HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 cc961-3
1. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

What representations he has received about the Care Standards Bill [Lords] in the last month. [118432]

5. Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North)

What representations he has received about the Care Standards Bill [Lords] [118437]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy)

In the context of the Care Standards Bill, I have received a number of representations relating to proposals for a children's commissioner for Wales. I am pleased to be able to confirm to the House today that the remit of the children's commissioner for Wales will extend to children coming within all the services to be regulated under the terms of the Care Standards Bill.

Mr. Griffiths

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he list exactly those services that will be covered by the children's commissioner, and reassure us that the amendment will be drafted so as to give the National Assembly for Wales some powers to extend the role of the commissioner beyond that envisaged in the Bill?

Mr. Murphy

As well as all children's homes, the commissioner will deal with services in private and voluntary hospitals, the welfare of children living away from home in boarding schools, fostering agencies, voluntary adoption agencies, local authority fostering and adoption services, welfare aspects of day care and child minding provision for the under-eights, residential family centres and children who receive special care in their own homes. I am delighted to be able to tell the House that my officials and Assembly officials are working together to prepare the amendment to the Care Standards Bill. We are in close contact with the Assembly about any future remit.

Ms Morgan

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Will he reassure me that he will work closely with the Health and Social Services Secretary, Jane Hutt, and the Secretary for Education and Children, Rosemary Butler, to ensure that the final legislative powers of the children's commissioner apply to all children in Wales and have as their foundation the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, so that the powers extend beyond the powers provided in the Care Standards Bill?

Mr. Murphy

Yes. The Assembly is still considering a wider role and remit. The Government will urgently and sympathetically consider proposals when they are ready, but I believe that the office of children's commissioner for Wales, set up as it will be under the Care Standards Bill and together with the additions and the work that the Assembly is doing, will mean that we are leading the United Kingdom and Europe in terms of such a role.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I welcome the answer from the Secretary of State, as far as it goes. Can he clarify what will be the position of children who live in their own homes and are on the at-risk register, but who may not be getting special provision? Will the legislation be broad enough to give the commissioner powers to deal with those children? If the Bill is not wide enough, what mechanism could be used to fast-track those additional powers, on which all parties agree?

Mr. Murphy

I understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman has made, and I know that he is interested in these matters. The Care Standards Bill will not cover the category of children that he mentioned, but the matter is under consideration by the Assembly, working together with my Department and others in London. We will try as fast as we can to ensure that we cover all the aspects of the role of the children's commissioner. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is important for us to look carefully at the protocol that governs arrangements between the Assembly and the House of Commons as far as legislation is concerned, and I hope to return to those issues after the recess.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Will the regulations that flow from the Bill be subject to the negative or the affirmative procedure?

Mr. Murphy

That matter will be dealt with in Committee when the Care Standards Bill goes through its stages here.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

In the light of the north Wales child abuse inquiry report and other matters, I welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that he will use the widest possible powers in the Care Standards Bill to develop the role of the commissioner. In the longer term, will he look to use other legislative opportunities, so that that role can develop to cover all matters that affect children and to ensure that the role is as comprehensive as possible?

Mr. Murphy

Yes, I can give that assurance to my right hon. Friend, and it is good to see him in the Chamber. As I have said to other hon. Members today, these matters are being considered carefully by the Assembly, by my Department and by the Department of Health. I believe that the points made by my right hon. Friend are relevant and will be considered in detail as the Care Standards Bill goes through the House.

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