§ 3. Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)
If he will make a statement on the impact on staff levels in the Welsh Office of the creation of a Welsh assembly. 
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ron Davies)
Our best estimate of the impact on staff levels was set out in the White Paper published in June which was endorsed in the referendum last September. It was included in the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Government of Wales Bill, approved by the House with a majority of 231 on Second Reading. Since then, no decisions have been taken which would alter that estimate.
§ Mrs. Gorman
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that answer. Can he possibly be happy that the Government are spending so much money on setting up new institutions at a time when there is a shortage of teachers and class sizes are growing, and when there is a shortage of nurses, and hospital waiting lists are growing? Should not the Government be spending the taxpayers' money on front-line services instead of the frills and furbelows of new administrations?
§ Mr. Davies
Of course I am happy with the plans, because they are my plans. They are the basis on which my colleagues and I were elected at the general election last May which removed the last Conservative Member from Wales, and were endorsed in the referendum last September. So, in direct answer to the hon. Lady's question, yes, I am satisfied with the plans. I am rather surprised that the hon. Lady should profess such great concern for the financial health of Wales, because, when he was Secretary of State the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), whom she would regard as a particularly close soulmate, was responsible for taking £110 million from the Welsh block to return it to the Treasury.
§ Ms Jackie Lawrence
(Preseli Pembrokeshire): Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that the Welsh assembly has a major remit to deal with quangos in Wales, which mushroomed under the previous Government? Between 1994 and 1996, funding for the top 10 of those quangos doubled from £26 million a year to £51 million a year, at a time when the retail prices index went up by 6.1 per cent.
§ Mr. Davies
Yes. My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. I remind her that the case that the Government put forward during the referendum was that there would be a substantial restructuring of the quango state. We have already started that process. We have done away with a large number of quangos, producing savings to the Welsh block. There will be further savings to come as we deal with the remainder of the quango state. The whole purpose of the assembly is to make sure that public money which is available in Wales goes directly to providing services that the people want.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
Should not the Secretary of State be unsurprised by the comments of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman), given that she, her hon. Friends and Conservative candidates for the national assembly are doing nothing but trying to 1035 undermine the credibility of the national assembly, despite what was said by the Leader of the Opposition at Llangollen recently? Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the intentions of the Welsh Office in reviewing the staff structure for the assembly unit dealing with the European Union? In view of the difficulties that have been experienced over objective 1 status, and the problems faced by Denbighshire county council over grants from Europe, is there not a need to look at the European section in some depth?
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, there is. How we restructure the Welsh Office in the run-up to the creation of the assembly next year is a difficult issue. I very much welcome the constructive approach of the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). During the coming months, it is my intention to invite the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and those representing other parties in the House, to join me in discussing where we can reach agreement before next May so that the institutional changes that are necessary reflect the broad consensus. I hope that all parties present will accept that invitation.
However, I am not much struck by the ability of the Conservative party to offer advice on these matters, as I note from the front page of The Times today that the Conservative party has an income of £600,000 a year and expenditure of £3 million a year, and that the first casualty of the imposed planning cuts is the Conservative party office in Wales, which is to close.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that is a good example of the actions of those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, and that there is a big contrast between Conservatives in Essex and elsewhere and Conservatives in Wales, who are falling over themselves to stand for the assembly?
§ Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)
In view of the Secretary of State's plans to spend £113,000 or more on a chief legal officer, will he tell us the numbers, salaries and civil service grades of the support staff required for the chief legal officer?
§ Mr. Davies
One of the principal duties of the chief legal officer will be to advise me on such matters. That is the sensible way to proceed. The appointment is being made on the normal civil service terms for an appointment of such seniority and importance. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not seriously suggesting that the assembly should have a second-class lawyer and poorer legal services than any of the Whitehall Departments with which it has to deal.
I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his elevation to the shadow Cabinet. We can hope that he is better informed than any of his predecessors, because I am told that, unlike them, on a clear day he can see Wales.
§ Dr. Fox
The Secretary of State failed to get even the name of my constituency right at the outset. His lack of preparation seems to be matched only by his lack of knowledge of detail on this issue. As someone who seeks to hold the offices of Secretary of State and First Secretary 1036 in Wales, how does he square the conflict of representing an assembly independently with collective Cabinet responsibility?
§ Mr. Davies
The composition of the British Cabinet is for the Prime Minister to decide, and who is First Secretary of the Welsh assembly will be for the Welsh assembly to decide. 1 know that the Tory party in Wales is in great difficulty, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be more positive and come up with some constructive proposals. With the referendum behind us, it is time to stop all the negative, carping criticism that we have heard over the past 12 months. The hon. Gentleman should realise that some people in his party in Wales are seeking to drag Wales down; they are happy to gain cheap publicity for the Tory party, even though they know that it means bad news for the people of Wales.
§ Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)
I thank the Secretary of State for confirming, in answer to the main question, that there is provision for 100 additional staff. Does he agree that those 100 additional staff are the equivalent of the Clerks, the Library staff and the others who serve this House? With a Cabinet model in the assembly, with Front Benchers and Back Benchers, the purpose of those 100 additional staff should be to give independent advice to the Back Benchers in the Welsh assembly. They should be responsible to the equivalent of the Speaker, and independent of the civil service.
§ Mr. Davies
My hon. Friend is partly right, but drawing a parallel with this House does not take him along the right lines. There will not be Back Benchers as there are in this House, because the Committee system will ensure that all Members of the Assembly have a constructive role in framing policy, so there will not be Ministers and an Opposition. I hope that an Opposition mindset does not develop in the assembly. However, my hon. Friend is partly right to say that there will be a need to set up a Department that is broadly equivalent to the Department that you head, Madam Speaker. Members of the Assembly will need access to a unit that is slightly set apart from the mainstream civil service, which will be responsible for answering to the Secretaries who take the executive decisions in the new assembly.