Tag: Assembly Bills

Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill

Update on the Bill by the Member in Charge – Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee

On 17 July 2018, the Assembly agreed the Financial Resolution for the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill.

This is a significant milestone for the Bill, as we can now progress to Stage 2 proceedings on the Bill – the disposal of amendments.

As many people who have followed this Bill will know, it represents a significant amount of work undertaken over a number of years by the Finance Committee of this Assembly and the previous Assembly.

The Ombudsman has a crucial role in representing the people of Wales when they have received poor service or been treated unfairly by public services.
Our main policy intent for the Bill, is to:

  • improve social justice and equal opportunities;
  • protect the most vulnerable in our society;
  • drive improvement in public services and complaints-handling.

If the Bill becomes law, it will extend the powers of the Ombudsman and make the role more responsive to the people of Wales.

It will do this by making it easier for people to complain.

The Bill removes the requirement for a complaint to be made in writing. By allowing the Ombudsman to accept oral complaints, it will allow the more vulnerable members of society to engage with the Ombudsman, creating a fairer and equitable Wales.

Concerned person making a phonecall

The Bill includes provision for the Ombudsman to conduct own initiative investigations – this power will enable widespread systematic maladministration or service failure to be addressed coherently. It will allow the Ombudsman to be more responsive allowing the Ombudsman to investigate matters reported anonymously and again strengthen the citizen’s voice.

The Bill aims to drive improvements in public services and in complaint-handling. It will also expand the Ombudsman’s powers to investigate private healthcare providers where patients have commissioned private treatment alongside that provided by the NHS.

The Assembly’s decision to agree the Financial Resolution means the Assembly has now been given authorisation, in principle, to spend money as a consequence of the Bill.

Whilst there are costs associated with the Bill, we believe there is potential for the Bill to realise cost savings to the wider public sector, with the majority of savings likely to come from provisions that drive improvement in public services, such as reduced compensation claims for the bodies in jurisdiction. Hence, wider efficiency gains.

Busy hospital ward

The Assembly is now able to consider detailed amendments to the Bill. As the Member in Charge (and on behalf of the Finance Committee) I will be tabling a number of amendments which I believe will strengthen the Bill.

These amendments have been developed through careful consideration of the recommendations made by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee in its stage 1 report on the Bill. In addition, I’ve had a number of constructive meetings with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to discuss other areas of the Bill to ensure the Welsh Government is able to support the Bill.

Work is currently taking place to draft amendments which will be considered by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the drafting and development of this Bill, which has taken another step closer to becoming law.

It is more important than ever that public services deliver for the people of Wales and that the Ombudsman is empowered to ensure that our services are citizen-centred.

For more information please visit the Bill’s webpage

Information of Legislative process

Follow the Committee on Twitter @SeneddFinance


Member Bills: How would you change the law?

There are two draws I’m particularly looking forward to at the moment: the first Member Bill ballot of the Fifth Assembly, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup draw. Before joining the National Assembly for Wales, I worked in Japan for two years, so I can confidently predict that the World Cup is going to be amazing.

Anyway- back to Member Bills. Most laws in Wales are proposed by the Welsh Government. But if an individual Member wins the Member Bill ballot (it’s a kind of raffle draw), they get an opportunity to introduce their own proposed law.

Anyone can suggest an idea to an Assembly Member about a proposal for a law. You have 5 Assembly Members: do you know who they are? Find out more about your Assembly Members.

The Assembly Member who wins the ballot will then be able to call for other Members to support their idea, through a vote. If their idea is supported, the Ballot winner will have 13 months in which to develop their proposed law, and present it to the Assembly for scrutiny and amendment.

During this process, the Ballot winner will normally be supported by a small team of people- including me- to develop their proposed law. We help to provide procedural, research and legal advice.

On 25 January 2017, we’ll find out which Member will be drawn in the ballot and have the opportunity to propose a new law, which could affect the lives of millions of people across Wales. Find out more about Member Bills.

By Tom Jackson, Clerk, Scrutiny Support Team

Public Health (Wales) Bill: Tattooing, body modification and intimate piercing

Article by Amy Clifton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service, In Brief blog.

On Tuesday, 8 December 2015 the Assembly will debate the Public Health (Wales) Bill in Plenary. The Health and Social Care Committee, tasked with scrutinising the legislative proposal, issued a Report on the Bill last week and made a number of recommendations and suggested amendments.

At the start of the consultation, the Assembly’s Outreach team conducted a national survey to ask the people of Wales what they thought of the Welsh Government proposals relating to e-cigarettes, special procedures and intimate piercing.

Much of the attention surrounding the Public Health (Wales) Bill has focused on e-cigarettes. However another interesting area of the Bill concerns special procedures and intimate piercing (Parts 3 and 4 of the Bill).

Special procedures

The Bill as drafted would create a mandatory licensing scheme for practitioners and businesses carrying out special procedures in Wales. The special procedures currently included are acupuncture, electrolysis, body piercing and tattooing, although the Bill would also allow Welsh Ministers to amend this list through secondary legislation.

Many stakeholders indicated in their evidence to the Committee that there is currently a significant lack of quality control within the tattoo and piercing industries. The Committee heard alarming reports that many procedures are being done by people with little, if any, knowledge of anatomy, infection control or healing processes.

Stakeholders also highlighted additional procedures they believe should be included the Bill. These included body modification (scarification, dermal implants, branding and tongue splitting), injection of liquid into the body (botox or dermal fillers), and laser treatments (tattoo removal or hair removal).

The Assembly Outreach team made a short video, interviewing practitioners across Wales:

Tattoo artists in the video express particular concern about branding, scarification, ‘extreme body modification’ (such as tongue splitting and penis splitting) and dermal implants. They explain that scarification (where a section of the skin is removed to leave a scar) is often performed dangerously.

The tattooists also say that branding is being done with blowtorches and bent coat hangers, and adapted soldering irons, and describe concerns about dermal implants, such as inserting horns and stars under the skin:

Inserting foreign objects into your body is not a good thing without some sort of legislative weight behind it to say, ‘That’s unsafe’, or, ‘Is the material safe?’ or ‘Has it been checked?’; ‘Is it sterile? Have you autoclaved it before you put it in there? Where did you get it from? Has this come out of a five-penny ball machine round the corner?’

Intimate piercing

The Bill proposes to set an age restriction of 16 years old for intimate piercing. It defines the intimate body parts as the anus, breast, buttock, natal cleft, penis, perineum, pubic mound, scrotum and vulva.

Whilst there is support for the principle of an age restriction, many stakeholders believe that 18 would be a more appropriate minimum age limit for intimate areas. For example, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) believes that 18 would be a more appropriate age restriction, as this is in line with the minimum age for tattooing, and reflects the level of maturity needed to make such decisions. Stakeholders also reasoned that an individual aged 16 is still growing and therefore the risk of damage to skin is greater. It was also noted that intimate body piercings require a higher standard of aftercare than tattoos, as they are potentially more susceptible to infection.

Dr Ncube supports a higher age limit, noting that there are long term implications with genital piercing. He gave a case study example of a father with a genital piercing, who was playing with his daughter, and his daughter accidentally kicked him.

The trauma that was caused by the genital piercing resulted in the formation of gangrene in his penis. It’s a condition called Fournier’s condition. Because of that, the scarring that occurred was profound. So, genital piercing is attended with considerable risks, and it’s not just the piercing alone that is important, but it’s the long-term implications of it.

There was also a strong message from stakeholders, including Public Health Wales, that tongue piercing should be included in this part of the Bill, with witnesses describing a high risk of complications, harm and infection.

Plenary debate

You can watch the debate on the Public Health (Wales) Bill live on senedd.tv or catch-up at a later date. For more information on the work of the Committee, visit their website on www.assembly.wales/seneddhealth

How should the National Assembly for Wales be run in the 5th Assembly?

Senedd during Plenary showing AMs in their seats

Have you ever wondered why a Bill was scrutinised by a particular committee and not another? Do you think the number of AMs who sit on Assembly committees is appropriate? Does the way Assembly business is timetabled allow you to fully engage in the way you’d like?

The Business Committee is chaired by the Presiding Officer, and is made up of Assembly Members from each of the political groups represented in the Assembly.

After the Assembly election in May next year, the new Business Committee will need to take a number of key decisions, including:

  • The weekly timetable, sets out when committees can meet, when party groups can meet and which Ministers answer questions for each Plenary session in the Senedd Chamber.
  • The Business Committee also plays a procedural role and can recommend amending Standing Orders, which set out the rules and requirements for the way the Assembly conducts its Business, to change the practice and procedures of the Assembly. For example, in January 2013, Standing Orders were changed to shorten the deadlines for tabling questions to the First Minister and Welsh Ministers so as to allow Members to table more topical questions. A tracked version of the Standing Orders (PDF, 1.33MB) that have been changed during the Fourth Assembly is available on the Assembly’s website.
  • The Presiding Officer and Business Committee have also introduced procedural reforms since its establishment including regular Individual Member Debates and an opportunity for party leaders and party spokespeople to ask questions without notice during questions to Ministers.

The current committee has decided to launch a consultation to review what has been successful and what hasn’t over the past five years to help inform the decisions of the new committee. If you have any views on the above, and have any specific examples (good or bad) you would like to raise with us, we would love to hear from you. You can do this by e-mailing SeneddBusiness@assembly.wales.

If you would like to know more about the consultation, please visit the Business Committee’s legacy report consultation page. Here you will find the consultation’s terms of reference and information about how you can contribute. The consultation will close on Friday 13 November. Your comments will be considered by the Committee and will help form its legacy report.

How to find out more and get involved

Chair’s Blog: #WelshTax stakeholder event

I’m Jocelyn Davies, the Chair of the Finance Committee (@SeneddFinance). This term the Committee are busy working on the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill. The Bill was introduced into the Assembly on 13 July 2015 and the Committee has until 27 November 2015 to look at the ‘general principles’ or the main aims of the Bill.

Stakeholder Event: 23 September 2015

Last week the Committee held a very useful and informative stakeholder event at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay on the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill.

Jocelyn Davies speaking at a workshop

The purpose of the event was to give people interested the opportunity to share their views on the Bill with Committee members. The session involved roundtable discussions with participants and Members, and a feedback session at the end.

People speaking at the workshop

The Committee was privileged to speak to so many high calibre professionals and hear their views, which will be invaluable for the Committee’s upcoming formal scrutiny sessions with witnesses including HMRC, Revenue Scotland and Natural Resources Wales.

I would like to thank all of those involved in making the event a success, this type of engagement is quite a new approach for the Committee and I personally found it very helpful in terms of understanding the issues and getting a wide range of views in an informal setting. We have produced a note of the meeting if you would like to read it.

How to get involved and keep up-to date

Chair’s Blog: Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill

Jocelyn Davies, Assembly Member

I’m Jocelyn Davies, the Chair of the Finance Committee (@SeneddFinance). This term the Committee will be busy working on the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill. A Bill is a draft law – once a Bill has been considered and passed by the Assembly it is given Royal Assent by the Queen, then it becomes law. The Bill was introduced into the Assembly on 13 July 2015 and the Committee has until 27 November 2015 to look at the ‘general principles’ or the main aims of the Bill.

Background to the Bill

The UK Government published the Wales Bill in March 2014 and it received Royal Assent in December 2014. The Wales Act 2014 provides the Assembly with the competence to legislate over devolved areas of taxation and provides a clear framework for the policy options with regard to replacement taxes, including tax on transactions involving interests in land and tax on disposals to landfill.

About the Bill

This is a Government Bill and it was introduced by Jane Hutt AM, who is the Minister for Finance and Government Business (known as the Member in Charge). The purpose of the Bill is to put in place the legal framework necessary for the future collection and management of devolved taxes in Wales. In particular, the Bill provides for:

  • the establishment of the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) whose main function will be the collection and management of devolved taxes;
  • the conferral of appropriate powers and duties on WRA (and corresponding duties and rights on taxpayers and others) in relation to the submission of tax returns and the carrying out of enquiries and assessments so as to enable WRA to identify and collect the appropriate amount of devolved tax due from taxpayers;
  • comprehensive civil investigation and enforcement powers, including powers allowing WRA to require information and documents and to access and inspect premises and other property;
  • duties on taxpayers to pay penalties and interest in certain circumstances;
  • rights for taxpayers to request internal reviews of certain WRA decisions and to appeal to the First Tier Tribunal against such decisions; and
  • the conferral of criminal enforcement powers on WRA.

The work of the Committee – Stage 1

Stage One involves the consideration of the general principles of a Bill by a Committee, followed by the agreement of the general principles by a vote in Plenary by the Assembly.

It is the Finance Committee’s job to focus on the main purpose of the Bill, rather than looking at the fine detail (which is a matter for later stages). Over the summer the Committee ran a consultation asking interested organisations and individuals to provide written evidence to inform the Committee’s work. Fifteen responses were received and are available to read on our website.

The next part of our work will be to invite representations from interested parties to provide oral evidence to the Committee.

The Committee held its first evidence session on the Bill on 17 September 2015. At this meeting we heard from the Member in Charge, the Minister for Finance and Government Business and we questioned her about the Bill and its main purpose. If you missed the session, you can watch it again on Senedd.TV.

How to get involved and keep up-to date


Chair’s Blog: Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

Some keys

Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee: Stage 1 Committee Report

On 26 June 2015, we published our Stage 1 Report on the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill (PDF 1.39MB). It contains 37 recommendations to the Minister that we believe are needed to strengthen the Bill.

Generally, the evidence we heard showed that there was support for the overall aims of the Bill, particularly in terms of simplifying the existing law about renting. But, we did hear specific concerns about a number of areas in the Bill, and our recommendations to the Minister reflect these.

Amongst other things, our recommendations relate to:

  • the condition of rental properties – i.e. the requirement on a landlord to ensure that the property they are offering for rent is ‘fit for human habitation’ and in a good state of repair;
  • the proposals for 16 or 17 year olds to be able to hold an ‘occupation contract’ (the new term for a tenancy);
  • the proposals allowing landlords to exclude someone with a supported standard contract from their home for up to 48 hours without a court order.

Full details about all our recommendations, including the ones I have referred to above, can be found in our report.

The next step in the Bill’s progress is the Stage 1 debate. This is due to take place on 7 July in the Assembly’s debating chamber, and will involve Members discussing and agreeing whether the Bill proceeds to the next stage of the legislative process.

Keep an eye on #RentingHomesBill for more updates.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

View a short video of the Chair discussing the Committee’s report: