21 December 2007
Committee Media Officer: Rebecca Jones
tel: 020 7219 5693
Press Notice No 7
Welsh Affairs Committee publishes its Report on the first proposed Legislative Competence Order in Council (additional learning needs)
The Welsh Affairs Committee’s Report on the first of the proposed Legislative Competence Orders to have been referred to it for pre-legislative scrutiny has been published today.
The proposed Order, introduced by the Welsh Assembly Government, concerns the ability of the Welsh Assembly Government to make provision for those with additional learning needs. The proposed Order has already been subject to scrutiny by a committee of the Assembly, which reported on 28 November, and by the House of Lords committee on the Constitution.
The Committee agrees that the proposed Order’s reference to “physical and mental impairment” clearly includes the ability to make provision for those with a sensory or communication impairment. The Committee therefore does not believe that that term “physical or mental impairment” should be qualified in any way, and that to do so would have the effect of restricting the scope of the proposed competence. If the term was qualified by adding “sensory” or “communication” to the term “physical or mental impairment”, that would imply that anything not explicitly included was in fact excluded from its scope.
The Committee agrees it is right that the proposed Order should include a definition of disability. However, the Committee recommends that the proposed Order refers instead to the World Health Organisation’s definition of disability. As this is an evolving definition, the proposed Order should also include the power for the Assembly Government to amend that definition in the Order by statutory instrument, should circumstances make that desirable.
The proposed Order does not include the ability to make provision for those in higher education with additional learning needs, and the Committee recommends that this omission is addressed.
The Committee expresses its regret that on this occasion, due to timetabling differences it was not possible for it to pursue the option of working jointly with the Assembly committee in the scrutiny of this proposed Order. Since then, other proposed Orders have been published and referred to the Assembly for pre-legislative scrutiny before they have been referred by the Secretary of State for Wales for pre-legislative scrutiny to committees of the House or Commons and the House of Lords. This obviously reduces the possibilities for joint working, making it impracticable or, in the case of the environmental protection and waste management proposed Order, impossible, as the Assembly Committee has already completed its inquiry and published its Report. Against what we were led to believe would happen, a further proposed Order has since been published and referred to the Assembly, on the subject of affordable housing. As this has yet to be referred to a committee of the House of Commons, joint scrutiny is again ruled out on this occasion.
The first such opportunity for joint working lies with the proposed Order on charging for non-residential services (“domiciliary care”), which was published and referred both to an Assembly Committee and to the Welsh Affairs Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny on 26 November. Both committees have agreed to proceed with an element of joint scrutiny of this proposed Order. The first joint meeting will be held at the National Assembly on 17 January when the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM, is due to give evidence.
The Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:
“As I stated in the Welsh Grand Committee on 12 December, I hope that future timetabling arrangements will allow greater opportunities for the Welsh Affairs Committee to work more closely with Assembly committees. I am pleased that we will be working jointly with the National Assembly Committee in the scrutiny of the proposed Order on domiciliary care. I have described the present situation as a ‘co-operative challenge’ for Westminster and Cardiff Bay, but I believe that the spirit of mutual respect and co-operation between our two democratic institutions is becoming stronger.”
Further to the Welsh Affairs Committee’s Report, the Order is expected to be brought forward in draft form and will be subject to further debate both in the Assembly and at Westminster. The ultimate intention is that, subject to approval at these later stages, the Assembly will have the power to legislate on matters relating to additional learning needs.
Dr Hywel Francis MP
Chair, Welsh Affairs Select Committee
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