Devolution: A Decade On - Justice Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Consumer Council

  1.   The Welsh Consumer Council is the national, generalist consumer advocate for Wales. The Council is an "independent but not autonomous" committee of the London based National Consumer Council which, along with the Welsh and Scottish Consumer Councils, was established in 1975 "to promote action for furthering and safeguarding the interests of consumers, to ensure that those who take decisions which will affect the consumer can have a balanced and authoritative view of the interests of consumers before them, and to insist that the interests of all consumers including the inarticulate and disadvantaged are taken into account."

  2.  The work of the Welsh Consumer Council is substantially focused on influencing consumer and public policy making in Wales through, for example: membership of the Food Standards Agency Wales nutrition strategy working group; chairing The Welsh Assembly Government Working Group on Community Transport; secondment of a staff member to the Welsh Assembly Government to assist with work on debt policy; membership of the Board and of key working groups to the governments Making the Connections public services reform programme; and extensive engagement with sustainable consumption and development issues through membership of various working groups.

  3.  As well as influencing policy making directly through participating in working groups and other policy-making fora, the Council has taken forward an extensive research programme to support and underpin its policy-making functions.

  4.  Based on our long-running experience of working with both the Welsh Assembly Government, National Assembly for Wales and with Government in Whitehall and Westminster, we would like to put forward our comments on the current review—Devolution: a decade on.

  5.  Initially after the devolution settlement in Wales, there was evidence of Whitehall departments failing to appreciate the realities of devolution and the continued need to consult with organisations in Wales over policies that had UK-wide implications.

  6.  However, we have observed that this situation has definitely improved. Although there are still parts of Whitehall or parts of Whitehall departments who still regularly forget.

  7.  One of the contributing factors seems to be the high turnover of civil servants and, therefore, there is a need to ensure that all induction packages for new staff fully cover devolution and its implications.

  8.  The situation is improving, but it is not yet working as well as it could be.

  9.  As the Welsh Consumer Council has demonstrated over many years, consumer organisations have an important role in ensuring that policy-makers are reminded of the importance of looking at policy and plans and provision from the consumer or users point of view.

  10.  This is, moreover, not an abstract function for general exhortation, but something that needs to be done on a case-by-case basis, and with an understanding of particular policy frameworks and objectives.

  11.  For those working in Whitehall departments a clear line of communication with organisations working within the different political landscape of the devolved nations would be of real use in enabling them to formulate the best possible understanding of the implications of policy.

  We hope that these comments are useful and look forward to seeing the progress of the inquiry.

Vivienne Sugar


April 2007

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 24 May 2009