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Lord Thomas of Gresford: The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will appreciate that such constitutional matters arise in relation to Amendment No. 20, which I propose to move. I shall voice many of the concerns that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 3:

In section 72 of the Care Standards Act 2000 (c. 14) (Children's Commissioner for Wales) for the words "Children's Commissioner for Wales" there shall be substituted "Children's and Youth Commissioner for Wales"."

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 3 and the amendments grouped with it--Amendments Nos. 21 and 27--are probing amendments. The commissioner is, as we know, involved with further and higher education and is responsible for young people up to and occasionally over the age of 18 who are still in the education system. It therefore seems sensible to extend his title to cover those young people.

I suspect that I shall be told that the Children Act 1989 also covers young people of 18 and over and that the proposed change of title is inappropriate at this time, despite the disadvantages of describing young people as children when they do not regard themselves as such and might be offended by the description. The change will have to come sooner or later. I look forward to the Government's response. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Perhaps I can give a reply in two stages. First, the Children's Commissioner is already in post. If we change the nomenclature now, that would simply bring about fruitless confusion, especially during this important stage in the commissioner's work. The present position is well accepted now by the media in Wales, by those who are interested generally and by the public at large. The noble Lord was right--I refer to the Children Act 1989. Mr Peter Clarke's remit will be 0 to 18, and Children's Commissioner--though I realise this is not a perfectly persuasive point among some of your Lordships--is the title used in similar offices in Europe.

Secondly, we want to cover those who are children; that is, they are not adult, not having reached the age of 18 years. The very wide consultation carried out by the Assembly was with children and young persons under the age of 18. We think the title is right, and it is well recognised now. I think it is receiving public acceptance and recognition in Wales.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I do not think there is any question but that the title is accepted in Wales. The point I was making was that the commissioner will be dealing with young people up to the age of 18, and, I

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think, over 18 if they are still in education. I am content with the explanation of the Minister. Clearly, the Government are not going to change the commissioner's title at this stage because it is already in the Act passed last year. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Principal aim of the Commissioner]:

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 4:

    Page 2, line 14, at end insert--

"(2) The Commissioner may make appropriate representations to the Secretary of State or any statutory body about any matter affecting the rights or welfare of children in Wales.""

The noble Lord said: We come to the important matter of representations by the commissioner to which the Minister has already referred. The noble and learned Lord has announced that he will bring forward a suitable amendment to enable the commissioner to make representations at Report stage.

There has been constant demand for the commissioner to have the right to make direct representations to bodies outside his jurisdiction if he has good cause. I shall not trace the history of the demand--from the Health and Social Services Committee report of the Welsh Assembly through Standing Committee in another place to our own Second Reading debate. I notice that today the campaign group highlights this as one of three changes it would like to see in the Bill. The group says it would like the commissioner to have the power to consider and make appropriate representations about any matter underlined affecting the rights or welfare of children ordinarily resident in Wales. I am sure that we are all aware of the campaign group that comprises the NSPCC Cymru, Save the Children, Barnardo's Cymru and the Children's Society in Wales. They were a very important group of organisations pressing for the establishment of a commissioner.

The demand is summed up in the expression of the desire that the commissioner should have a power similar to the power of the Assembly in Section 33 of the Government of Wales Act which, I remind your Lordships, states:

    "The Assembly may consider, and make appropriate representations about, any matter affecting Wales".

Our amendment seeks to meet that aspiration. The Government have certainly acknowledged that the commissioner has a right to make representations on matters outside his jurisdiction to government departments and other bodies--but informally or through the Assembly. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, whom I am pleased to see in her place, said:

    "That would not give him substantive functions in non-devolved areas".--[Official Report, 19/2/01; col. 570.]

The noble and learned Lord appeared slightly more relaxed about the issue but equally firm at the end of the day in saying:

    "Even if some issues are outside the statutory remit, he does not have to stay silent. If during the course of his work he receives representations about non-devolved matters, he can bring them to the attention of relevant government departments and in so doing

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    can indicate his views. He can also bring to the Assembly's attention complaints and information he receives about non-devolved matters. He can do that, of course, through the annual report to the Assembly".--[Official Report, 19/2/01; col. 542.]

That seems far away when we are dealing with what may arise, namely, urgent cases brought to the attention of the commissioner that require a response. We find that the Government appear to concede the argument and to acknowledge that such cases may arise but they are not prepared to formalise the commissioner's duty at this stage. We have received very good news that they are considering it and may bring an amendment forward at Report stage. That is necessary because most of us believe that the position should be formalised, that it should be a function of the commissioner to make representations where he feels it is necessary to the Secretary of State--which can be any Secretary of State--or any mandatory body, otherwise his approaches to them will, in our view, be too informal to merit proper attention on their part.

I cannot see why the Government cannot give the commissioner's status this extra boost in his dealings with bodies outside his jurisdiction. Certainly, it would remove the most glaring deficiency in the commissioner's relationships with bodies responsible for children in Wales but outside his remit. I am glad to welcome the decision of the Government to accept the case in essence and to bring forward a considered amendment on Report stage. I beg to move.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My name is attached to this amendment. It would be premature for me to make any comment having regard to the announcement by the Minister at the beginning of our deliberations. I noted, in particular, that he referred to ad hoc reporting on specific issues to the Assembly. That seems to me to meet many of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, made. The process of seeing the proposed amendment and discussing it with the Minister, as he invited us to do, is the way forward.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is very generous, and not for the first time, from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. The proposed amendment is to empower the commissioner to consider and to make representations to the Assembly about any matter affecting the rights or welfare of children in Wales. So it is pretty broad.

I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, that one may have something quite urgent that needs an ad hoc series of representations to the Assembly.

I deal with the Assembly's position. It seems to many of us in this House that the success of the Assembly is critical to the success of the devolution settlement in Wales. There were faint hearts when we started on this journey together. The Assembly needs to grow in experience, authority and confidence. I do not say that in a patronising way. This is a very new body indeed. I think it is surprising how well it has done rather than how badly it has performed and it has not fulfilled the rather gloomy prognostications.

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The Assembly's position is critical in the constitutional settlement and that is why it is very important, in our judgment, that the commissioner makes representations to the Assembly which, as the duly elected body, comes to its own conclusions about what representations and to whom and in what terms the Assembly wishes to exercise its powers under Section 33 of the Government of Wales Act.

4.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: I know that church leaders in Wales of all denominations are strongly supportive both of the establishment of the Children's Commissioner in the first place and this specific amendment, which will enable the commissioner to make representations. I know that they will be glad to hear what the Minister said at the beginning of the debate, especially the Archbishop in Wales who has been concerned to communicate Welsh church anxieties to me on this issue.

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