Children's Commissioner for Wales Bill

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Mr. Hanson: As I was saying before the Division, the commissioner has significant powers under clause 3, which will allow him to review the exercise of the Assembly's functions in relation to a range of issues, particularly that of adoption and the relevant adoption legislation.

Clause 3 is significant. Although I accept what the hon. Member for North Dorset has said, I do not believe that we should lift adoption out of the range of other issues that are considered by the commissioner. He will have the power under the clause to exercise wide-ranging reviews of the Assembly's functions as the central authority. Before the Division I talked about new clause 5, the Assembly and the commissioner's responsibilities for a general review of functions under clause 3. I also talked about new clause 6, which I believe would replace the Assembly's role with the commissioner's role and deny the Assembly a view of some important issues. I hope that the hon. Member for Dorset North will reflect on those comments, and for the last time in this Committee stage, I ask him to consider withdrawing the motion and new clause.

Mr. Walter: I do not wish to be pedantic, but just for the record I should say that the name of my constituency is North Dorset. I was disappointed that the Minister told us that the Government did intend to implement the Hague convention, which was signed in 1993. The Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act received Royal Assent on 27 July 1999, and still it has not been implemented. It is a matter of some concern that that is still the case. Part of my reason for tabling these amendments was to make the Children's Commissioner a champion of children's rights so that he can intervene for victims of inter-country adoptions that are carried out through dubious processes.

I do not necessarily accept everything the Minister said, particularly with regard to new clause 6 and putting the Commissioner into a consultation role rather than an executive role. I would have thought it appropriate for the commissioner to be the consultee for Wales. It would enhance, not only the commissioner but, the National Assembly, if the commissioner's role was established in legislation with regard to inter-country aspects when the Assembly was acting as the central authority. It seems that the Minister is not minded to accept my new clauses, despite the sympathy that I sensed from him and from his hon. Friend Member for Ogmore (Sir R. Powell). I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Mr. Livsey: On a point of order, Mr. Wells. May I take this opportunity to thank you and Mr. Jones for your chairmanship and for way in which the Committee has been conducted? I congratulate those who have contributed to the Bill or to its proceedings. There are some issues to which we shall return later. If we are to have a children's champion, we must address the question of powers and children's human rights. If there are non-devolved matters, that is clearly a question to which we shall have to return.

Finally, I offer my best wishes to the National Assembly for Wales and my thanks to all those groups of children's lobbyists who have assisted the Committee so much.

6 pm

Mr. Evans: Further to that point of order, I am sure that it will not go unnoticed that in the five sittings of the Committee there has not been one Division. That does not mean there has been unanimity on the Bill, but there has been unanimity of purpose, which is to establish a Children's Commissioner for Wales with proper and effective powers. I am sure that is true of all parties represented here today. Just because we did not vote, does not mean there were no differences between us—indeed, there have been lengthy discussions to which hon. Members on both sides have contributed on how to improve the Bill. On Report and Third Reading and during the Bill's passage through the House of Lords, we shall continue to try to improve the legislation. Time is of the essence, and I am delighted we have been able to do our job in the five sittings allotted to us. We wish the Bill well on its journey.

I, too, would like to thank all the children's charities and others who have made representations to us and the National Assembly of Wales during consideration of the Bill. I thank you, Mr. Wells, and Mr. Jones for the way in which you have chaired our sittings—your guidance has been invaluable.

Mr. Hanson: Further to that point of order, Mr. Wells. I had intended to wait until you put the Question before making my remarks, but as the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire has raised his point of order, I shall do so now.

This is the 18th Bill on which I have had the pleasure of serving during my time in the House, Mr. Well but it is the first time I have ever gone through a Bill without voting, which is an indication of the cross-party support for the Bill and for the Government's proposals. I understand that the Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), has been through two Bills without voting. Obviously, he brings an air of consensus to Committee proceedings, unlike previous Whips I have served under. I confess that when I was a Whip, I enjoyed forcing points on an issue, just to make a point.

I thank you, Mr. Wells, for your efforts in the sittings that you have chaired, and your colleague, Mr. Jones, who as well as being your co-Chairman is my constituency next-door-neighbour. I should also like to place on record my thanks to the Clerk, to parliamentary counsel, to my colleagues from the police for sitting through the Committee on numerous occasions and helping us during our proceedings, to the Hansard reporters, to officials from the Wales Office who are present today and those from the National Assembly who are on secondment to the Wales Office, and to the Doorkeepers for the service they have provided.

I also thank hon. Members on both sides of the Committee for their support and constructive comments. From the Opposition Benches, the hon. Members for North Dorset and for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) have been constructive in their comments, as have the hon. Members for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and for Brecon and Radnorshire. Not least, I thank my hon. Friends, both those who have offered constructive contributions and those who have indulged the Committee with their silence, for their fulsome and wholesome support at all times. It is a pleasure to know that many hon. Members are so keen on Government proposals that they do not need to reinforce their feelings with words, but can instead rely on the Minister to represent the Government's interests.

I also thank the many children's groups who have been involved in lobbying the Committee. It is right and proper that we explore the issues that they have raised. Finally, I pay tribute to National Assembly for its committee work, and to Jane Hutt, the Minister with responsibility for health and children's affairs in the National Assembly.

I am confident that, although it has not been amended in Committee, we have a Bill that will go to another place with the benefit of constructive criticism and Government explanations. In due course, when the Bill has been through Report stage and Third Reading, we shall have legislation of which the House and the National Assembly can be proud.

Mr. Llwyd: Further to that point of order, Mr Wells. I add my gratitude to you and Mr. Jones for chairing our proceedings so ably. Most of our time in Committee has been spent in what has been described as grown-up debate. We have not changed much, but we have narrowed down three or four main areas of contention. Two or three remain for another place to address in more detail. I am confident that the Minister will report to his colleagues on the main areas for attention and I hope that there will be some movement in another place.

I add my thanks to the children's groups who have lobbied and briefed us so well. I think in particular of Children in Wales, which has acted as an umbrella group for all the interested parties. A lot of hard work has been done. Today's proceedings are a tribute to Children in Wales, who, back in the early 1990s, pointed out the need for a Children's Commissioner for Wales. That is now to become a reality, subject to those amendments that were argued for, some of which I hope will be put into effect in the other place.

There has been unanimity on many aspects of the Bill. There is a consensus and our debate from beginning to end has been a sensible one. I hope that it has also been fruitful, not for us as parliamentarians, but for the young children of Wales who are the future of that country.

Mr. Livsey: Further to that point of order, Mr. Wells. It would be remiss of us not to thank the Minister for his good humour in taking this Bill through Committee.

The Chairman: I thank all those who have put spurious points of order to me on matters that are not really my concern. I am grateful to receive them, however, particularly as they have been expressed in such a gracious and good-humoured way. I will certainly convey them to my co-Chairman, Mr. Jones. I commend the Committee for its good-tempered and serious debates. It does the reputation of the Houses of Parliament a great deal of good when matters of such importance are discussed in such a responsible manner.

Following the changes in our procedure, I have new words to say. Our proceedings are now concluded.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

        Committee rose at seven minutes past Six o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Wells, Mr. Bowen (Chairman)
Ainger, Mr.
Evans, Mr.
Gray, Mr.
Griffiths, Mr. Win
Hanson, Mr.
Kelly, Ms
Livsey, Mr.
Llwyd, Mr.
Morgan, Ms Julie
Mudie, Mr.
Powell, Sir Raymond
Rowe, Mr.
Touhig, Mr.
Walter, Mr.

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