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Joint Committee On Human Rights Sixth Report


2 Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Bill

Date introduced to the House of Lords

Date introduced to the House of Commons

Current Bill Number

Previous Reports

25 May 2005

HL Bill 37

None

Introduction

2.1 The Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Bill is a Government Bill, introduced in the House of Lords on 25 May 2005,[42] and now awaiting third reading.[43] A statement of the Bill's compatibility with the Convention rights has been made under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 by Lord Evans of Temple Guiting. Explanatory Notes to the Bill have been published[44] and record the making of the section 19(1)(a) statement at paragraph 49.

2.2 The Bill establishes a Commissioner for Older People in Wales and sets out the Commissioner's functions and powers, which are comparable to those of the Children's Commissioner for Wales. The Bill follows from a recommendation made in May 2002 by the Welsh Assembly Government's Advisory Group on a Strategy for Older People in Wales in its report When I'm 64 … and More. This was followed up by a report from a further Advisory Group,[45] which was published in March 2004 and subject to consultation, which showed a very high level of support for the proposals. A draft Bill was published on 22 March 2005 for further consultation.[46]

2.3 Amongst the Commissioner's general functions are the promotion of awareness of the interests of older people in Wales and the elimination of discrimination against them, encouragement of best practice in the treatment of older people, and reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law affecting the interests of older people in Wales.[47] He may make representations to the Assembly on any matter relating to the interests of older people in Wales,[48] and may review the effects on older people of the discharge of functions, or failure to discharge functions, by the Assembly or by local government, health and social care, education and training, and other authorities in Wales.[49] In respect of older people for whom "regulated services"[50] are provided, the Commissioner may review and monitor arrangements made for dealing with advocacy, complaints and whistle blowing in the interests of older people.[51] He, or a person authorised by him, may enter any premises other than private dwellings to interview an older person accommodated or cared for there.[52] Regulations made by the Assembly under the Bill may provide for the Commissioner to give assistance to older persons,[53] to examine particular cases,[54] and to make reports following the discharge of any of his functions.[55]

2.4 Older people are defined as people aged 60 or over.[56] In considering the interests of older people in Wales, the Commissioner must have regard to the UN Principles for Older Persons, as adopted by the General Assembly on 16 December 1991.[57]

Human Rights Issues

2.5 In our view the provisions of the Bill give rise to no risk of incompatibility with ECHR rights or the provisions of other international human rights instruments. Indeed, we positively welcome the Bill as likely to lead, through the establishment of the Commissioner, to the promotion and protection of the human rights of older people in Wales, particularly for those in residential care accommodation in relation to their rights under Article 8 ECHR and, in extreme cases, Articles 2 and 3. It is a matter of regret to us that neither the Bill itself nor the surrounding debate have given enough emphasis to this positive human rights dimension. At a later stage of this Parliament we may return to consider the overall question of the human rights of older people, at which time we would also consider the relationship between the functions of the Commissioner for Older People in Wales and those of the CEHR in respect of prevention of age discrimination and promotion of the rights of older people.



42   HL Bill 6 Back

43   HL Bill 37, as amended on Report Back

44   HL Bill 6-EN Back

45   A Commissioner for Older People in Wales: The Report and Recommendations of the Welsh Assembly Government's Advisory Group Back

46   The Commons Welsh Affairs Committee took evidence on the draft Bill from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Welsh Office, Mr Don Touhig MP, on 5 April 2005, HC 547-i Back

47   Clause 2(1) Back

48   Clause 2(3) Back

49   Clause 3 and Schedule 2 Back

50   As defined in clause 25: essentially care services, including residential care homes. Back

51   Clause 5 Back

52   Clause 12 Back

53   Clause 8 Back

54   Clause 9 Back

55   Clause 14 Back

56   Clause 23(2) Back

57   Clause 24 Back


 
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Prepared 11 January 2006