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Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 148:

("(3) An order under subsection (1) amending or repealing an enactment, instrument or document shall be laid in draft before, and subject to approval by resolution of, each House of Parliament.").

The noble Earl said: I apologise to those Members of the Committee who were hoping to speak to Clause 90. I felt that in view of the hour it was a

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matter to which we could return at Report stage. I would like to make some remarks myself, but, with the leave of the Committee, I believe that they can wait.

Amendment No. 148 is prompted directly by a suggestion made by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. The Committee's report on the Bill was published last month. Orders and regulations made under the Bill, other than simple commencement orders, are subject to the negative resolution procedure. Whatever we may think about that--I have not sought to propose exceptions to the provision in the main body of the Bill, despite all temptations--there is an issue to be addressed in Clause 95(2). The clause confers a power on "the appropriate Minister" to amend or repeal,

    "any enactment, instrument or document".

I am not quite sure what significance the word "document" has here. Perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to enlighten us.

But the main bone of contention is whether it is right for orders that revoke or alter anything in the Bill not to be subject to the more rigorous parliamentary scrutiny inherent in the affirmative resolution procedure. I understand from the Government that they have re-examined the issue and they may have concluded that a change of heart is warranted. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide me with a definitive response. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, indeed, the Government are happy to acknowledge that they would support the intent of the amendment. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, will probably be disappointed to know that we are not particularly happy with the wording. I should say that there are dimensions in relation to the Welsh Assembly which will need further consideration, but I should be happy to talk to the noble Earl between now and Report stage and perhaps to provide him with a suitably worded amendment.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, I wonder whether there could be an explanation of the curious word, "document". Does that have some Welsh significance? I do not recollect ever having seen a clause which provided that one could amend a document; one amends legislation.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I shall have to inquire into that matter and discover whether there is a Welsh element to it. I shall certainly write to the noble Lord.

Earl Howe: I am most grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 95 agreed to.

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Clause 96[General interpretation etc.]:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendments Nos. 149 and 150:

    Page 57, line 33, at end insert--

(""independent school" has the same meaning as in the Education Act 1996;").

    Page 58, line 2, at end insert--

(""proprietor", in relation to a school, has the same meaning as in the Education Act 1996;").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 96, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Commission and the Council]:

[Amendment No. 151 not moved.]

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 151A:

    Page 60, line 21, at end insert ("and to be fulfilling these functions no later than 1st January 2002.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 151A is designed to elicit from the Government a commitment--at least, a statement--about when the commission will start. That is what this "stop end date", so to speak, is designed to do. There is concern among the social care association and other organisations that there is no commitment from the Government as to when the bodies mentioned in the schedule will start to function. It has been suggested that the commission will start in April 2001, but the start dates for the councils appear not to have been mentioned. Of course, the commission must be in place before the national standards are set, otherwise local authorities will have to start to interpret the standards. Both councils and commission must function as soon as possible. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. We expect that the national care standards commission will discharge its functions from April 2002. However, the general social care council and the Welsh care council are expected to function by April 2001.

Lord Clement-Jones: I thank the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 152 not moved.]

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 153:

    Page 60, line 24, at end insert ("and these shall include one member who has experience and expertise in disability and special educational needs as they relate to children").

The noble Lord said: I wish to move this amendment. Amendments at the beginning of the Bill relate to the General Teaching Council to ensure that someone on that council has experience of disability. I remember that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, was most receptive to the view that someone on that council should have experience of disability. In the end, the Government produced an amendment which ensured that that was the case. It seems to me that this is much the same case. I believe that some of the amendments and speeches of the noble Lord, Lord

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Rix, have emphasised that there are special circumstances which affect disabled children and adults. Whenever one talks about training, one talks about other training inspectors, and so on. It seems to me that that would be reinforced if there were someone on the commission who had special experience in that area. I hope that the Government will be able to smile upon this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: I wish to support the amendment. I hope that most of the people on the commission will have experience with disability because it is a very wide subject. There are many different disabilities and certainly at least one member should have such experience. However, it is hoped that all members will have it.

Earl Howe: I rise briefly to support the amendment and to speak to my Amendment No. 157. With the leave of the Committee, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 168, which was by accident placed in the following group.

I believe that we must all be alert to the need for the wonderful word "balance" in the composition of the commission, whose functions are to be so multifarious. The responsibilities that it will be given for children are so important as to warrant, in my judgment, a member of the commission dedicated to children's interests in all their facets. We must bear in mind the history. Between, I believe, 1948 and 1970 there were separate children's departments in local authorities under the auspices of the Home Office, led by distinguished children's officers such as the late Baroness Faithfull.

Since 1970, when the large social services departments were set up, children's services have formed a rather small element of a giant entity. Although I do not pretend that the commission will be quite such a giant entity, we need to ensure that children's issues receive the attention which they deserve.

There needs to be a channel through which government policy affecting the child can be assimilated by the commission and the implementation of that policy properly monitored. A children's commissioner could also have a role in promoting the rights of children, as an arbiter on complaints, and could act as a watchdog on bad practice. That is particularly pertinent when one thinks of the allegations of child abuse in North Wales.

11 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones: I support Amendment No. 153 and also Amendment No. 157 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Howe. We should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for picking up this amendment and running with it.

In a sense, we are having a second bite at the cherry since we had some discussion on this matter earlier in our discussions on the Bill. We have heard part of the Minister's reply. Nevertheless, there is still considerable force behind these two amendments. I do

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not believe that we have yet teased out in full that the department really has an intention to have such expertise on the commission.

We must return at a later stage to the issue of the children's commissioner. We feel very strongly that the children's rights director is not an adequate way of dealing with the rights of children. A children's commissioner would be a much more preferable way of dealing with the matter. Therefore, we continue to support that position.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Again, we return to issues which we discussed last week. I am extremely sympathetic to the intention behind the various amendments which have been dealt with in this group.

Clearly, it is extremely important that the commission and the councils are sensitive to the needs and interests of the many different types of services which are to be covered and service users who will, in one way or another, be in a relationship with the councils and the commission through the services which are provided.

In relation to the councils and the commission, we must take into account in particular the needs of those with disabilities or special educational needs and must recognise the importance of safeguarding the rights of children. One of the important aspects of this Bill is the requirement of the commission to appoint one of its staff as a children's rights director. I am absolutely convinced that the interests of particular groups of adult service users, such as those of disabled people, will be of equal concern to the commission's members.

However, allotting places on the commission's membership for individual interest groups does not seem to me the best or most appropriate way to move forward. That applies also to the councils. We clearly need a balanced membership. We should expect members to be drawn from a mix of backgrounds and perspectives. But I do not believe that the appointments process should be used to make individual board members representative of specific interest groups.

Indeed, seeing the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in his place brings to mind the area health authorities established in 1974 which were a classic example of what happens when specific interests are represented on a large body. One then finds it very difficult to reach sensible, corporate decisions because of that.

I have said--and I am sure the Committee will agree--that the appointment of members must be on the overriding principle of merit. The appointments will be made, as for all public appointments, through a process of advertisements and proper consideration of nominations. Clearly, nominations from interest groups or professional groups will be considered. But I resist the attempt to guarantee places for a specific interest on either the commission or the council.

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