Power to Enter into Concordat

Part of Orders of the Day — Government of Wales Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 25th March 1998.

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Photo of Mr Denzil Davies Mr Denzil Davies Labour, Llanelli 9:30 pm, 25th March 1998

Yes, indeedßžthey could all end up in the Judicial Committee, and lawyers, who love judicial review and have made a lot of money out of it over the past 20 years, will press the case and learned articles will be written saying that of course the matter is within the ambit of judicial review. That is the nature of things.

We are told that there should be co-ordination … to take account of the programmes for implementing new legislationߞ in other words, another cry from the national assembly: "Please, please, Whitehall, let us in on implementing new legislation. Don't freeze us out, because we need to be there." Whether Whitehall will listen is another matter: if it does not need to listen or is not forced to listen, it will not listen. Again there is the real problem of how the assembly gets into the legislative process of Whitehall, with which I foresee great difficulties.

We are told that the concordats should deal with shared interests in matters such as EU business. We have heard that time and again and we heard it tonight from the hon. Member for Ynys Môn. The problem as I understand it is that the lead Department in EU business, be it the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, being a UK Department, will also be the Department for England.

We shall have a curious situation: the President of the Board of Trade will be not only the lead Minister for the United Kingdom, but the Minister for England. The same is true of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who will be the lead Minister for the United Kingdom and the Minister of Agriculture for England. There will be no Minister for Wales, except for the First Secretary of the National Assembly, so there is bound to be a conflict of interest. That will create difficulties, so I can understand the need for some sort of concordat; but how we are to go about it, I do not know.

We are told that, despite having the concordat and the good working relationship, the concordat must avoid constraining the Assembly or Whitehall Departments in their actions within their fields of competence. We need a concordat, but it must not constrain anyone.