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House of Commons

Friday 11 May 2001

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On this, our last full parliamentary day, may I wish you every success in your parliamentary re-election campaign? I am sure that it will be smooth and uneventful, and will return you to us safely--or at least to those of us who will be here after the election.

I seek your advice, Mr. Speaker, because until 5 o'clock on Monday we will all be Members of Parliament and able to fulfil our duties correspondingly, but after that those of us who are seeking re-election will be mere candidates. I am pursuing our embassy in Rio de Janeiro on a matter on behalf of my constituent, Mr. Williams, and I get the feeling that the embassy is incompetent or, worse, stonewalling, possibly until it thinks that I am safely out of way as a Member of Parliament. Can you think of any way in which those of us who are in our dying hours as MPs, about to be reduced to mere candidates, can still exercise some influence on behalf of our former constituents with recalcitrant bureaucrats, diplomats and worse? Any help that you can give me and other Members will be much appreciated.

Mr. Speaker: I would not advise the right hon. Gentleman to go personally to Rio de Janeiro to try to sort out the matter. He is a persistent individual, and all that I can advise is persistence. It is nice of a fellow Glaswegian to wish me well in the general election, and given that I am a non-party candidate the right hon. Gentleman is welcome to come up to Glasgow to give me a hand.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course, as a non-Glaswegian, I endorse those sentiments. In view of my right hon. Friend's persistence and loquacity, could you arrange for the Chamber to be opened on Monday so that he can come here and speak until 5 o'clock?

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you been informed of any

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recommendation, decision or thought of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about keeping Members and ex-Members informed about foot and mouth disease, which is still serious in certain counties?

If I may, I will go further than my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), and say that the House deserves to thank you for the difficult task, which you have taken on, of following a well-respected Speaker. You have certainly made your own mark, and I pay tribute to you for so doing. If you could help us on agriculture, it would be even better.

Mr. Speaker: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his typical kindness to me. Like all hon. Members, I recognise that this is a terrible time for rural areas. Without taking sides, I can safely say that the Minister of Agriculture has been very good in coming to the House and giving an account of what is going on. He will take note of the fact that contact with, and easy access to, the Ministry has to be maintained throughout the election to ensure that rural communities are looked after in the best way possible. I think that is the most that I can say on the matter.

Before I start the main business, I acknowledge that there are many Members present, including right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, who are retiring. We will miss you all.



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Orders of the Day

Children's Commissioner for Wales Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 1

Application of Part 5 of the

Care Standards Act 2000

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 28, leave out subsection (3) and insert--
"(3) For subsection (6) substitute--
"(6) Regulations may provide for the references to a child in subsection (1) to include references to a person (including a child) who was at any time (including a time before the commencement of this Part)--
(a) a child ordinarily resident in Wales;
(b) a child to or in respect of whom services were provided in Wales by, or on behalf of or under arrangements with, a person mentioned in Schedule 2B; or
(c) a child to or in respect of whom regulated children's services in Wales were provided.""

9.38 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

I thank you for your remarks, Mr. Speaker. Government Members wish you well in your attempt at parliamentary re-election, and you certainly know where our sympathies lie regarding your subsequent re-election attempt.

I hope that the amendments will not be controversial. There have been no Divisions in the other place or the Commons on these matters. This is a technical amendment, which will extend the application of part 5 of the Care Standards Act 2000 to ensure that the commissioner can exercise his jurisdiction in respect of dead children and those who, sadly, die in circumstances that he may wish to investigate.

The Government have re-examined clause 1, and we believe that there may be some doubt about the commissioner's jurisdiction in respect of such children. Given the tragic circumstances in cases such as that of Anna Climbie, of which the whole House will be aware, it is important that we ensure that the commissioner can consider the role of relevant agencies in Wales if he wishes to investigate following the death of a child. I hope that there will be general support for the amendment. I have had discussions with Opposition parties, and I know that they support it. I commend it to the House.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): I, too, wish those Members who are retiring, some of whom are present in the Chamber, a happy retirement, especially the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). Although we hope that his will not be a full retirement, he is departing this Parliament and we wish him well for the future. On a personal note, I should like to say to another Member who has taken a special interest in children's issues, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), that I wish her every joy in whatever she does after leaving Parliament.

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We welcome the amendments. The Minister is right to say that they did not cause division along party lines in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter), who led on many of the issues in Committee, made many of the same points that the Minister has made today. We are glad that the Government have reconsidered their position and tabled the amendments. The fact that the Bill is to receive Royal Assent is welcome to us, albeit with one caveat, which is that we hoped that it would extend to England as well. However, that can be dealt with in future. I agree with the Minister's comments. The Conservatives will be happy to support the amendment.

Mr. Martyn Jones (Clwyd, South): I, too, support the amendment. I congratulate the Government on getting the Bill through late in the Parliament when it could easily have got lost. I am glad on behalf of the children of Wales that it did not.

As Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, which first recommended the establishment of a Children's Commissioner for Wales, I am pleased that the Assembly has seen fit to implement our recommendation. There is a possibility that jurisdiction might be extended to England from Wales. In our latest inquiry, we are considering the position of children who are in custody in England, whose rights might not be as good as they would be in Wales. I hope that the Government take that further when they are re-elected and that they establish commissioners throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Hanson: On the extension of commissioners to other parts of the UK, the Government will examine the role of the Children's Commissioner for Wales. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton), will reflect on the Welsh experience. There will be opportunities to consider the matter further. I am grateful for the Opposition's support for the amendment.

I echo the good wishes to right hon. and hon. Members who are retiring from Parliament. I know that some will speak later today.

Lords amendment agreed to.

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