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Lord Roberts of Conwy: I confirm the unqualified welcome for the proposal to establish a Welsh Administration Ombudsman and the consequential changes in relation to the Health Service Commissioner. I particularly welcome the fact that the Welsh Administration Ombudsman is not confined to the assembly and its executive. He can examine complaints of maladministration by related bodies, including the new Welsh Development Agency and other bodies receiving a significant proportion of their funding from assembly sources. The possibility that they may be complained against should help keep those bodies on the straight and narrow track of propriety.

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I also give a hearty welcome to the novel proposals for a response procedure, when the Welsh Administration Ombudsman has investigated a complaint and found maladministration. The body responsible would be given three months in which to respond. If it fails to do so, or if its response is unsatisfactory, the WAO will issue a further report setting out the action required. If the assembly is the guilty party, the first secretary will be required to move that the assembly approve the WAO's recommendations as to the form of redress.

I hope that it will be quickly established that such motions are normally carried in the assembly. There was a striking contrast between the acceptance by the Welsh Office of parliamentary commissioners' decisions and the grudging refusal of many local authorities to accept the findings of the local government commissioner. If the procedure whereby the first secretary has to move acceptance of the WAO's recommendations prove successful in practice, I hope that a similar procedure will be made obligatory on local authorities.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I thank the noble Lord for his typically generous remarks. It is an enormous improvement. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is not here. These amendments have come about because we have listened carefully. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that an in-built structural mechanism is a very useful discipline for government at whatever level.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Relations with local government: supplementary]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 246A:

Page 97, line 39, after ("election") insert ("(after the first)").

The noble Lord said: Within this group are Amendments Nos. 246A and 246B together with Amendment No. 247. Amendments Nos. 246A and 246B are technical. The assembly will have to consider changes to its schemes for local government and the voluntary sector in the year following the ordinary elections to the assembly. The amendments are designed to give a degree of flexibility which we thought, on reflection, was more appropriate.

At present, paragraph 6 to Schedule 8 and subsection (5) of Clause 114 would oblige the assembly to consider changing its local government and voluntary sector schemes by May 2000. We have thought about this. The assembly does not come into being until the end of May next year and its early life will be dominated by organising delivery not only of duties placed by the legislation but also the transfer of functions. That will mean that in the first year of the assembly's being the statutory schemes will not have had full 12-month terms. It is sensible not to insist that the assembly should consider whether to change the local government and voluntary sector schemes within the year following the first ordinary elections. We will propose an identical amendment for the sustainable development scheme which the assembly will prepare under Clause 121.

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Amendment No. 247 does not allow the assembly to delegate its function for making or revising its scheme with the voluntary sector. This ensures consistency of treatment for the voluntary sector with the other schemes that the assembly will make for local government and sustainable development, where the functions again cannot be delegated. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I think I understand these two amendments. They are quite sensible. The noble Lord did not say much about Amendment No. 247. I take it that the Government have had second thoughts about any of this being delegated. Amendment No. 247 prevents delegation. It seems to be a little prescriptive, but there is merit in it.

On page 58 of the Bill, subsection (5) says:

    "The Assembly shall keep the scheme under review and in the year following each ordinary election ...".

I take it that an ordinary election is not the first one. The first election is an extraordinary election. If it is not, then perhaps the Government will need another amendment at Report stage to clear that up.

What the noble Lord has done is quite sensible. Dare I say that it shows the merits of a second Chamber?

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 114 [Relations with voluntary organisations]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 246B and 247:

Page 58, line 11, after ("election") insert ("(after the first)").
Page 58, line 14, leave out from ("scheme") to end of line 16.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

4 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 114, as amended, shall be agreed to?

Lord Aberdare: I am in the rather awkward position of opposing that this clause should stand part when in fact I very much welcome it. I shall be horrified if it is not a part of the Bill. It is the only part that mentions voluntary bodies. The only way to get further information from the Government was to table this kind of probing amendment.

I must declare an interest. I am the president of the National Council of YMCAs in Wales.

When I first became interested in this I wanted to find out some of the statistics about the grants that are made to voluntary bodies. The best information that I could get was in a letter from Win Griffiths, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Welsh Office, to Denzil Davies, MP, on 14th April 1998. This disclosed that the total grants to voluntary bodies by the Welsh Office in the year 1996-97 were over £15 million. This was distributed to 285 different voluntary bodies up and down Wales--north, south, east and west--and, varied in amounts from more than £1 million to the Welsh Books Council to £300 to Ambleston Hall, and there were many grants in between. They arose from various statutes but they are all of great importance to the recipients.

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I welcome the scheme envisaged in the clause. It is the main provision of Clause 114. It will form the basis of what comes before the assembly in due course when it takes over the responsibilities from the Secretary of State. It is of great importance to all voluntary bodies in Wales. They all welcome the idea of close co-operation with the assembly. I would ask the noble Lord if he can give more information about the status and timetable of the scheme.

The Wales Council for Voluntary Action, which has a membership of 600 from various organisations, is keen on the scheme and is working hard to produce a draft agreement. However, I should be grateful if the Minister could give us any information about the progress of the scheme, in particular whether it is likely to be published before the Bill leaves this House.

I wish to mention a particular grant scheme which exists under the Headquarter Grants Education Order 1990 to assist the central administration of voluntary bodies in the youth service area. I understand that in Wales it has an annual budget of £361,000, administered by the Wales Youth Agency. Of that, the YMCA received £45,000 this year, the first of a three-year programme. I hope that whatever happens in the future, the new assembly will accept that commitment for the two remaining years because it is of enormous importance to the YMCA. The same applies to other bodies with an on-going programme.

I turn to the future of the youth service in Wales. I should not like it to be thought that the YMCA considered itself to be the only voluntary body. There are many others and all carry out extremely good work. There are, for instance, the Urdd Gobaith Cymru, which is the Welsh voluntary body, the Welsh Association of Youth Clubs, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, the Federation of Girls' and Boys' Clubs, the Scouts, the Guides, the young farmers' clubs and various Church bodies. Perhaps I may quote from a document produced by the Wales Youth Agency, Building the Future, to illustrate the importance of the youth service in Wales. It states:

    "In Wales over ¼ million young people are in contact with a range of youth work organisations on a regular basis. Young people find youth work attractive and value the opportunities it provides. Youth work is a partnership between voluntary youth organisations and local authority organisations. It offers opportunities to find challenge and adventure, advice, information and counselling, recognition of achievement and enjoyment. Unitary authorities have a statutory duty to ensure the quality of their youth service".

The YMCA is at the sharp end of this work, dealing with some of the major problems of young people, including homelessness, unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse, as well as providing social and sporting activities. On any one night, for example, the YMCA provides emergency accommodation in its hostels for 177 young people, 140 of them in Cardiff alone.

Yet since the unitary authorities took over we have lost two full-time and four part-time staff as a result of the withdrawal of grant aid. I know that other youth organisations are in a similar predicament. The Urdd is suffering from reduced funding for its area officers and is also being charged for the premises in which its members meet. The Guides are also paying more for hiring their meeting places.

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In the Welsh Office Green Paper, Learning is for Everyone, Chapter 2 refers to the importance of the youth service. Paragraph 23 states:

    "The Youth Service and associated voluntary sector organisations are critically important in the drive towards a learning country".

However, its proposals to implement these good intentions are limited to exhortations; for example, clarifying the duty of local authorities to secure a youth service, extending that duty to require local authorities to collaborate with the voluntary sector youth services and so forth. There is no commitment to extra funding, except for a grant of £300,000 to the Wales Youth Agency.

The Government have made education one of their main priorities and have allocated extra funds to local authorities for that purpose. That purpose should include the youth service. However, it is not clear that the extra funding is always used by local authorities for educational purposes, including the youth service.

The Bill, in subsection (4)(a), refers to:

    "how the Assembly proposes to provide assistance to relevant voluntary organisations (whether by grants, loans, guarantees or any other means)".

Does that mean that assembly funding will be available to the voluntary bodies involved in the youth service? If so, how does it fit in with the local authorities' statutory duty to provide a youth service? The two appear to overlap.

I cannot help wondering where the assembly is to find much of the money that is required for the youth service. We often hear quoted the figure of £7 billion coming from the Welsh Office when the responsibilities of the Secretary of State are transferred to the assembly. But, unfortunately, that includes financing many demanding commitments; for instance, local authorities and health authorities as well as the cost of establishing and running the assembly itself, including the salaries and expenses of its members. The debate last week on the financial arrangements and the Barnett formula did not suggest that the assembly was likely to have much spare cash.

I am not very sanguine about the future of the youth service. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some encouragement. I conclude with a Welsh saying:

    "Ni wna geiriau teg hau'r tir".

It means, "Fair words will not sow the land", or, more colloquially, "Fair words butter no parsnips". I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give us a bit of butter.

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