Clause 92 - Studies as to economy, efficiency etc.

Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 12th June 2003.

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

Photo of Mr Jon Owen Jones Mr Jon Owen Jones Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff Central

Clause 92(1), like most of the provisions, is enabling in that it uses the word ''may''. It states that the Assembly ''may promote'', not that it should or must do so. However, clause 92(3) states:

''The Assembly must publish or otherwise make available—

(a) any recommendations made by it under subsection (1); and

(b) a report on the result of any studies under this section.''

I am not against the Bill's placing a duty on the Assembly to publish those reports; I simply wonder why clause 92(3) is so singular. It instructs the Assembly to act, whereas every other clause, by using words such as ''may'', gives the Assembly the option of acting. Why should clause 92(3) place a duty on the Assembly when none of the other clauses do?

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

Clause 92 replicates for the Assembly the powers that sections 33 and 34 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 confer on the Audit Commission for local authority social services. It also mirrors the provision sought for England under clause 78. That means that the Assembly will be able to carry out studies that will allow it to make recommendations for improving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the provision of local authority social services.

Those provisions do not detract in any way from the Audit Commission's powers. It will retain powers that will enable it to carry out studies of local authority social services. The Social Services Inspectorate for Wales and the Audit Commission will continue to co-operate in carrying out joint reviews of local authority social services in Wales and in bringing together professional services, inspection and audit expertise. Where the primary focus is on social services, it is intended that the Assembly will conduct the study, calling on the assistance and expertise of the Audit Commission as necessary. Where the primary focus is on general local authority services or on services other than social services, the Audit Commission will take the lead in the study, calling on the assistance of the Assembly as required.

To respond to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central, once the Assembly decides to undertake a study, it is under a duty to publish the results. The word ''must'' appears because that is a requirement.

Photo of Mr Jon Owen Jones Mr Jon Owen Jones Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff Central

I am satisfied with the Minister's explanation. Clause 90 states:

''Where the Assembly conducts a review under this section it must publish such report as it considers appropriate.''

Clause 91 uses almost the same words, and such wording appears frequently in the Bill, but it does not make a great deal of sense to me to say that a body ''must'' conduct a review and ''must'' publish, and then add the words ''as appropriate'' at the end. The Bill may as well say ''may'' publish, because if the body can decide what is appropriate, what is the point of using the word ''must''?

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office) 11:00 am, 12th June 2003

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that when the Assembly undertakes a study, it has a duty to publish the results of that study as a report. That requirement exists now, and my hon. Friend is aware of the way that those studies are scrutinised by colleagues in the Assembly. The provision reinforces the fact that a duty is placed on the Assembly to publish a report when it undertakes a study.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 92 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 93 to 95 ordered to stand part of the Bill.