Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am very grateful to the Minister again. I am delighted to hear what he has said. The Assembly is right to establish the body on a statutory basis. I am glad to hear that it will have a performance monitoring role. The old CHC association was an informal support organisation and had defects. There is no doubt that the proposal is a considerable improvement, which I hope will raise standards and ensure consistency of performance among CHCs.

However, it will be a statutory body. In common with other statutory bodies, it should be incumbent on this body to produce an annual report so that the public can see how it is discharging its duties.

I do not want to sound suspicious, but there is a clear danger that if such a body does not report to the public on the performance of its functions, there will be a considerable danger that it will become introspective and may not perform its functions as well as we all wish. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Wales Centre for Health]:

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 8:

The noble Lord said: We all have high hopes of the Wales Centre for Health—the new independent training, advisory and research body. It will be a body corporate with statutory functions, as set out in the Bill. As the Bill stands, the Assembly may appoint any number of members. I suspect that there is a danger of too many rather than too few members being appointed. If there are too many, the Wales Centre for Health may not be as effective as we all hope it will be.

26 Feb 2003 : Column GC18

It would therefore be wise to set an upper limit, as is customary in statutes establishing such bodies. The amendment would set such a limit.

We shall probably be urged to leave all such issues to the Assembly, as has so often been the case with other legislation. However, as we pass these issues back to the Assembly, I wonder whether we are deliberately creating additional work for Assembly Members. They might be grateful if we at least gave an indication of where we think the boundaries should be drawn. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: This is a classic issue for the Assembly. As matters proceed, it will decide the suitable number of members for the Wales Centre for Health. It may start with a few and need more or it may start with more and need fewer, but that is a matter for the Assembly.

Baroness Andrews: The amendment would reduce the power of the Assembly to determine the number of members of the Wales Centre for Health. I entirely agree that we have high hopes for the centre. It is nice to see the first bit of Welsh in the Bill—Canolfan Iechyd Cymru. I think that acronym will be easier to say than WCH. We very much look forward to it becoming more than an acronym in due course.

The Assembly will be responsible for funding the WCH and monitoring its effectiveness. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, is right that the Assembly is best placed to take these decisions, although we take the point about having an upper limit and the tendency of public bodies to add ever more people.

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, has the gift of foresight. I understand that the Assembly intends that the centre should consist of a chair and no more than 14 members. The noble Lord has happily come up with the right number. All his years in Parliament and public life have made his judgment very sound.

With that assurance, I hope that the noble Lord is able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am delighted to have had the chance to anticipate the best thoughts of the Assembly. I am glad that it has a limit of 15 in mind. That is an adequate number. In view of that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Wales Centre for Health: further provision]:

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 9:

    Page 8, line 13, after "authorised" insert "in writing"

The noble Lord said: I should have spoken to this with Amendment No. 8. I apologise. Paragraph 8 of the schedule specifies that the Assembly has to give its direction to the Wales Centre for Health in writing. The centre would be well advised to give authorisation to those acting in its name in writing as well. That is the

26 Feb 2003 : Column GC19

point of the amendment. Members and staff will be so authorised by the terms of their appointment, but others are to be authorised too. Paragraph 3 mentions committees and sub-committees. For the avoidance of doubt and with the interests of good management at heart, authorisation should be in writing so that all who act for the centre should know the extent of their powers. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews: We appreciate the intention behind the amendment. The noble Lord has spoken of good management. He clearly has in mind accountability and the importance of keeping good written records. We can hardly disagree with that.

However, the amendment would oblige the centre to provide a written authorisation for any member of staff or any committee or sub-committee of the centre. There are some merits in that, but we believe that the virtue of a small research-based centre that we envisage will lie in its capacity to act quickly and be responsive. It will have to identify and reflect on some of the key issues of medical need of the day. It will be very important not to overload the centre with bureaucracy and paperwork that is not strictly necessary. It would be easy to inhibit the centre's capacity to be effective if it had to respond in writing to every conceivable function placed on every member of staff.

Paragraph 2 places a duty on the centre to,

    "carry out its functions effectively, economically and efficiently".

In fulfilling that requirement, the centre will be expected to ensure that its members and the staff of committees and sub-committees know and understand how they contribute to carrying out the functions of the centre. That will be a matter of good practice and much of it will be in writing. That is a simple and important tool of good management.

Paragraph 3 simply ensures that anything authorised or required by the centre can be done by the member of staff or committees of sub-committees, thereby putting beyond doubt the capacity of the centre to act. No doubt a lot of that will have to be in writing, but we are reluctant to inhibit the centre's ability to move fast and effectively. There will be necessary safeguards and the amendment is unnecessary.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. She will appreciate that I was prompted to table the amendment by the contrast between the powers of the centre and the Assembly's directions to it, which have to be in writing. However, I am content to highlight that point. I trust that what the noble Baroness has said about the conduct of the centre will materialise. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

26 Feb 2003 : Column GC20

Clause 3 [Functions of the centre]:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff moved Amendment No. 10:

    Page 2, line 23, at beginning insert "facilitate and"

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 11, because the two are linked. I shall be brief, because I received a very helpful letter in which the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, clarified the issue. I have also had a very helpful conversation this morning with the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Ruth Hall, which further clarified the issues. I do not intend to press the amendments.

The amendments were tabled because the Wales Centre for Health is an exciting and important body. It should be able to act and influence health in Wales on as broad a platform as possible. My concern was that if education was not specified, the centre may have little influence at undergraduate level, limiting its input to postgraduate level where training is occurring. Undergraduates need to be aware of the deficit in health in Wales and the enormous problems that exist, as well as the importance of public health in altering the mortality and morbidity of the population.

I have had reassurances that the centre will work with education providers on the education, training and supply of public health practitioners and specialists and that it will assist in public health education on the broader platform. I understand that input at undergraduate level was not specified in the Bill to avoid any possible conflict over who was responsible for providing undergraduate education. That responsibility rests firmly with the universities in Wales to train the healthcare staff to meet the needs of the health service in Wales and to welcome healthcare professionals from outside Wales to supplement the workforce when required.

Having received the reassurances that I have sought, I do not wish to move the amendments.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page