The Welsh Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:
THE DRAFT NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE (WALES) BILL
The publication in May of the first ever draft Bill for Wales, the draft National Health Service (Wales) Bill, is warmly welcomed. The Committee hopes that it will become standard practice for clauses in England and Wales Bills which have particular implications for Wales (paragraph 6). The Committee also welcomes the NAW's commitment to provide for public consultation on the regulations to be made under the Bill prior to its eventual enactment (paragraph 13).
The Committee notes the diversity of provision now being made in the various parts of the UK and suggests that there may in due course be a case for some mechanism to ensure that the full potential benefits of this diversity are realised (paragraph 16).
The Committee has sought to ensure that the new-look Community Health Councils (CHCs) to be retained in Wales fulfil their potential. It calls for review of some of the detailed provisions in the Bill to ensure that neither the National Assembly for Wales (NAW) nor the CHCs are unduly constrained in the exercise of their duties, while also recommending some amendments designed to make the Bill clearer. It also addresses the issue of central performance management of CHCs by the new Association of Welsh Community Health Councils.
The Committee's principal concern over the proposed Wales Centre for Health is that its intended independence should be more plainly enshrined in the Bill (paragraphs 55 to 57). It also calls for urgent and concerted action by Government to solve the problems currently confronting the collection of medical data for public health purposes (paragraph 60).
The Committee recommends some restriction on the proposals in the Bill which would give excessive latitude to the NAW to confer unspecified additional functions on Health Professions Wales (paragraphs 71 to 72).
THE DRAFT NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE (WALES) BILL
Publication of draft Bill
- The Government announced its intention to publish a draft Bill dealing with health in Wales in the Queen's Speech in June 2001. In November 2001 a written answer confirmed that there would be such a Bill and that discussions on its contents were continuing. The Secretary of State for Wales published the draft National Health Service (Wales) Bill and accompanying explanatory notes on 17 May 2002. The draft Bill has three distinct purposes:
- the retention and reform of Community Health Councils (CHCs) in Wales
- the establishment of a Wales Centre for Health (WCH)
- the creation of a statutory body, Health Professions Wales (HPW).
- It is now the standard practice for departmental Select Committees at Westminster to examine and report on draft legislation. They do this by seeking the views of stakeholders through oral evidence, and through examination of written memoranda, drawing where possible on responses to the relevant department's public consultation process. We have followed this procedure, adapted as necessary to take account of the involvement of the National Assembly for Wales and in particular its Health and Social Services Committee.
- We held two oral evidence sessions in June, one at the National Assembly for Wales (NAW) in Cardiff when we heard from some of the bodies most directly affected by the Bill, and one at Westminster when we heard from Mr Don Touhig MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, and from Ms Jane Hutt, the Minister of Health and Social Services at the NAW. We were also given a helpful informal briefing on the Bill by officials on the Bill team. We are most grateful to all who gave evidence, and in particular to those who provided us with written memoranda to a very tight deadline.
Written responses to consultation
- We invited written evidence from a number of those also consulted by the Wales Office, and print these with this Report. We acknowledge the assistance of the Wales Office in forwarding to us a summary of the responses received. The "Dear Colleague" letter accompanying the draft Bill stated that comments received would be made available by the Department to "both Committees and to the public after the end of the consultation". This undertaking was confirmed in oral evidence to us. We will be reviewing the results of the Department's written consultation to see if there are fresh matters raised there which we consider should be drawn to the attention of the House.
Cooperation with NAW
- We have sought throughout this brief but relatively intensive exercise to co-operate as closely as possible with the Health and Social Services Committee (HSSC) of the NAW, which is charged by the NAW with scrutiny of the draft Bill. The HSSC debated the draft Bill on 29 May, on the basis of a series of amendments proposed. The Chairman and three of our other Members were able to attend the meeting. Several members of the HSSC attended the oral evidence session we held in Cardiff. We have exchanged papers as appropriate. We understand that the HSSC will consider this Report and the results of the consultation exercise and may well come to its own conclusions later in the year, as well as being free to comment on the Bill as finally presented. Although we have not the power to hold formal joint meetings, we have continued our practice of informal meetings of various sorts.
- We warmly welcome the publication of this first ever draft Bill for Wales, and hope that it will in due course become the standard practice, not only for stand-alone "Wales-only" Bills, but also for clauses in England and Wales Bills which have particular implications for Wales. We note that the recently published draft Communications Bill, currently being examined by a specially appointed Joint Committee of both Houses, includes some provisions exclusively affecting Wales. We have commissioned an external expert assessment of the implications for Wales of the draft Bill. We intend to draw on the lessons of this inquiry, and our work on the draft Communications Bill, when we come to examine the legislative process as it affects Wales.
1 HC Deb, 6 November 2001, col 158w Back
2 Cm 5527-I, henceforth "Draft Bill", and Cm 5527-II, henceforth "Explanatory Notes". A draft Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) was published on the internet at http: //www.walesoffice.gov.uk, henceforth "RIA". Back
3 Q 106 Back
4 http://www.wales.gov.uk/healthandsocialservicescommittee: Minutes 29 May 2002 Back