helpful and to try to resolve some of the needless quandaries in the Bill, which purported to extend devolution but in some respects seemed to restrict it, and clear things up. I think that we have succeeded to a considerable extent in so doing. Very important principles have been enunciated, which, again, are historic; particularly those that elevate the status, if not always the powers, of the Welsh Assembly, making them more comparable—although still not comparable—to those of Scotland.
I will not labour the point but, as has been said, we owe thanks to the Minister, who has been extraordinarily helpful and considerate. He has handled this matter in a model way and I conclude by suggesting a new role for him. I believe that one thing we need in all these measures—I recall that this point was made by the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Hunt, as well as by me—is some kind of statement of how they relate to the overarching vision of the union. Just as in the higher education Bill we put in some important points of general principle the other day, I feel that that would be valuable here. We have an unwritten constitution, and so perhaps the best way of achieving this kind of insertion would be to have a constitutional supremo to take it over. I can think of no Member of the Government more qualified to act in that, at the moment, untested role than the Minister. I thank him very much.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister, who is an old colleague of mine—sorry, not an old colleague but a former colleague—in the National Assembly. His great achievement then, which I have alluded to before, even in this place perhaps, was converting the Welsh Conservative Party into a Welsh Conservative Party and a pro-devolution Conservative Party, as we saw most firmly yesterday in the National Assembly vote. He has excelled that contribution in the way that he has taken this legislation through this House. If I may, I want to link him to what is a very important memory for many of us. He ranks up there with the late, great Gareth Williams QC, who took us through the very early stages of devolution in this House. I cannot pay him a higher compliment than that.
The Minister kindly referred to our debate yesterday. I am not going to rise to the bait and have a spat with my noble friend about the way that the parties voted. However, it did strike me as interesting that the United Kingdom Independence Party and the party of Wales ended up in electronic harmony—we do not have Lobbies in the National Assembly—voting against a measure of Welsh devolution, even if it was for different reasons. The debate we had there was reasonable and reasoned. It was necessary to have that debate and that vote because, as the Minister has told this House before, we could not have proceeded to complete our stages without that legislative consent Motion.
That leads me to another conclusion that we can, I hope, take from our proceedings on this legislation, both in the National Assembly and in this House. Last week, I ventured to mention that we had perhaps finished a chapter of doing things in a certain way in relation to Welsh devolution. I believe we have now, potentially, reached a level of consensus, certainly between the main parties of devolution, as we saw in yesterday’s debate in the Assembly.
Perhaps we can now move, in the spirit of the agreement for legislative consent and the agreement that this House has achieved through reasoned discussion with the Welsh Government and the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, towards a form of co-legislating. Certainly we should look for early drafts of any proposed future developments in devolution, rather than this hand-me-down form of Westminster legislating on behalf of Wales. I put that suggestion forward not in a spirit of controversy but because I believe it is the way to achieve the consolidation championed by one of the most distinguished former Secretaries of State for Wales.
On that point, the noble Lord neglected to include himself in the list of the promoters of devolution. Although he tries now to present himself as an anti-devolutionist, during his period as Secretary of State he achieved more Executive devolution than did any other Secretary of State. It is important that we remember those days because, without the Executive devolution led by the Conservative Party in Wales, we would never have had the basis for the powers now devolved further in this Bill. I am afraid I include him as well in the pantheon of devolutionists, where he likes it or not.
I add my own thanks to Geth Williams. I remember working with him and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in a previous Government. I recognise the quality that he and the officers and lawyers of the Wales Office bring. I also thank the lawyers of the Welsh Government who participated in these discussions and the lawyers of the National Assembly Commission, particularly those advising the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Assembly, of which I am proud to have served as a member in two Assemblies—although not for the whole time, for reasons which I will not go into tonight.
I pay tribute to the present Constitutional Affairs Committee in the Assembly for its rapid turnaround in producing those “critical friend” reports on the Bill; to its current chair, a former Member of the House of Commons, Huw Irranca-Davies; and to its previous chair, David Melding, who has been such a distinguished Member of the Assembly, and among the deep, caring, great Conservative constitutionalists of Wales. I thank the First Minister for his constant support on these matters and the Counsel General. In addition, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Morgan. It is not an easy job to work both sides of the railway line but we had the happy experience of sharing the same train this morning, so were able to congratulate each other, and the Minister in his absence, on the progress we have made together on this Bill. I link with that my friend the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, whose contributions have always been philosophical and sometimes prophetic—a great Welsh tradition.
We thank all noble Lords for their contributions. We know that through the progress of this Bill we have achieved a further significant milestone in the progress of devolution. I am not here to speculate as to what will happen next but, whatever does happen, will be on the firm basis of the reserved powers model, which is constitutionally congruent even if not as extensive as what happens in the rest of the United Kingdom, and for that I thank the Minister and this Government deeply.
My Lords, some 3,000 years ago, Homer wrote in the Iliad that after the battle men like to reminisce about their prowess in the fight. Some 10 or 15 years ago the tributes and thanks were getting so extensive that the decision was taken that such tributes would no longer be heard at Third Reading. However, just as referring to people at the Bar is now commonplace—any Member of Parliament or Minister who comes to the Bar tends to get a mention these days—so that tradition, in which I firmly stand, has been eroded. Therefore, I confine myself to thanking the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, who has done a brilliant job in listening to all the complaints, some of which were completely without foundation. He has reacted very well. Lastly, I thank my noble friend Lady Randerson, who was part of the team in the coalition Government when the Bill was in its infancy. She played an important part in framing the way it progressed.
My Lords, I strike a concordant note in joining with all others who have expressed so genuinely their appreciation of the Minister’s efforts in this matter. He has been a model of courtesy and accommodation in so far as it has been humanly possible for him to be so. Had he been invited to draft the Bill we would have had a very different piece of legislation before us, but that was not to be.
Although the Welsh Assembly yesterday gave its seal of approval to the Bill, although a reserved constitution has placed Wales technically in the same field as Scotland and Northern Ireland—a matter of constitutional significance—and although this is the third occasion when there has been a very thorough examination of the Welsh constitutional position in the short space of 19 years, nevertheless the Bill cannot be regarded as a great leap forward in the field of devolution at all. I say that because it seems to me that, compared with the situation Wales found itself in two and a half years ago after the agricultural workers’ wages case was decided by the Supreme Court, we are far behind where we were on that occasion in so far as the sum total of legislative and devolutionary authority is concerned.
When the Scottish referendum concluded and the Prime Minister, in the grey dawn of that morning, walked to a microphone in Downing Street, he uttered the words that Wales will be at the very heart of devolution. I was stirred and cheered by those words, but had they been followed with the prophecy, “But bear in mind that 27 months from now the range of devolution will have been very severely cabined, cribbed and confined by a Bill called the Wales Bill”, I am not sure my attitude would have been exactly the same.
There is no doubt that there has been a faint tinge of old colonialism relating to this situation—something I have referred to ad nauseam. I make no apology for that. It is the attitude somewhere or another that small, insignificant powers that are wholly classically local in their character must somewhere or another be withheld from Wales. I hope that will change. I hope future Governments will accept that we are no longer in a colonial era—that:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new”.
It may well be that the Government think they have thrown away many of the difficulties relating to devolution in Wales, but not all things thrown away stay thrown away. There is a tale that David Lloyd George used to tell of one of his erstwhile colleagues, a person who had changed his attitude very considerably to former policies. Somewhere or another they came back to him again and again. Lloyd George likened it to the position of an old Aboriginal chief who was utterly fed up with his boomerang and threw it away. It did not matter whether he threw it in a sharp curve or in wide curve; back it came again and again. I end with the admonition to government: never forget the boomerang.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting the amendments and for taking on board and dealing with these extra issues in the Bill, in particular that of the Open University. He has been generous in the way he has listened to us during the passage of the Bill.
Yesterday, like the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, I participated in my capacity as an Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales in the vote on the legislative consent Motion in the National Assembly for Wales on whether to accept the Wales Bill. The Minister had made it clear on a number of occasions that the will of the Assembly would be respected in relation to the Bill.
I and many others in the Chamber in Cardiff yesterday made it clear that we were still deeply unhappy about aspects of the Bill and believe that it remains complex and flawed in many ways. We had hoped that there would be a clear delineation of where responsibility lies in the move to the reserved model, but this has not been delivered in the way we had hoped. Many warned that this could lead to constitutional conflict between the two institutions in future.
Nevertheless, I encouraged my colleagues in the Senedd to support the Bill, partly because I believe that we need to batten down the constitutional hatches before we are battered around in the political flux that is about to engulf us with Brexit. I also believe that we have made substantial progress in the course of scrutiny of the Bill in the House of Lords.
The amendments that we have before us are additional to the areas where we have already seen movement in the Bill. It is worth noting and setting on record the areas where we have seen concessions: a clearer definition of Welsh law; a redrafting of the concept of Wales public authorities; an ability of the Assembly to change the limit on the number of Ministers; an increase in the Welsh Government’s borrowing powers; a narrowing of the power to amend transfer of function orders; the removal of the Secretary of State’s intervention powers in respect of water and sewerage and an extension of the Assembly’s legislative competence in respect of water to the national boundary; the devolution of powers relating to fixed-odds betting terminals; the right of the Welsh Ministers to be consulted on the strategies of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency; a narrowing of the reservation in respect of anti-social behaviour; an extension of powers in respect of Welsh boats fishing outside the Welsh zone; a narrowing of the reservation on heating and cooling; a narrowing of the reservation on planning for railway developments; the removal from the reservation of the community infrastructure levy; the narrowing of compulsory purchase orders; the narrowing of the building standards regulations; and an assurance that the Welsh Government will be involved in a commission to assess the impact of new Welsh laws on the single jurisdiction. That is quite a list and we should be proud of ourselves.
I am delighted that a clear majority of my colleagues in the Assembly agreed with the decision to pass the legislative consent Motion and that the next phase of devolution can now begin. However, I endorse the point made by my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas that Bills should in future be discussed and negotiated with the Assembly prior to their being presented to the Houses of Parliament.
I want to pay tribute to the Bill team, in particular to Gethin but also to a number of people who have been helpful in the Assembly. I thank Kirsty Keenan, Gareth Ball, Jane Runeckles and Gareth in the legal team. I want also to give a special mention to a man who has been involved in every Wales Bill since the establishment of the Assembly, who was the principal adviser to the National Assembly advisory group on which both the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and I sat, and who will soon be retiring having given years of dedicated service to the Civil Service in Wales. He has become one of the foremost experts on the Welsh constitution and he will be missed: I thank Hugh Rawlings for all the work that he has done on behalf of Wales over the past few decades.
I also thank Peers from all parties for their co-operation on the Bill. I particularly thank my noble friend Lady Gale, who has proved so patient with me, not just on this Bill but throughout my political life. She has been a mentor to me since I was first elected, practically as a child, to the European Parliament back in 1994. She will go down in history as an unsung hero of the establishment of the Welsh Assembly when she was general secretary of the Labour Party in Wales, particularly for ensuring a revolution in the gender balance of politics in Wales.
Finally, I thank the Minister. On several occasions during the passage of the Bill he has been commended for his commitment to the cause of devolution in Wales. Above all, he has changed the Conservative Party’s attitude towards Wales. I thank him for responding so positively to our many concerns and for being willing to co-operate with us on so many occasions. The Bill is another small step on the devolution road for Wales.
It is my intention now to focus on my responsibilities in the National Assembly. I thank noble Lords for their co-operation, not just on this Bill but throughout my time here over the past few years.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the clarity he has provided on my amendment. I echo others in thanking him and the Secretary of State for their courtesy and helpfulness. I thank their officials—Geth Williams and his team—because they have been truly exceptional in the amount of assistance they have been prepared to give. They have all been unstinting with their time for discussions, and have been willing to amend the Bill on a number of matters to deal with issues raised here.
Many noble Lords will know that the Minister, the Secretary of State and I served together in the National Assembly for very many years. We can be confident that they both fully understand how devolution works. The Minister has long been a stalwart supporter of greater devolution. As others have said, he has been responsible for the journey that the Conservative Party has taken. He has led that journey in Wales to making it a devolutionist party. That being so, and as a member of the Silk commission, he must be a little disappointed with the Bill, as I am. There is no need for him to respond to this—I do not expect him to admit it in this Chamber—but in his heart of hearts I dare say he is disappointed.
Although the Bill brings us the reserve powers model, it is not the clear-cut devolution settlement that the Silk commission called for; nor is it quite the bold vision outlined in the St David’s Day agreement in 2015, when Stephen Crabb was Secretary of State. Although it brings welcome additional powers—for example, over elections, energy, the way in which the Assembly can manage its own affairs, and so on—they are not the radical step forward I envisaged as a Wales Office Minister when this plan was hatched. I believe that the Government will come to regret the lack of a sharp edge defining the separate powers of the Welsh and UK Governments. That will probably come to haunt them in the corridors of the Supreme Court in months and years to come.
I do not want to imply that the Wales Office has not tried—far from it. I am sure that the Wales Office has tried as hard as possible on the Bill. As I recall clearly, Welsh Ministers going round Whitehall asking for more powers for Wales are not always greeted with open arms. That was even the case in the coalition days, where devolution was the name of the game.
However, I am a pragmatist and I accept that under the new regime this is as good as it gets. It is definitely a step forward because it includes particularly important key powers over income tax and because it is twinned with the fiscal framework, which is hugely important. I am very disappointed that Plaid Cymru voted against this yesterday because, personally, I could not vote against additional powers for Wales, whatever the downsides to the settlement. We particularly welcome the constructive approach of both Governments in coming together on the Bill. It is part of a package which should make a big change to the political rhetoric of Wales and a real step forwards.
Only two years ago, I took a Wales Bill through this House; that, too, was just a modest step forward but we are going in a particular direction. I welcome that direction and I am sure that the Minister will forgive me for saying that I just wish we could walk a bit faster. I am happy to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 29: Welsh harbours
Amendments 2 and 3
2: Clause 29, page 26, line 37, leave out from “exercise” to “in” in line 38 and insert “, by a Minister of the Crown, of certain functions”
3: Clause 29, page 26, line 41, at end insert—
“( ) the exercise, by a Minister of the Crown, of certain functions in relation to two or more harbours where at least one of those harbours is wholly in Wales and is not a reserved trust port.”
Amendments 2 and 3 agreed.
Clause 62: Cross-deployment of members of the Welsh tribunals
4: Clause 62, page 49, line 2, leave out “Tribunal), after” and insert “Tribunal)—
(a) in the Welsh text, after Rhan 2 insert— “RHAN 2ATRAWS-LEOLI AELODAU’R TRIBIWNLYS9A_ Ar gais y Llywydd a chyda chymeradwyaeth Llywydd Tribiwnlysoedd Cymru, caiff aelod o dribiwnlys sydd wedi’i restru yn adran 59 o Ddeddf Cymru 2017 (Tribiwnlysoedd Cymru), ac nad yw’n aelod o’r Tribiwnlys, weithredu fel aelod o’r Tribiwnlys.”;(b) in the English text, after”
Amendment 4 agreed.
Schedule 1: New Schedule 7A to the Government of Wales Act 2006
Amendments 5 to 7
5: Schedule 1, page 89, line 38, leave out “a public” and insert “an”
6: Schedule 1, page 89, line 44, leave out “public”
7: Schedule 1, page 90, line 2, leave out “a public” and insert “an”
Amendments 5 to 7 agreed.
Schedule 2: New Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006
Amendments 8 and 9
8: Schedule 2, page 97, line 8, at end insert—
“( ) the Open University.”
9: Schedule 2, page 98, line 8, at end insert—
“( ) the Open University.”
Amendments 8 and 9 agreed.
Schedule 7: Transitional provisions
10: Schedule 7, page 144, line 2, leave out “and 50” and insert “, 50 and 51”
Amendment 10 agreed.
In the Title
11: In the Title, line 1, after “and” insert “the Wales Act 2014 and to”
Amendment 11 agreed.
My Lords, I wonder if I may answer one or two points that were made in relation to that group of amendments before formally moving—
There were issues raised that I would like to address, if that is permissible.
I will write to noble Lords in relation to the points made.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.