Co-operation to improve well-being: Wales

Children Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:45 pm ar 19 Hydref 2004.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Amendment made: No. 144, in

clause 21, page 16, line 7, at end insert 'and emotional well-being'.—[Margaret Hodge.]

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Ceidwadwyr, Broxbourne

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 116, in

clause 21, page 16, line 26, at end insert—

'( ) general practitioners and any other independent provider of health services to children and young people;'.

Amendment No. 118, in

clause 23, page 17, line 35, leave out 'most' and insert 'some'.

Amendment No. 117, in

clause 23, page 17, line 36, at end insert—

'( ) general practitioners and any other independent health provider of services to children and young people;'.

Government amendment No. 150.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

Government amendments Nos. 145 and 150 are straightforward and are intended as clarification rather than as a change of policy. As it stands, clause 21 places a duty of co-operation on an NHS trust all, or most of whose, hospitals, establishments or facilities are in the area of a local authority. A number of trusts in Wales operate across local authority boundaries, with more services being provided in some areas than in others. In my area, the trust serves five county boroughs in south-east Wales.

Trusts would not be under the same duty for all local authorities, leaving some local authorities without co-operation from an NHS trust. Amendment No. 145 therefore places a trust under a duty to co-operate with all authorities in whose areas they provide services. Amendment No. 150 to clause 25 is equivalent, setting out that NHS trusts will be members of each local safeguarding children's board in whose areas they provide services.

I now turn to the amendments tabled in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) and will make some brief comments. The majority of general practitioners in Wales are independent contractors and therefore unlike other NHS employees. The duty to co-operate currently applies to, among others, local health boards rather than to individual general practitioners. Local health boards enter into contract with each GP practice in their area and those contracts set out the quality standards to which the practice should aspire.

The main purpose of clause 21 is to give a formal basis to the framework planning arrangements for children and young people that my colleague Ministers in the Assembly established in Wales. That requires attendance at the partnerships of bodies with strategic responsibilities such as local health boards, rather than individual practitioners such as GPs.

Clause 23 already requires local health boards to discharge their functions

''having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children''.

It also requires that

''any services provided by another person'' on their behalf

''are provided having regard to that need.''

That means that, in making arrangements for the provision of primary medical services, local health boards must ensure that a contractor, such as a GP, provides services in such a way as to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Locally, each contract may be varied by the agreement of both parties.

The Assembly and the Government are content that the new responsibilities of commissioning bodies can be reflected in contracts. The intention of clause 23 is to impose the duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children on all NHS trusts in Wales. NHS trusts in England are covered by the equivalent provision in clause 8. Although some Welsh children will be treated by trusts in England, as far as we are aware, no trusts have facilities in both England and Wales. Therefore, there is no advantage to be gained from amendment No. 118. With those points in mind, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) will feel reassured and feel it unnecessary to press her amendments.

Photo of Julie Morgan Julie Morgan Llafur, Gogledd Caerdydd

The three amendments in my name are fairly straightforward. Amendment No. 116 seeks to add GPs to the list of relevant partners of a children's service authority. The purpose of amendment No. 118 is for clause 23 to cover NHS trusts where some, rather than most, of the premises are situated in Wales. Amendment No. 117 inserts GPs into clause 23. If I understood what my hon. Friend said, all those points are covered by his amendments. On that basis, I am happy not to press mine.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

I beg to move amendment No. 204, in

clause 21, page 16, line 42, at end insert—

'(8A) The Assembly must obtain the consent of the Secretary of State before giving guidance under subsection (8) at any time after the coming into force of any of paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (4).'.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Ceidwadwyr, Broxbourne

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 205 to 207 and 209.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

I will be brief. However, it is important to put the point on the record. Government amendments Nos. 204 to 207 and 209 reflect our solution to another of the challenges brought about by devolution. They are the outcome of a good deal of discussion between colleagues in London and in the Assembly and they represent a joined-up approach to children's services in Wales, which need to encompass bodies exercising non-devolved functions. There is, therefore, a need for the Government to play an appropriate role in approving the commencement of provisions, the making of regulations and the issue of guidance under part 3 of the Bill.

It is true that in a different context—this is the other side of the devolution settlement—when it comes to joint working on children's services in Wales, the Assembly is best placed to set the overall direction for services and to take the lead in their provision. Amendments Nos. 204 to 207 and the first part of amendment No. 209 leave responsibility for commencement, making regulations, writing guidance, co-operation and so on with the Assembly, but mean that the Government have to agree so far as the work directly impacts upon and affects bodies exercising non-devolved functions. That is only right and it makes sense. We have had extensive discussions with colleagues in the Assembly. They are content with it, so I am happy to move the amendments.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons)

I enjoyed the Under-Secretary's explanation about how the amendments came into place. I have heard about devolution through stealth, but never of devolution through mishap. The Bill, as put forward by the Government in its original form, would have given more powers to the Assembly, which we would have welcomed. Indeed, if it were pushed to a vote now, some hon. Members and I would vote for the Bill as it stands, rather than for the Government's amendments. We are disappointed that they have again put aside progress in terms of the devolution settlement. Although we shall accept the amendments in the end, we shall do so with great disappointment.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development)

To follow on from what the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire said, as the Bill stands, the National Assembly would have responsibility for non-devolved matters, such as police and probation. However much we on these Benches would like to agree to that, we can see the Government's point of view. That highlights the serious issue that has been behind a number of other discussions that we have had on this Bill in respect of Wales—the split between England and Wales and the Government's apparently sometimes slightly imperfect understanding of the devolution settlement. We could, as the hon. Gentleman said, oppose the amendments. We are somewhat depleted, so we shall not do that. The Under-Secretary is genial and, in this case, modest, and I was in the same position—perhaps even more so—earlier on. I shall leave my comments there.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

I thank the hon. Gentlemen for their comments and I recognise, as I know that they do, that we cannot remake the devolution settlement every time we come to pass additional legislation. However, I give the undertaking that, having agreed this with our colleagues in the Assembly, if there is any way in which it can be improved we shall consider it.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.