Children Bill [HL]
Lord Thomas of Gresford (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I move this amendment for the purpose of replying to the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, when we discussed the first group.
She suggested that the amendments that are grouped together in my name and the names of others were defective. If that is so I will not press them to a vote. We will no doubt—both here and in another place—look very carefully at these amendments and at the observations made by the noble Baroness.
She indicated that there was still work going on to resolve the particular issue that has developed between the powers and functions of the Welsh commissioner and the English commissioner. Helpfully, she said that the Welsh commissioner would be the first stop for children in Wales on all issues, devolved or non-devolved. I welcome that.
She also said that the work is considering where the Welsh commissioner should report. I had a feeling that she was suggesting that the English commissioner in non-devolved matters would act as a valve or barrier or conduit between the findings of the Welsh commissioner and the government departments with which he is concerned. A specific example would be the Home Office, where most of the issues are non-devolved. I hope that that is not the situation. We have urged that the Bill should be used to extend the powers of the commissioners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that they can investigate, review and report on all matters, regardless of whether they are devolved or non-devolved.
As I have said at earlier stages of the Bill, we should not get tied up in the devolved/non-devolved division. It is nothing to do with the powers of the Welsh commissioner. The Welsh commissioner can act independently if Parliament says that he can, whatever the position between the National Assembly for Wales and Westminster.
If work is continuing along these lines, I ask that these principles be borne in mind. They are, after all, principles to which all parties in the National Assembly ascribe, including the Labour Party, which presumably has some communication with the Labour Government at Westminster. I beg to move.