Clause 3 — Functions of the Centre

Part of Health (Wales) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 9th January 2003.

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Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire 3:31 pm, 9th January 2003

I shall in a moment. I was glad to see Tory amendments, as we would have had a very short Committee stage without them. I was critical of them because they showed a misunderstanding of the devolution principle and settlement. It is not in the interests of devolution for the primary legislation to contain such fixed requirements that they give the Assembly no discretion to use its powers to make the organisations responsive to the needs of the people of Wales. I was happier with the tone of today's Tory amendments, which reflected a sense of partnership and working together. I am sure that that can be achieved, not necessarily by being written into the Bill, but through the working partnerships that will grow up between people working in different areas of Britain who are concerned to improve the health of the nation.

We are pleased that community health councils are to be retained in Wales and their role enhanced and extended. If that is to be achieved, we must ensure that the their membership is of suitable calibre and sufficiently representative of the people who live in Wales. I have mentioned on several occasions the amount of training that CHC members will have to undertake to carry out their responsibilities. I am pleased that the Assembly will be able to arrange appointments to the CHCs.

Although local authority members have for a long time made a huge contribution to the work of the CHCs, too many of them on such a council will not enhance its work. Many local authority members give much time and effort to that work, while some see it as an extension of their local authority work. They put more emphasis on the local authority work, and less time and effort into their CHC work. I have spoken to local authority members about the provision. They are happy about it. If they want to obtain or retain membership of a CHC, they can put their name forward and go through the process. The Nolan principles for the system of appointment are well established in Wales and widely respected. Gone are the times when all three members for the Brecon Beacons national park went to the same church, which was the church that the Secretary of State attended.

Since the Standing Committee proceedings finished, I have received representations about the name of CHCs. We discussed whether they had a good brand name and whether it should be retained on the basis that everybody knows where to go. However, certain members of CHCs believe that they could be renamed with a term that makes them more accessible and is more descriptive of their job and their advocacy work on patients' behalf.

The Wales centre for health will undoubtedly do much good work that will be valuable in addressing the endemic problems that affect the Welsh nation in relation to health. A huge amount of work certainly needs to be done on research and to roll out some specific results on Welsh conditions and medical problems.

I do not think that Health Professions Wales will act as a bar to prevent people from coming to Wales to work in nursing or any of the other health professions. It will be an enabling body that will encourage people to come to Wales to work. It will also produce an environment in which people can enter their chosen profession and look to it to give them a good quality of life and experiences. The body could also be influential in improving the qualifications to which health professionals can aspire and perhaps increasing their number. Qualifications might be introduced in relation to skills or duties that would be useful in a specifically Welsh context.

I am sure that everybody will want the Bill successfully to complete its passage.