First Minister's Speech – Rhodri Morgan AM
Plenary session 15th July 2008 - section on Carers LCO taken from Assembly record.
The full transcript is available at www.assemblywales.org
The Government of Wales Act 2006 sets out new routes for backbench Members, as well as the frontbench, to bring forward legislative proposals. Where these contribute to the Government's agenda, we have been keen to work closely with Assembly Members to take their ideas forward. The discussions that have been held between the Deputy First Minister's office and Huw Lewis over provision of bus and coach services is a good example of this approach, as is Helen Mary Jones's legislative competence Order on carers, which will provide a platform for a full Government proposal in this field. Those are good examples of how Assembly Members can make a real difference in developing legislation that meets our specific needs. Wales has a higher proportion of people caring for others than any part of England, so we want to recognise and support the contribution made by Wales's unpaid carers. We intend to seek the powers, through a legislative competence Order, to legislate to provide support for carers by placing appropriate duties on public sector organisations.
Helen Mary Jones AM – response to First Minister's speech 15th July
Thank you for your mention of my proposed legislative competence Order. It is always good to get a mention in dispatches. In that context, I would like to pay tribute to all the individual carers and their carers organisations—they have been enormously helpful to me in the process of drafting my LCO, and I know that they have also had a lot of input into the work of the Deputy Minister, Gwenda Thomas, and her team, on the proposed Government LCO. As you will be aware, my LCO would give carers the right to be informed of their right to an assessment. Can you confirm that the Government LCO would go further than that, and would allow the Government to place a responsibility on public bodies to meet that assessed need? That would go further than my LCO.
I must say that I am grateful to the Minister for her co-operation on this, and I am optimistic that, subject to detailed negotiations, I will be able to withdraw my LCO and give my full support to the Government. In doing so, I am sorry to miss out on the opportunity of laying an Order, but I am not sorry to miss all the work that is involved. There is a question over why we need to seek a LCO to take statutory action in fields such as health and social care, which are already fully devolved. In that regard, I look forward to a successful referendum on law-making powers, and I wonder whether you would agree, First Minister, that the people of Wales will be much more likely to vote 'yes' in that referendum if they can see that the whole of the Assembly—Government, committees, and individual Members—are using our current law-making powers to the full.
The First Minister: I am glad that you made that last remark about using powers to the full. That is part of the learning process by which we will gain the confidence as a country to see that, at certain times, it is better to have Welsh-made laws that suit Welsh circumstances and are proposed in Wales, scrutinised in Wales, and amended in Wales. Part of that process is the ability of backbenchers to bring forward legislative competence Orders or Measures if they win a ballot. I cannot say that we will adopt every one of them and say, 'Look, with a tweak, we could take this over.', but, from time to time, we will. Your LCO is an example of that, and you are right to say that the Government's intentions go wider than your original proposals. Yours was a suitably diffident measure, in line with your personality, and we decided that you needed to come out of your shell a bit, and knock a few fours and sixes across the field. You are right in what you say. My understanding is that Gwenda and her team intend to seek powers that enable us to legislate to provide support for carers by placing appropriate duties on public sector organisations, exactly as you have described—going beyond knowing about the needs assessment and requiring those bodies to do something about it.
The point about the Government adopting and changing, or tweaking, a ballot-winning legislative competence Order or Measure is an important one, and we hope that we can bring it to a successful conclusion. It will be a device that involves backbenchers as well as the frontbench. It will not happen on every occasion, but there will be times when we will want to do that.