FIRST SPECIAL REPORT
The Welsh Affairs Committee has agreed to the
following Special Report:
THE WORK OF THE COMMITTEE SINCE DEVOLUTION
1. In its First Report of Session 1999-2000, Shifting
the Balance, the Liaison Committee said that it would "expect
all appropriate select committees, by the rise of the House for
the Christmas 2000 recess, to assess progress on "live"
recommendations and criticisms, and to report."
This Special Report is our response to that recommendation.
2. We are in a very different position from most
of the select committees to which the Liaison Committee's recommendation
applies, since a large part of the work of the old Welsh Office
was devolved to the National Assembly for Wales towards the end
of the last Session of Parliament. We do not consider that our
recommendations made before devolution are still "live",
nor do we consider it appropriate to ask the National Assembly
to comment on the implementation of recommendations which, when
they were made, were the responsibility of the UK Government.
We have only recently received the Government's replies to the
reports we have published since devolution; it is still too early
to ask for follow-up on their implementation.
We have therefore decided, in this Special Report, to focus on
the work of the Committee since devolution. A summary of that
work is set out in the Annex.
3. On 1 July 1999, responsibility for a large part
of the work of the Welsh Office passed to the National Assembly
The majority of Welsh Office staff became officials of the Assembly,
with a few transferring to the small Office of the Secretary of
State for Wales (the Wales Office) and the old Welsh Office ceased
to exist. Developing and defining the Committee's role in the
light of devolution has been one of the major challenges facing
us during this Session of Parliament.
4. Much of the groundwork for the Committee's role
post-devolution was laid in the Procedure Committee's Report,
The Procedural Consequences of Devolution.
We submitted two memoranda of evidence to the inquiry and members
of the Welsh Affairs Committee gave oral evidence to the Procedure
We argued that there was an important role for the Welsh Affairs
Committee post-devolution. We felt that there was a danger that
Welsh interests might be neglected at Westminster after devolution
and that the Committee could act as a voice for Wales and as a
bridge between Westminster and the Assembly, though not as the
voice of the Assembly.
5. We felt that the Committee could play a useful
role in the scrutiny of Welsh legislation, and of UKwide
(or England and Waleswide) legislation as it affected Wales,
perhaps particularly at the prelegislative stage. In this
role, we envisaged that it would work closely with the Assembly's
6. We did not want the Committee's remit to be restricted
to the executive responsibilities of the Secretary of State for
Wales, since they would be few and largely of little political
interest. We did not think it right that the Committee should
seek to inquire into (or second guess) Assembly policy, but we
did not want our role to be restricted too tightly. We recommended
that the Committee should have a wideranging Welsh Affairs
brief, perhaps including monitoring how the moneys allocated by
Parliament are spent, examining matters within the responsibility
of the Assembly in the course of scrutinising legislation made
at Westminster, and possibly matters within the responsibility
of other Government departments. In that case, it would no longer
be a select committee related to a government department, but
a cross-cutting committee more like the Environmental Audit Committee.
7. The Procedure Committee's Report presented its
recommendations as the first stage of an evolutionary approach,
which may need to be adapted in the light of experience. It set
out as general principles that the House should respect the fact
of devolution and try not to interfere with devolved matters,
and that there should be as few procedural barriers to cooperation
between legislatures as possible. It recommended that there should
continue to be Select Committees for Scotland and Wales; that
they should be concerned with the role and responsibilities of
the relevant Secretary of State and "on occasion" the
policy of UK Departments affecting Scotland and Wales. It suggested
that, to avoid uncertainty about their remit, they should not
be appointed under Standing Order No. 152 (in other words they
should not be strictly departmentallyrelated).
8. On 25 October 1999 our terms of reference, as
set out in Standing Order No. 152, were amended to reflect the
devolution changes, though not in exactly the way recommended
by the Procedure Committee. The Committee continues to be a "select
committee related to a government department" appointed under
Standing Order No. 152, but it is now appointed "to examine
the expenditure, administration and policy of the Welsh Office
(Office of the Secretary of State for Wales (including relations
with the National Assembly for Wales))".
9. We have taken a flexible approach to the interpretation
of the new terms of reference. The primary functions of the Wales
Office include promoting the interests of Wales in policy formulation
by the UK Government, promoting UK Government policies in Wales,
consulting the National Assembly on the Government's legislative
programme and steering primary legislation through Parliament.
We believe that this gives us a broad remit to examine the impact
of UK Government policy in Wales, as well as more technical issues
such as the mechanics of the devolution settlement and the calculation
of the National Assembly's budget.
10. Our main inquiries during the present Session
have been into European Structural Funds, the impact of the Transport
Bill in Wales and social exclusion in Wales.
All these inquiries have involved an examination of the impact
of UK Government policies in Wales, as well as some matters which
are the responsibility of the National Assembly.
11. Our relationship with the National Assembly has
been good. We have held regular meetings with the Panel of Committee
Chairs to discuss matters of mutual interest. We have taken evidence
from officials from the National Assembly on four occasions and
held other informal meetings with them. We have very much appreciated
the spirit of co-operation with which they have approached these
meetings and we are grateful to the Presiding Officer for allowing
us to use facilities in the Assembly buildings.
Follow-up of Reports and Government Responses
12. We have not thought it appropriate to ask the
National Assembly for details of progress on implementing our
recommendations in Reports prior to Devolution. It is still too
soon to follow up further developments relating to the Reports
we have made since devolution since we have only recently received
the Government's responses (see below).
13. We are grateful to the Ministers in the National
Assembly for providing us with responses to recommendations which
fall within their responsibilities. The principal task of this
Committee is to scrutinize the work of the Secretary of State
and, although this includes the impact of UK Government policies
in Wales and the operation of the devolution settlement itself,
the National Assembly, its Ministers and Committees are not subject
to formal scrutiny by this Committee or by the United Kingdom
14. We have published seven Government responses
this Session, as appendices to special reports. Only two of those
were responses to reports published in this Session and one response
covered two reports from the 1998-99 Session.
All but one of the Government responses which we received during
this Session arrived after the conventional two-month deadline.
In one case, eight months elapsed between the publication of our
Report and the receipt of the Government response.
We recognise that the co-ordination of a response from both the
Government (and sometimes from several departments) and the National
Assembly is inevitably more time-consuming than a single government
department producing a response. We accept that some delays
have been inevitable during the first months of devolution, but
we hope to see a reduction in the time taken for government responses
to reach us during the next Session of Parliament.
15. We have taken note of the Liaison Committee's
recommendation that if a department continues to submit late replies
without giving a good reason the committee concerned should, at
the time of publication of a report, arrange for the responsible
Minister to appear before them a little more than two months later.
We have not yet adopted this practice but we will give further
consideration, during the next Session, of whether to do so.
However, we are not persuaded that it would be appropriate to
do so in cases where the delay in providing a response was solely
due to a delay on the part of the National Assembly for Wales.
Scrutiny of UK policy relating to Wales
FIRST REPORT: EUROPEAN STRUCTURAL FUNDS
16. Our First Report this Session, European Structural
Funds, focused on an issue of major importance to Wales.
During 1998 and early 1999, it became increasingly apparent that
West Wales and the Valleys might qualify for Objective 1 status
in the European Structural Funding round which was to run from
2000 to 2006, and thus become eligible for a significantly higher
level of European funding. In October 1998, the then Secretary
of State for Wales set up a European Task Force to advise him
in the negotiations, to coordinate the preparation of a
development strategy and related documents, and to mobilise a
partnership of the key bodies involved in social and economic
development in Wales. Concerned to ensure that everything possible
was being done to prepare for the opportunities ahead, we took
evidence from the Task Force on 16 March 1999.
17. Responsibility for social and economic development,
and for the Structural Funds strategy, passed to the Assembly
at devolution. However, as we are discovering in many other areas,
there is no clear dividing line between devolved and nondevolved
responsibilities. In this case, there was considerable concern
that Wales would not be able to benefit fully from the European
funds available because of funding constraints imposed by the
UK Government. Our inquiry focused on the UK funding aspects of
the issue, although our witnesses included Members and officials
from the National Assembly.
18. Several of our recommendations were accepted
by the Government or the National Assembly for Wales. In particular,
the Government and the Assembly, jointly, agreed to publish a
simple but authoritative guide to public expenditure in Wales,
setting out in simple terms how both UK and European funding operate
This document, Funding the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly
for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly: A Statement of Funding
Policy, was published in July 2000.
THIRD REPORT: SOCIAL EXCLUSION IN WALES
19. Our major inquiry since devolution has been into
Social Exclusion in Wales. A Report will be published on 15 January
The scope of the inquiry and the range of issues involved necessitated
a lengthy programme of oral evidence, informal meetings and visits.
We received written evidence from some 80 organisations and individuals,
and held nine sessions of oral evidence, four of them in Wales.
We had informal briefing meetings with representatives of the
UK Government and the National Assembly. We held 11 days of visits
in all parts of Wales, from Anglesey to Monmouthshire, from Swansea
to Wrexham. We held two academic seminars, in Bangor and in Swansea,
a seminar with ethnic minority representatives in Cardiff, and
a meeting with young people in Machynlleth. In addition, we visited
the Republic of Ireland in March 2000, and the United States of
America (Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Gary, Indiana)
in June 2000.
20. It was during this inquiry that we encountered
most acutely the difficulty of separating devolved and non-devolved
matters. Responsibility for tackling social exclusion crosses
the devolution divide, and appeared to us to be a key area in
which cooperation between the UK Government and the National
Assembly for Wales would be crucial. The National Assembly has
responsibility for housing, health, transport, education and training
and local government in Wales. But responsibility for social security
benefits, for taxation, for the Employment Service, for the regulation
of financial services, for the management of the Post Office and
for the fight against crime all rest with the UK Government. We
did not set out to scrutinise what was being done by the Assembly
which, as we have already noted (paragraph 13), would have been
neither appropriate nor useful. We focused primarily on those
areas which remained largely the responsibility of UK Government,
and on financial exclusion and on poverty, in particular. Nonetheless,
some of the evidence we received, and much of what we were told
on visits, related to matters which were the responsibility of
the National Assembly, and in some areas Assembly and UK responsibilities
were very closely intertwined.
Legislative ScrutinySecond Report: The
Transport Bill and its Impact on Wales
21. Following the Queen's Speech in 1999, we wrote
to Members of the National Assembly for Wales inviting comments
on the Government's proposed legislative programme to see whether
there were any concerns which we might usefully raise with Her
Majesty's Government. It was obvious from the replies which we
received that the item of legislation which was of greatest interest
to the Assembly was the Transport Bill,
so we decided to conduct a very short inquiry into the Bill as
it affected Wales. Since the Bill was already in standing committee
when we began our inquiry, we decidedunusually, and in
the interests of speednot to take oral evidence but to
base our inquiry solely on the written submissions we received.
22. The tight timetable for the inquiry was largely
fortuitous, and we do not believe that there was anything which
could have been done differently to avoid it. Assembly Members
identified as their main priority a Bill which the Government
had placed early in its legislative schedule, both things being
to some extent a consequence of the controversial nature of some
of the Bill's provisions. Despite being one of the first bills
to be referred to a standing committee it was one of the last
to receive Royal Assent.
23. Our Report concentrated on four areas of interest
to the Assembly: Local Transport Plans, charging for road use
and workplace parking, railways, and Passenger Transport Authorities.
In response to our recommendations, the Government brought forward
amendments to make individual road-charging and workplace parking
levy schemes subject to the approval of the National Assembly;
to give the National Assembly the right to determine the use of
revenues from roadcharging and workplace parking, subject
to Treasury consent; to place a formal duty on the Strategic Rail
Authority to consult the National Assembly about matters within
its remit which affect Wales; to require that in metropolitan
areas local transport plans should be produced jointly by the
Passenger Transport Authority and metropolitan district councils;
and to remove a requirement originally contained in the Bill that
the payment of service grants to bus operators by the Assembly
should be subject to Treasury approval.
24. aWe believe that this was a useful exercise and
has helped in part to define the Committee's role post-devolution.
Unlike the position in Scotland, where a large measure of responsibility
for primary legislation has been devolved, much of the primary
legislation passed at Westminster affects Wales directly and we
believe that we can play a useful role by taking up Assembly Members'
concerns about matters which fall within the responsibility of
the UK Parliament. We are repeating the exercise in the 2000-01
Session, and a letter was sent to all AMs shortly after the Queen's
Speech on 6 December 2000 inviting them to suggest areas of possible
pre-legislative scrutiny. We hope that, in the light of our recent
experience, it will prove possible to begin the process of scrutinising
earlier and, perhaps, to carry out a more exhaustive inquiry than
was possible with the Transport Bill.
Scrutiny of the Wales Office
25. Although we have not wished to confine ourselves
to scrutiny of the Secretary of State's rather limited executive
role, we have continued to scrutinize the core work of the Wales
Office, including its administration, expenditure plans, Annual
Report and Service Delivery Agreement, and the implications of
Resource Accounting and Budgeting.
26. Since devolution, we have taken evidence from
the Secretary of State and officials on the work of the Wales
Office on three occasions. On 26 October 1999, we took evidence
on the role of the Office of the Secretary of State post-devolution.
On 27 June 2000 we took evidence on the first year's work of the
Office of the Secretary of State for Wales
and on 21 November 2000 we took evidence on the outcome of the
Comprehensive Spending Review and other departmental matters,
including the Department's Service Delivery Agreement.
27. The Department has been generally helpful, although
there have on a few occasions been unexplained delays in providing
written evidence. The Government's memorandum to our current inquiry,
Wales in the World,
arrived on 9 November 2000 despite our having requested it, before
the Summer recess, by 18 October; however, it is worth noting
that the memorandum was extremely lengthy and contained contributions
from four Government departments and numerous public bodies. On
24 October 2000, we requested a memorandum on how Welsh interests
are taken into account in the drafting of primary legislation,
to be used as a basis for some questions to the Secretary of State
at the evidence session on 21 November. It has not yet been received,
although we understand that it is being prepared.
28. There have also been a few gaps in the routine
information which the Department provides to the Committee. For
example, we were not notified that the simple and authoritative
guide to UK and European funding in Wales which we recommended
in our report on Structural Funds had been published until we
asked Wales Office officials about it during an evidence session.
We accept that these delays, omissions and oversights are due
to the fact that the Wales Office is considerably smaller than
its predecessor Department and that they, like us, are still finding
their feet after devolution. The Wales Office's three policy divisions
employ between them only about 20 staff and we acknowledge that
a request for information from the Committee is more likely to
impinge significantly on one or two individual officials than
might be the case in a larger department.
Nonetheless, accountability to Parliament is a vital part of the
work of every government department and we hope to see matters
improve over the next Session. This is something to which we will
be returning in our next annual report on the Committee's activity.
Liaison with the National Assembly
29. We have held regular informal meetings, since
devolution, with the Assembly's Panel of Committee Chairs. These
meetings have provided an opportunity for us to discuss our inquiries
with Assembly Members and for them to offer suggestions on possible
witnesses and lines of inquiry, to give feedback on our reports
and to discuss areas of possible overlap. We have also had discussions
on committee practice, procedure and working methods. It is our
intention to continue to hold such meetings quarterly, at the
National Assembly building.
30. Organising informal joint activity with Assembly
Subject Committees has proved to be difficult, though we should
stress that this is not as a result of any reluctance to engage
in such activity on either side. Meetings have proved difficult
to organise because of the different timetables operating in Cardiff
and Westminsterthe most convenient day for members of the
Welsh Affairs Committee to attend meetings in Cardiff is Monday,
en route from their constituencies to Westminster, but
since the Assembly does not meet on Mondays, most AMs use Mondays
for constituency business. Individual AMs, including Assembly
Ministers, have joined us on visits and at seminars. We are keen
to explore over the next year ways in which we might work more
closely, where appropriate, with Committees of the National Assembly
and with individual Assembly Members.
31. The National Assembly has been willing to submit
evidence to our inquiries and the First Minister, the Minster
for Economic Development and the Chair of the Economic Development
Committee have all appeared before us as witnesses, as have several
Assembly officials. Although it is not our role to scrutinise
the work of the National Assembly, it would be very difficult
for us to work effectively without their co-operation.
Use of Welsh at Westminster
32. On several occasions we have taken evidence
in Wales in the Welsh language. During our inquiry into Social
Exclusion in Wales, we decided to hold an informal meeting with
socially-excluded young people from Walesyoung carers,
unemployed people, disabled people and those who had been in contact
with the police and criminal justice system. We had intended to
hold the meeting at Westminster, partly so that we could include
a tour of the Palace for the participants.
33. Given the nature of the event, we were concerned
that the participants should feel as comfortable as possible and
be able to speak openly about their personal experiences. We felt
very strongly that this meant that they should have the facility
to speak to us in Welsh, if they preferred to do so.
34. We discovered that we would not be able to provide
Welsh-English translation if we held the meeting in Westminster
since the rule that Welsh could only be used for committee proceedings
in Wales applied, mutatis mutandis, to informal meetings
of this kind. We therefore decided to hold the meeting in Wales,
at Celtica in Machynlleth. Following the meeting, the Committee
directed the Chairman to write to the Chairman of the Procedure
Committee to ask if they would review this rule. The Procedure
Committee agreed to look at this matter, and we are grateful to
them for doing so at a time when they were busy with a number
of other pressing matters, including an urgent inquiry into the
rules governing the election of the Speaker.
35. The Procedure Committee published its Report,
Use of the Welsh Language by Select Committee Witnesses,
on 18 December.
The Report recommends "that the House should approve the
use of Welsh by select committee witnesses at Westminster, subject
to the same conditions as those previously approved by the House
in relation to proceedings in Wales".
We welcome the Procedure Committee's recommendation and we look
forward to the House being given an early opportunity to approve
it. The change which the Procedure Committee has recommended is
both modest and narrow in its scope. There are many other areas
in which the use of the Welsh language by the Committee might
be extended. These include the use of Welsh in formal publicationssuch
as Reports and Minutes of Evidenceand in informal publications,
principally press notices. The Welsh Language Act 1993 does not
apply to the House of Commons,
but it does apply to the majority of organisations which we deal
with and they accordingly operate Welsh language schemes which
are designed to give effect to the principle that in the conduct
of public business in Wales the English and Welsh languages should
be treated on the basis of equality.
Even those organisations which do not have a statutory duty to
do so usually publish reports and other documents in both languages.
The Committee's use only of English in its publications, and its
use of Welsh in only certain, quite restricted circumstances during
its meetings must appear to be anomalous to many in Wales. The
anomaly has been highlighted by the establishment of the National
Assembly for Wales which is fully bilingual, where Members and
witnesses may speak freely in whichever language they prefer and
which releases all its publications in both languages.
36. We will give further consideration to these
issues during the next Session of Parliament. We recognise that
any change to current practice during the Committee's formal proceedings
or publications would be a matter for the House.
Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC 300,
Shifting the Balance, paras. 51-55. Back
9 See paragraphs
areas in which functions were transferred were: agriculture, forestry,
fisheries and food; ancient monuments and historic buildings;
culture (including museums, galleries and libraries); economic
development; Education and training; the environment; health and
health services; highways; housing; industry; local government;
social services; sport and recreation; tourism; town and country
planning; transport; water and flood defence; and the Welsh language.
Full details are set out in the Transfer of Functions (National
Assembly for Wales) Order 1999. Back
Report from the Procedure Committee, Session 1998-99, HC 185,
The Procedural Consequences of Devolution. Back
pp. 71-85. Back
para. 21. Back
Standing Order is inaccurate since the Welsh Office in fact ceased
to exist at devolution. The Office of the Secretary of State
for Wales is known as the Wales Office. Back
Report by the Wales Office (Office of the Secretary of State for
Wales), Cm 4620, April 2000,
p. 1. Back
paragraphs 16 to 24. Back
Special Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 1999-2000,
HC 116, Government and National Assembly for Wales Responses
to the Fourth and Fifth Reports of the Committee (Session 1998-99)
Health Issues in Wales and Paediatric Cardiac Services in Wales. Back
and McKay (eds.), Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges,
Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 22nd Edition (London,
1997), p. 672. Back
published our Sixth Report of Session 199899, HC 340, Denbighshire
County Council's Funding Legacy, on 27 July 1999. The Government's
response was received on 29 March 2000 and published as our Third
Special Report of Session 1999-2000, HC 426. Back
Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC 300,
Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive,
para. 45. Back
Report of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC 46,
European Structural Funds. Back
Special Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 1999-2000,
HC 470, Responses from the Government and the National Assembly
for Wales to the First Report of the Committee (Session 1999-2000) European Structural Funds,
p. iv. Back
is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.hmtreasury.gov.uk/pdf/2000/sfp4.pdf
(28 November 2000). Back
Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC
365, Social Exclusion in Wales. Back
the Transport Act 2000 (c. 38).] Back
Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC
287, The Transport Bill and its Impact on Wales. Back
Special Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 1999-2000,
HC 497, Responses of the Government and the National Assembly
for Wales to the Second Report of the Committee (Session 1999-2000)
The Transport Bill and its Impact on Wales. Back
(1998-99) 854. Back
(1999-2000) 627. Back
(1999-2000) 995. Back
inquiry was begun late in the present Session and we expect to
include details of it in our next annual report. Back
paragraph 18. Back
Office (Office of the Secretary of State for Wales) Departmental
Report 2000, Cm 4620, April 2000, Figure 2. Back
Committee Press Notice No. 13 of Session 1999-2000, dated 31 October
Report from the Procedure Committee, HC 47, Session 2000-01. Back
para. 6. Back
c. 38. The public bodies to which it does apply are listed in
section 6(1) of the Act. Back
Language Act 1993, section 5. Back