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Government Of Wales Bill

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 9 July 1998

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8.42 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Schedule 9.

Page 104, line 34, at end insert ("and

(b) subject to any notes in paragraph 14A(1), the bodies listed in sub-paragraph (1A).

(1A) The bodies referred to in sub-paragraph (1) are—").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, there are many amendments in this group but they all apply to the paragraphs in Schedule 9 to the Bill which are concerned with the Welsh Administration Ombudsman's jurisdiction. I said in Committee that I would need to return on Report to certain issues. These amendments have been brought forward on that basis but we have reconstructed the relevant paragraphs. I hope that makes the Bill clearer.

Amendments Nos. 179 to 198 introduce into this Bill a drafting technique already to be found in the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967. Where a body other than the assembly is listed as within the Welsh ombudsman's jurisdiction, appropriate limits to that jurisdiction can be established by the insertion of "notes" pertaining to the relevant body.

Amendment No. 181 adds to the ombudsman's jurisdiction complaints about the exercise of powers by an urban development corporation wholly in Wales; but just as in England, complaints about an urban development corporation's planning activities are to be excluded from the ombudsman's jurisdiction because there are alternative procedures for dealing with complaints about planning. Accordingly, Amendment No. 188 includes an appropriate "note" excluding the Welsh ombudsman's jurisdiction in such matters.

Amendment No. 188 also gives to the assembly, when it proposes to amend the list of bodies subject to the ombudsman's jurisdiction, the ability to add, omit or amend a "note" in relation to any body. The assembly might decide, for instance, that the National Museum of Wales should be a body within the ombudsman's jurisdiction, but it might wish to exclude from that jurisdiction a particular aspect of the museum's work, such as its collection and preservation policies. That could simply be achieved by the insertion into the list of bodies within jurisdiction the appropriately worded "note".

However, your Lordships will see from Amendment No. 194 that limits are placed on this power to add jurisdictional "notes", so that, for example, no "note" may have the effect of giving the ombudsman jurisdiction in respect of a body's functions not exercised in relation to Wales; nor may a note give the ombudsman jurisdiction in respect of a body's activities where the assembly does not have functions. And a note could not give the Welsh ombudsman jurisdiction in a matter where the Parliamentary Commissioner already has jurisdiction.

Amendment No. 186 proposes changes to the definition of the sort of "body" which the assembly can add to the list of bodies within the ombudsman's jurisdiction. I indicated this in Committee. Amendment No. 186 makes clear that a government department is not a "body" for this purpose, and so the assembly could not add, say, the Department of Social Security to the Welsh ombudsman's jurisdiction. The power to add "bodies" is to apply only to non-departmental public bodies and the like. Amendments Nos. 187, 190, 197 and 201 all follow from that.

In summary, what is being done here is to specify with greater accuracy what are the bodies which may be added by the assembly to the ombudsman's jurisdiction, and to enable the assembly more precisely to specify what areas of a body's work are within, or excluded from, that jurisdiction. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have only one query and that is the reference in Amendments Nos. 188 and 194 to,

"otherwise than in relation to Wales".
How far does that definition extend? What exactly is meant by,
"otherwise than in relation to Wales"?

My Lords, there may be a particular body which exercises functions within Wales; in other words, what I would call, probably rather bluntly, the territorial jurisdiction of the assembly. Therefore if there is a body within that territorial jurisdiction, it would, or could, fall within the ombudsman's remit. If, on the other hand, the same body exercised functions outside the territorial jurisdiction, that would not be within the jurisdiction of the Welsh ombudsman. I think that is right.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Page 104, line 38, leave out ("Commission") and insert ("Commissioners").

Page 104, line 40, at end insert—

("( ) urban development corporations established for urban development areas wholly in Wales,").

Page 104, line 44, leave out from beginning to end of line 7 on page 105.

Page 105, line 8, leave out ("(1)") and insert ("(1A)").

Page 105, line 11, leave out ("other than the Assembly").

Page 105, line 13, leave out second ("paragraph") and insert ("paragraphs 14A and").

Page 105, line 14, leave out ("a government department and").

Page 105, line 21, leave out ("or (in the case of a government department) any of its Ministers").

Page 105, line 23, at end insert—

("14A.—(1) The notes referred to in paragraph 14(1)(b) are—

  • 1. In the case of a body which has functions exercisable otherwise than in relation to Wales (as well as in relation to Wales or a part of Wales) no investigation may be conducted by the Welsh Administration Ombudsman in respect of action in connection with the exercise of the body's functions otherwise than in relation to Wales.
  • 2. In the case of the Environment Agency no investigation may be conducted by the Welsh Administration Ombudsman in respect of action in connection with the exercise of its flood defence functions (within the meaning of the Water Resources Act 1991).
  • 3. In the case of an urban development corporation no investigation may be conducted by the Welsh Administration Ombudsman in respect of action in connection with the exercise of its functions in relation to town and country planning.
  • (2) Subject to paragraph 15, the Assembly may by order amend sub-paragraph (1) by—

  • (a) adding any note,
  • (b) omitting any note, or
  • (c) amending any note
  • (3) If and to the extent that a function is exercisable in relation to the Welsh language or any other aspect of Welsh culture, it shall be regarded for the purposes of this paragraph and paragraph 15 as exercisable in relation to Wales.").

    Page 105, line 24, leave out from ("under") to ("if") in line 25 and insert ("paragraph 14(4) may only add a body to paragraph 14(1A)").

    Page 105, line 31, leave out ("either exercises its functions on behalf of the Crown or").

    Page 105, line 32, leave out ("of this paragraph").

    Page 105, line 43, leave out from beginning to end of line 11 on page 106.

    Page 106, line 12, leave out from ("under") to ("a") in line 13 and insert ("paragraph 14(4) shall not add to paragraph 14(1A)").

    Page 106, line 27, at end insert—

    ("( ) The Assembly may not make an order under paragraph 14A(2) if the result would be that the Welsh Administration Ombudsman could investigate action in connection with the exercise of a body's functions otherwise than in relation to Wales.

    ( ) In the case of a body which has functions exercisable in a field in which the Assembly does not have functions (as well as in a field in which it does)—

  • (a) where the Assembly by order under paragraph 14(4) adds the body to paragraph 14(1A) it shall (by order under paragraph 14A(2)) add to paragraph 14A(1) a note relating to the body, and
  • (b) the Assembly may not make an order under paragraph 14A(2) if the result would be that the Welsh Administration Ombudsman could investigate action in connection with the exercise of the body's functions in a field in which the Assembly does not have functions.
  • ( ) In the case of a body which is an authority to which the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 applies—

  • (a) where the Assembly by order under paragraph 14(4) adds the body to paragraph 14(1A) it shall (by order under paragraph 14A(2)) add to paragraph 14A(1) a note relating to the body, and
  • (b) the Assembly may not make an order under paragraph 14A(2) if the result would be that the Welsh Administration Ombudsman could investigate action which can be investigated under the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.").
  • Page 106, leave out lines 28 to 33.

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 180 to 195 en bloc.

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    Page 106, line 39, leave out ("by") and insert ("(in accordance with paragraph 17) by or on behalf of").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 196 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 199, 200, 202, 203, 205 and 206. These amendments cover three issues relating to ombudsmen. Amendments Nos. 196, 199 and 200 are designed to clarify who may make a complaint to the Welsh Administration Ombudsman. Their effect is to make clear that complaints may be made by individuals or bodies of persons claiming to have suffered injustice in consequence of maladministration, and that in circumstances where the aggrieved individual or body cannot make the complaint, others may act on his or its behalf.

    Amendments Nos. 202 and 203 slightly broaden the absolute privilege attaching to statements made in complaints to both the administration ombudsman and the health service ombudsman. As drafted, the Bill attaches absolute privilege to statements made between the member or member of staff of a body subject to investigation and the relevant ombudsman,

    "in connection with an investigation".

    However, such statements may also need to be made before the formal investigation gets under way—for example, in preliminary inquiries to decide whether a full investigation should be made. The amendments are therefore designed to make that head of privilege consistent with the other heads set out in paragraph 23 of Schedule 9 and to make sure that absolute privilege attaches to all aspects of handling a complaint.

    Finally, Amendments Nos. 205 and 206 are drafting amendments designed to apply to the appointment of an acting health services commissioner for Wales the same rules as apply to the appointment of a permanent commissioner; a person may not be appointed as a commissioner if he or she is a member of a health body subject to the health service commissioner's jurisdiction. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Page 107, line 41, leave out ("(or, in the case of a government department, any of its Ministers)").

    Page 108, line 16, leave out ("sub-paragraph (3)") and insert ("sub-paragraphs (3) and (3A)").

    Page 108, line 18, leave out ("the person") and insert ("an individual").

    Page 108, line 23, at end insert—

    ("(3A) Where a body by whom a complaint might have been made to the Welsh Administration Ombudsman is for any reason unable to act for itself, the complaint may be made by an individual, or another body, suitable to represent it.").

    Page 112, line 4, leave out ("(or, in the case of a government department, any of its Ministers)").

    Page 112, line 9, leave out ("an investigation by") and insert ("a complaint to").

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    After Clause 112, insert the following new clause—

    ("Planning appeals