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Lord Dholakia: I shall be very brief. The noble Baroness was right to identify a number of issues for which we need some explanation. I do not intend to get involved in a discussion about the powers of the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament. I was delighted to receive just a few minutes ago an "Easyread Guide" to the Equality Bill. I wish that more parliamentary Bills were written in the same language so that we could understand them much better.
The Bill states that the Scotland and Wales Committees will always be part of the commission. The commission consists of 10 to 15 members, according to the clauses before us. If these committees are going to be part of the main commission, what is the membership that we are we talking about? Does it include the members of both the Scotland and Wales Committees? That would mean that we are talking about a much larger commission than one of 10 or 15 members. It would be helpful to know about that. It would helpful to know also, if the accountability of the Scottish and Welsh members rests with the main commission, what happens with devolved matters?
The commission will have six duties under Section 14, and they have been named by noble friend Lady Gale. They are delegated by paragraph 29 of Schedule 1 to the Wales Committee, and I welcome that. But the commission's power under Section 18, to make grants to a third party in pursuance of any of the duties under Section 14, has not been delegated to the Wales Committee. Without the funding, how can the powers under Section 14 be exercised?
I turn to Amendment No. 32. The general duties of the commission in Sections 11 and 21, to promote understanding and encourage good practice, are not
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delegated to the Wales Committee. Wales has often been described as a community of communities. I should have thought that there could well be circumstances where the Wales Committee would be well placed to promote a better understanding between elements within the community. I do not think that I need to elaborate on that. But I would be interested to learn from the Minister the reasoning behind the non-delegation of Section 11 and Section 21 powers to the Wales Committee.
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: I had not meant to speak to this amendment, but having heard my noble friend Lady Gale move it, I should like to say that my experience on the Equal Opportunities Commission showed me how hard the Scottish and the Welsh representatives on the commission worked and how hard the two offices in those countries worked. So I have some sympathy with my noble friend's viewpoint that there may need to be a full-time person in each country who looks at the considerations of that country.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Stakeholders in Scotland and Wales have been very strong advocates of the commission. We have developed good open relationships with them, which I am delighted about. They have been extremely helpful.
In Clause 14 there are a raft of promotional powers, which give the committees that we are setting upand I shall talk about the membership of the committees laterthe freedom to decide their own work programmes with regard to campaigning, identifying research, guidance and advice and providing education and training, or contracting other people to undertake any of those actions in so far as they affect the people in Scotland or Wales. The committees will also be able to monitor devolved legislation and provide advice to the devolved governments on the effect of the legislation. That is an important part of their work.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for having read the "Easyread" guide, which I hope noble Lords will see filtering in over the next little while. It is a good example of government doing something important. I am very proud of it and commend the officials who produced it for us.
The noble Lord raised the point about the way in which the committees will work. The Scottish and Welsh commissioners will chair the committees and sit on the main board, but the committees will be made up of other people brought together in Scotland or Wales to take on the work that needs to be undertaken. So they will not be part of the 15 commissioners; they will be separate. What I do not have is the detail about the numbers of the committees, but I shall expand on the subject for the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friend Lady Gale, so I can say a little more about precisely how it will work.
With regard to funding, the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, will know from what I have said already that we do not want to hamper the commission by going into too much detail on funding. We want to ensure that we have given it a budget, which is a 40 per cent
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increase on the combined budgets of the three commissions as they currently stand. But the detail of how those budgets are to be spent will be part of the strategic plan and part of how the commission does its work.
Lord Prys-Davies: Does that mean that, under Clause 14, the Wales committee will have power to undertake research or have power to arrange for a person to undertake research? Can my noble friend confirm that the Wales committee will be in funds so that it can finance the research or give a grant to enable a third party to undertake the research?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: In terms of promotional activities, that is right under Clause 14. In the Bill more generally there is nothing to stop the commission delegating powers or particular projects to the committees, if it wished to. In other words, what we are trying to do is set out the things we believe it is important to cover for the committees, while leaving it open for the commission to determine what it wishes to delegate, for all the reasons I discussed at some length earlier in our debates.
I shall just deal with the specific amendment, so I can make sure that I have covered all the points made by my noble friend Lady Gale. The commissioners appointed for Scotland and Wales will have a very important role to play, not only in their role as chair of Scotland and Wales committees but more generally on the commission itself. We do not underestimate the amount of time that they will have to spend in these crucial areas, but I do not want to prescribe before we have a commission and before the chair is appointed what the role and the nature of the involvement of the commissioners should be. We will, of course, consider these issues carefully and consult the chair at the appropriate time. I take on board the points made by my noble friend and by other Members of the Committee who talked about the value of the commissioners currently working in Scotland and Wales and the importance of their role.
I have just been given some additional information on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked me about. The size of the Scotland and Wales committees is not specified; their membership can be as big or small as is necessary. Again, it is partly for the commission to determine. The appointments to the committees' membership will be made in consultation with the devolved administrations, as my noble friend would expect.
As I have said, there is nothing to prevent the commission delegating powers or particular projects to these committees, as the commission sees fit. That fits with everything I said earlier about ensuring that the committee is not fettered in the way that it does. We would expect that the committees would work closely with the commission in awarding grants, particularly in Scotland and Wales. That goes back to a point that my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies made about money. Paragraphs 20 and 28 in Schedule 1 ensure that the commission must consult the
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committees before exercising any function, such as awarding grants, that may affect people in Scotland and Wales.
We expect that the commission in Scotland will give effect to the communities duty in a way that is relevant for the Scottish context. As my noble friend Lady Gale said, that means working closely with the different community-based organisations and statutory agencies that are relevant in Scotland and Wales. I take my noble friend's point about not being a mirror image, which is important in that context.
On the basis that we have the committees set up appropriately, because the flexibility still exists, and the chairs of the committees will sit as part of the commission itself; and because we are in good dialogue with the devolved administrations to ensure that they are fully consulted and involved, and the delegation is available to the commission as it sees fit; and because in Clause 14 we have covered some of the issues around promotional activity, I hope that my noble friend will feel comfortable enough to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Gale: I thank the Minister for her reply, and thank too the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friends Lady Gibson and Lord Prys-Davies for taking part and for their support for the amendments. Again, I thank the Minister for her clear response. Although she was not able to let me have everything that I wanted on this occasion, I am sure that we shall have further discussions as the Bill goes through its stages. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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