Clause 10 - Short title, commencement and extent

Health (Wales) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 12th December 2002.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

I suspect that this speech will not take long. The Committee will be relieved that we will not be returning this afternoon. Clause 10(2) reads:

''This Act (apart from this section, section 8 and section 9) comes into force on such day as the National Assembly for Wales may by order appoint.''

I can understand why sections 8 and 9 are excluded, but I assume that ''this section'' means the whole of clause 10. Why is that excluded too?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Health)

I want to refer the Minister to subsection (3), which contains the immortal phrase

''Different days may be appointed for different purposes.''

I am sure that there is some arcane legal explanation for this, but it raises the question: what are we going to do with a Thursday? Perhaps a Monday should be used for different purposes. Will Health Professions Wales have a particular role on a Tuesday that a community health council will not have on Wednesday? Could the Minister enlighten us?

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

The skills of the parliamentary counsel are there before us. Clause 10 provides that the Assembly may commence provisions of the Act, except clauses 8 and 9 and 10, which come into force on Royal Assent, on such days and for such purposes as it may decide. That is fairly common practice. It happens with all Bills that we take through. Unless we specify a date, it is left to the Minister or, as in this case, the Assembly, to decide the dates and which parts of the Bill will be enacted.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Health)

May I take the Minister back to subsection (3)? I appreciate that he may be hoping that an explanation drops from the heavens, but I am sure that he shares my slight puzzlement about what on earth happens on a different day and why we need to make legal provision for that to happen. I should be grateful if he would give us some idea of what on earth that legislation is talking about. [Interruption.] Perhaps I should say a little about Saturday and Sunday while the Minister seeks explanations from elsewhere. It may be that community health councils perform different functions at weekends or that the HPW will be closed at the weekend. CHCs may operate on only two days a week. The Minister will need to enlighten the

Committee shortly, and I hope that he will be able to do so.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

The procedure used is fairly normal in legislation of this sort. It is perfectly clear to me that different days may be appointed for different purposes for the enactment of parts of the Bill. That is perfectly simple and should be clear to everyone.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

If that provision were not in the Bill, what impact would that have on the Bill?

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

It would certainly have avoided this discussion. As I understand it, the process used was the normal drafting process that applies when legislation of this sort is being enacted, and different days may be appointed for different purposes, and different parts of the Bill enacted. That will be a matter for the Assembly when Royal Assent does not cover it. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be content with that.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Health)

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation and I commend his detailed knowledge and understanding of the small print of the Bill. I am happy not to press the matter.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

Further to what I said, if matters were not specified as they are, the whole Bill would come into force on one day. The method used gives the Assembly the flexibility to have different days for different parts of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Labour, Bridgend

There are no new clauses now. When clause 1 was ordered to stand part of the Bill, new clause 1 became redundant. Unfortunately for the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, the other new clauses fall outside the scope of the Bill.

Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill to the House.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I thank you for that, Mr. Griffiths, and for the way in which you have chaired the Committee. You have guided us well in our good and wide-ranging debates. The Bill has proved the value of pre-legislative scrutiny, and I hope that we will continue that with other Bills that are introduced. It is also important to understand that this House still has an opportunity to scrutinise and challenge legislation, even when a Bill has been scrutinised previously as well as this one. It makes an important contribution to our continuing reforms in the health service in Wales, and will be very good for the people of Wales.

I thank you, Mr. Griffiths, your officials, the police and all others associated with the conduct of the Committee. I thank my officials and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee for the contributions that they have made. We have done a thoroughly good job in record time, but we have not failed to scrutinise the Bill properly. Although we were unable to accept

amendments from the Opposition, their amendments were perfectly proper. They allowed the Government to place on the record our intentions in respect of the Bill, and the Opposition to express any concerns or worries that they had. I believe that the measure will be very successful as a result.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

On behalf of the official Opposition, I extend warm wishes to you, Mr. Griffiths, to all the Officers of the House and to other individuals whom the Minister mentioned, for assisting the scrutiny and the smooth passage of the Bill. I, too, believe that the draft legislation helped to ensure that the Bill was altered in a way that it made it more acceptable to the Committee. We pressed some amendments to the vote because we believed that they would improve the legislation, but did not press others to the vote because they were probing.

Perhaps the Government will take on board the fact that we finished scrutinising the Bill so early, and should not be so paranoid about the timetabling of legislation. It is important that we are shown more latitude in how much scrutiny we give to legislation in Committee. The fact that we finished early does not mean that the Bill has not been properly scrutinised. It will doubtless receive further scrutiny when it goes to the other place. Some of the clauses and amendments that we have considered today may give rise to further discussion. As the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire said at the start of the proceedings, perhaps the Government will take some of our suggestions on board and table their own amendments, which may further improve the Bill.

It is important to improve the national health service as much as we can. We know that there are deficiencies in certain key areas, and establishing bodies such as the HPW and the Wales Centre for Health will do much to improve the quality of service and the retention of CHCs in Wales, which we applaud. We are only sorry that they have been scrapped in England.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health)

On behalf of my party, I join hon. Members in thanking you for your chairmanship of the Committee, Mr. Griffiths. May I also express the wish that the passing of the Bill will lead to substantial improvements in the health service in Wales—improvements that are sorely needed.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire

I echo the comments made by the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members. The improvement of the health service in Wales is an absolute priority for the people of Wales, which the Bill, step by step, will go some way to achieving. I accept your ruling on our amendments, Mr. Griffiths, but that does not lessen our determination to table them at another time.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose at twelve minutes past Ten o'clock.

[Mr. John McWilliam in the Chair]