Amendment 119A

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (4th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 7 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee), Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee), Chair, Arbitration Bill [HL] Special Public Bill Committee, Chair, Arbitration Bill [HL] Special Public Bill Committee 9:00, 7 February 2024

I have a very short amendment—wholly unrelated to what has just been put forward—and I thank those in the Whips’ Office for suggesting that it remain in this group, and not, as I had proposed, move to a later group, which would be reached much later this evening. It does not really matter which group it is in, because it does not really affect anything else. It is a simple, short point in relation to the co-operation between Governments within the union and, therefore, has to do with devolution.

Clause 33 sets out the functions of the advocate who is to be appointed in respect of a major incident. None of the functions in this clause is a reserved matter, so under the Government of Wales Act, the Senedd has the powers to appoint. Therefore, in any particular incident, the Senedd could make provision so that it could appoint its own advocates. I do not believe a different view is taken by the Government in London.

It may also be the case that Welsh Ministers can appoint a non-statutory inquiry following a major incident in Wales, but that is not the kind of point to go into at this hour. The only power that the Senedd could not make provision for is for an advocate appointed under the Act to automatically secure interested person status in a statutory inquiry—those powers are reserved as they are part of the justice powers. Of course, a public advocate appointed by the Welsh Ministers would be free to apply for interested person status, and would probably get it—so I do not think it makes any practical difference. As I understand it, this point has caused the Senedd’s consent to the legislative consent memorandum to be qualified and reserved until this matter is resolved.

There are four short points to make. First, it seems sensible that the Welsh Government are involved as part of the scheme if there is a major incident in Wales. That would avoid any possibility of duplication. Secondly, it is important that the Welsh Government have a say in the person appointed. The advocate must have knowledge of Wales as well as the necessary ability to do everything in Welsh as well as English, since in Wales, English and Welsh have equal status.

Thirdly, significantly, it would be a further step in underpinning by statute co-operation between the Governments as part of the normal exercise of shared functions within a union. Fourthly, the Minister provided the greatest possible help in achieving something similar in relation to mission statements in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act, as provided for now in Section 2 of that Act. This seems to be yet another step that can be taken to put in place a strong statutory framework for co-operation to ensure that there is no duplication and there is good working co-operation.