§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I beg to move amendment No. 59, in page 25, line 19, leave out from beginning to end of line 17 on page 26.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 60, 110 and 111.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
Clauses 32 and 33 were intended to allow the new authorities in Wales the opportunity to experiment with alternative forms of political management within the framework provided by the existing system, but, of course, there was severe criticism of the clauses in Standing Committee and we concluded that further consideration would be beneficial before legislating for 827 changes to a system which appears to be working quite well. Therefore, we have decided that the introduction of a completely new unitary structure with all that that entails in terms of upheaval and reorganisation of services is not the right time to be putting forward the proposals included in clauses 32 and 33, so we decided to remove them.
§ Mr. Morgan
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise for having misheard you a few seconds ago. I only wanted to speak briefly on the matter.
Obviously I shall not oppose the Government introducing amendments for which we pressed hard in Committee, but it is fair to say that the Minister did not tell the whole story in that brief introduction. We were asking for a spirit of experimentation which would involve some discussion of the benefits to central Government of the merits of those aspects of the historical functions and modus operandi of local government that we were commending. We were asking for the same flexibility to be applied, possibly to the proceedings of the House. As a result of some of the movements in the direction of flexibility in the reform of Prime Minister's questions and other aspects of the Jopling report, we thought that the Government should give serious consideration to measuring the benefits of Opposition Members having access to civil servants who work only for Ministers in central Government, but whose equivalents work for both sides of the political divide, if there is one, in local government.
Had we had equal access to those officials, as we would have done in local government, we might then have been able to uncover some of the mysteries of the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and its rather strange extensions which appear to have affected or had a side effect on the proceedings of the Bill.
We were concerned with the principle of measuring the effectiveness of Government. If they want experiments, they should apply them not only to local government, but to central Government. In order to have an experiment, we need some measurement technique to decide what we would count as a success or an improvement on the present system.
Many of us have had short, medium or long experience in the House as well as backgrounds in local government either as elected members—in some cases leaders of councils—or, as in my case, as a local government officer and a civil servant before coming to the House. We therefore have some idea of how some of the advantages of the civil service and Cabinet government and some of the advantages of the committee system and shared access to full-time local government officers could be applied to central and local government simultaneously in a properly measurable, audited and independently validated experiment to improve local and central Government.
Some aspects of local government practice would benefit enormously the proceedings of the House and central Government through the Executive, and some aspects of central Government practice could be brought into local government through experimentation procedure, as was the purpose of the two amendments.
We are happy that the Government have listened to us, although they heard only half the message and took the easy way out by scrapping the whole idea without really 828 conceding the principle that both central and local government could do with a great deal of improvement and could learn a great deal from each other.
Obviously, the Government are nervous about learning something from local government and giving Opposition Members equal access to full-time local government officials. As a result, they have taken the coward's way out. Before anybody had too many bright ideas about giving Opposition Members access to Parliamentary Counsel, private offices or full-time civil servants, they decided to scrub the idea of introducing Cabinet government monopoly access to full-time officials for people on the majority side in a party organisation, using the techniques of Cabinet government and having the sole loyalty of the full-time officials until they get thrown out at the next election.
By scrapping the two clauses and the idea of experimentation, the Government have shown that they never thought it through in the first place; nevertheless, I warmly welcome their decision.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I am sure that my hon. Friend's wonderful recollection of the debate is the accurate one. My own is that my hon. Friend's marvellous mocking humour shamed Ministers and we probably made too good a case against the clauses. I suspect that, as a result, the Minister has given up and given way.
§ Amendment agreed to.