|Dawn Bowden AM|
|Hefin David AM|
|Janet Finch-Saunders AM|
|Lynne Neagle AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Sian Gwenllian AM|
|Suzy Davies AM|
|Emma Gammon||Cyfreithiwr, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Lawyer, Welsh Government|
|Julie Morgan AM||Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol|
|Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services|
|Karen Cornish||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Is-adran Plant a Theuluoedd, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Children and Families Division, Welsh Government|
|Lisa Salkeld||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Sarah Bartlett||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau||1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest|
|2. Y Bil Plant (Diddymu Amddiffyniad Cosb Resymol) (Cymru): Trafodion Cyfnod 2||2. Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill: Stage 2 Proceedings|
|Grŵp 1: Dyletswydd i hybu ymwybyddiaeth y cyhoedd (Gwelliannau 1, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 4)||Group 1: Duty to promote public awareness (Amendments 1, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 4)|
|Grŵp 2: Dyletswydd i adrodd ar effaith y ddeddfwriaeth (Gwelliannau 2, 2C, 2A, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 2I, 2J, 2K, 2B, 5)||Group 2: Duty to report on the effect of the legislation (Amendments 2, 2C, 2A, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 2I, 2J, 2K, 2B, 5)|
|Grŵp 3: Pwerau gwneud Rheoliadau yn y Bil (Gwelliannau 3, 3A, 6)||Group 3: Regulation-making powers in the Bill (Amendments 3, 3A, 6)|
|Grŵp 4: Dyletswydd i sicrhau cyllid digonol (Gwelliannau 11, 12)||Group 4: Duty to ensure sufficient funding (Amendments 11, 12)|
|Grŵp 5: Cychwyn (Gwelliannau 9, 13, 14, 7, 10, 15, 16, 8)||Group 5: Commencement (Amendments 9, 13, 14, 7, 10, 15, 16, 8)|
|3. Papurau i'w Nodi||3. Papers to Note|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee this morning. We've received no apologies for absence. Can I ask if there are any declarations of interest from Members, please? No. Okay, thank you.
Item 2 this morning is the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill: Stage 2 proceedings. I'm pleased to welcome Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services; Karen Cornish, deputy director, children and families division at Welsh Government; and Emma Gammon, lawyer for Welsh Government. Thank you for attending this morning and welcome to the committee.
I'm just going to run through the procedures that we're going to follow now. As I said, the purpose of the meeting is to undertake Stage 2 proceedings on the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill. For these proceedings, Members should have copies of the marshalled list of amendments, the groupings of the amendments for debate and the voting order for the amendments. The marshalled list of amendments is the list of all amendments tabled, marshalled into the order in which the sections appear in the Bill. The order in which we consider amendments will be the default order—that is, sections 1 to 3 and the long title.
You will see from the groupings list that amendments have been grouped to facilitate debate. However, the order in which they're called and moved for decision is dictated by the marshalled list. Members will, therefore, need to follow the two papers, although I will advise Members when I call them whether they're being called to speak in the debate or to move their amendments for a decision. There will be one debate on each group of amendments. Members who wish to speak in a particular group should indicate to me in the usual way. I will call the Deputy Minister to speak on each group.
For the record, in accordance with the convention agreed by the Business Committee, as Chair I will move amendments in the name of the Deputy Minister. For expediency, I will assume that the Deputy Minister wishes me to move all of her amendments, and I will do so at the appropriate place in the marshalled list. Deputy Minister, if you do not want a particular amendment to be moved, please indicate to me at the relevant point in proceedings.
In line with our usual practice, legal advisers to the committee and the Deputy Minister are not expected to provide advice on the record. If Members wish to seek legal advice during proceedings, please do so by passing a note to the legal adviser and, if necessary, we can adjourn. My intention is to try to dispose of all amendments during today's meeting. I will call a short break in proceedings at an appropriate time, if necessary. Okay, thank you.
So, we will proceed, then, to group 1, which is the duty to promote public awareness. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 1 in the name of the Deputy Minister.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 1 (Julie Morgan) moved.
I move amendment 1 in the Deputy Minister's name and call on the Deputy Minister to speak to her amendment and the other amendments in this group.
Thank you very much, Chair. My amendments 1 and 4 will place a duty on Welsh Ministers to provide information and increase awareness about the change in the law to ensure that the public are made aware of how the law will change as a result of the defence of reasonable punishment being abolished and that physical punishment would be prohibited once the Act commences. I tabled these amendments in response to this committee's recommendation—this was a recommendation from this committee in the Stage 1 report, so I have responded to that.
I've already made a commitment to a high-intensity awareness-raising campaign over approximately six years from Royal Assent, should the Bill be passed. I've considered amendments 1A to 1E, which have been tabled by Janet Finch-Saunders, and which relate to the duty to raise awareness. Amendment 1A introduces a reference to public understanding. We don't think, actually, that this adds anything to the Government amendment, which already mentions awareness. It makes the awareness-raising duty open-ended with no time limit, which is not necessary. By commencement, messaging around the change in the law will be embedded. The awareness-raising campaign will continue for a number of years. Therefore, an ongoing duty referring specifically to the law change would not be required.
I understand, of course, that the awareness-raising campaign needs to be comprehensive, well planned and to reach out to all those people and all those communities who need to be aware of the law change, and understand how to respond to it. But I don't think it's helpful or necessary to highlight specific groups, such as visitors to Wales, on the face of the Bill—that's the approach taken in amendment 1E—as it risks placing too much emphasis on certain groups at the expense of others.
In relation to children, the committee will know that I'm fully committed to children’s rights, and that Welsh Ministers are already under a duty to have due regard to the rights of children whenever they exercise their functions. An additional due regard requirement, such as the one set out in amendment 1D, relating specifically to the need to promote awareness among children is not needed. This would be part and parcel of the Welsh Government approach to putting children’s rights at the heart of our policy making.
Similarly, I don't think it's necessary for the Bill to set out specifically the topics that need to be covered in the awareness-raising campaign, as is suggested in amendments 1B and 1C. That level of detail, I don't think, is for the face of the Bill.
Information required about parenting support will be considered by the parenting expert group, under the auspices of the Bill’s strategic implementation group, working with my officials and the expert stakeholder group on the awareness-raising campaign. And, really, their thinking should not be constrained in any way by specifications on the face of the Bill.
I think we always need to bear in mind that what the Bill does is remove a defence to an existing criminal offence; it does not create a new offence. And in this context, it doesn't make sense for this Bill to contain a provision requiring the provision of information about how a person may raise concerns if it appears to them that a child is being physically punished. As I set out in my letter to this committee responding to recommendation 15 on this point, safeguarding is everyone’s business, and, as now, the public have a role in highlighting to relevant services if they are concerned about a child.
I'm asking for the support of Members for amendments 1 and 4, and I ask Members to reject amendments 1A to 1E because this would place unnecessary provisions on the face of the Bill.
Thank you, Deputy Minister. Are there other Members who wish to speak? Janet Finch-Saunders.
Thank you, Chair. I wish to speak to amendments 1A to 1E, which relate to the Deputy Minister's amendment on the duty to promote public awareness. While we believe it is absolutely imperative that the public are made aware of this controversial change in the law, the Deputy Minister's amendment lacks a number of key points that the committee were actually keen to address at Stage 1. An important thread runs throughout each and every amendment that I've tabled within this group—that of a sustained awareness campaign, which not only stretches beyond the implementation of the Bill, but serves as a duty for future administrations.
Amendment 1A: primarily, amendment 1A changes amendment 1 to include the promotion of understanding changes to the law. I don't think it's enough for the Welsh Government to say that the public should be made aware of the coming into force of section 1 and that a public awareness campaign needs to be sustained until the Welsh Government's objectives have been achieved. Despite the fact that it is intended to change behaviour, the consequences of this law are far greater than that of organ donation or prohibiting smoking indoors. Instead of an opt-out system or a civil offence, this law will remove a defence for parents, information on which could be there on their records for the rest of their lives, potentially separate parents, and could affect employment chances. As such, whilst we agree with the necessity of the awareness campaign, it is important too that the Welsh Government take stock and ensures that parents are not penalised due to a weak awareness campaign.
The witnesses we heard before this committee also noted the necessity of ensuring that the public understands—
I just wanted to know—could you give us examples of any other piece of legislation where there's been indefinite public awareness campaigns once it's been passed?
There's a lot of legislation. The first Assembly term when I was here—
What I'm asking for is: can you give us specific examples of where there have been indefinite public awareness campaigns running indefinitely past the enactment of a piece of legislation?
The very first term that I was an Assembly Member, we passed 25 pieces of separate legislation. Even today, as I sit here, the public are not aware of many of those pieces of legislation. This particular piece of legislation will have a profound effect on the parenting of children in Wales. So, therefore, I think there is a necessity for both children and parents to become involved, and I shall speak now—
I can call you in the debate, if you'd like to make a more substantive contribution on this. Yes.
The witnesses who we heard from before this committee also noted the necessity of ensuring that the public understands the implications. And that's what we're talking about here, Members—the implications of removing this defence. Strikingly, the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent stated the following:
'the potential for public resistance to the Bill through misunderstanding or confusion over it implications may pose the largest barrier to its implementation.'
If you are intent on removing the defence of reasonable punishment, it is therefore not unreasonable to ensure that law-abiding parents fully understand the ramifications of this Bill.
Additionally, the committee found that while the current Welsh Government's intention to deliver a public awareness campaign was beyond doubt, future Governments may have less of a commitment. This places further weight on the fact that the Welsh Government should be under a duty to promote awareness and understanding of the Bill beyond its commencement.
Furthermore, the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill quite clearly notes that, under section 2, the Scottish Ministers must take such steps as they consider appropriate to promote public awareness and understanding about the effect of section 1 on the abolition for the defence of reasonable punishment. Therefore, I would be grateful if the Deputy Minister can respond as to the reasons why the Welsh Government has deviated from this course of action in their amendment. [Interruption.]
Should our amendment be agreed—
Should our amendment to be agreed, we also request that a printing change be made to ensure that the new heading reflects promoting awareness of the changes to the law made by section 1.
Amendment 1B: amendment 1B is in line with the committee's recommendation 9, which stated that, as part of a public awareness campaign, there should be details about the support available to parents to use alternatives to physical punishment when disciplining their children. During evidence at Stage 1, the witnesses we saw before the committee raised serious concerns about harder-to-reach groups who needed to be made aware of removing the defence. For example, Children in Wales, Action for Children and Play Wales stated that some families and communities may be harder to reach with information and support. Welsh Government needs to make sure that they receive the information they need.
Now, while the Deputy Minister states that she would work hard to ensure that harder-to-reach groups receive this information, a duty to provide information on alternatives to physical punishment would ensure that future Welsh Governments would maintain a successful awareness-raising campaign. I note the Deputy Minister accepted the recommendation, through our amendment, but this does not explicitly include a duty to provide details about support for parents.
As will be expanded upon later, the Deputy Minister has relied upon the 'Parenting: Give it Time' campaign to be delivered alongside awareness raising. However, this is only an online resource and she must be clear about what other avenues will be available to parents who do not have access to the internet or are part of harder-to-reach groups.
Amendment 1C: amendment 1C supports the committee's recommendation 15 that explains that the Welsh Government should ensure clear advice is provided on what people can do if they have seen or learned of a child being physically assaulted. We urged, at Stage 1, that although many professionals were already under a duty to report concerns about physical punishment, regardless of the Bill, other witnesses raised concerns that it could create the potential for claims of abuse that are unfounded. In particular, some were worried that children, who may not realise the implications of reporting, could make allegations that are actually untrue. While we would expect the awareness-raising campaign to include the consequences of false accusations, this could also be reflected among adults, if the public are not sufficiently made aware of how they can report and in what situations they can report a case of assault.
The Deputy Minister's response that it would be up to the individual, and that they would be relied upon to do what they think is right in that circumstance, is unsatisfactory. Also, her assurances that the long lead-up to the Bill's commencement would be sufficient to make the public aware do not cover the time beyond the Bill's application.
In evidence, the Welsh NHS Confederation were concerned that the explanatory memorandum does not provide sufficient clarity surrounding the definition of acceptable behaviour once the defence is removed, which could lead to more referrals, and this was actually backed up by Swansea Bay University Health Board, who stated that
'more clarity in terms of definition of what is considered to be acceptable actions in this area may be needed.'
Additionally, the committee was not reassured about the individual's ability to determine what to do in the event of seeing or learning of a child being physically punished. This is even more the case when people cannot recognise whether their interaction is actually a physical punishment. The Deputy Minister must therefore clearly demonstrate that clear pathways for people who report instances of physical punishment are a central part of the awareness-raising campaign.
Finally, we do note that the Deputy Minister accepted the committee's recommendation. However, we need firm assurances also from you today as to how these will be included in the public awareness campaign.
Amendment 1D: alongside amendment 1C, 1D places a duty on the Welsh Government to have regard to raising awareness among children and young people of the change in the law. Now, this is consistent with the CYPE committee's recommendation 10, where we asked the Deputy Minister to provide a written update on the Government's awareness-raising plans among children and young people, including how the new curriculum will raise awareness of the Bill. At Stage 1, the Deputy Minister stated that the Bill's objectives would be considered as part of work on developing the new curriculum. But this does not go far enough.
First, this legislation precedes any legislation on the forthcoming curriculum, therefore we cannot be assured that this will be included within the new curriculum. While children's rights and parenting would fall under health and well-being in one of the six areas of learning and development, the Deputy Minister also admits in her response to the committee that
'The new curriculum is not designed to specify a detailed list telling teachers every specific topic they should teach.'
Furthermore, the Deputy Minister states that developers of the areas of learning and development are
'considering how the guidance can be refined to further support professionals to consider a range of different types of relationships in their curriculum design'.
This vagueness over awareness raising is not reassuring, as this could mean awareness lessons differ from school to school, potentially leading to patchy knowledge of the law and its implications. Therefore, the Deputy Minister must address this potential gap.
Secondly, the committee found that the equality impact assessment attached to the Bill did not refer to risks encountered by younger children who may not be able to articulate their concerns. The Deputy Minister has referenced her consultations with the third sector to address this area. However, she has not addressed the committee's points about the equality impact assessment, and I would be grateful if she would answer this today.
In light of the Youth Parliament's first major review, which calls for more life skills to be taught in schools, I would be grateful for the Deputy Minister to ensure that a controversial change in the law with potentially serious consequences for parents is universally and uniformly set out to children and young people.
Amendment 1E: amendment 1E puts into place the committee's recommendation 11, which called for increased awareness of the Bill's impact on visitors to Wales to be considered. Now, at Stage 1, it is telling that, while the chief Crown prosecutor stated that ignorance of the law is no defence, more cases in Wales would pass the evidential stage than in England, raising issues of awareness of criminal offending for people from England who travel to Wales. This means an awareness campaign for visitors to Wales is imperative. As such, the Crown Prosecution Service also responded to the committee's consultation, explaining that they consider further action is required in England to raise awareness. It is pleasing to note that the Deputy Minister will be considering awareness raising with visitors to Wales through the strategic implementation group. However, we need to be aware of what options the Deputy Minister will be considering, as well as a commitment that awareness raising for visitors to Wales will be sustained beyond the Bill's commencement. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. I've got several speakers. I've got Suzy Davies first, then Dawn Bowden.
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you Minister, and thank you, Janet, for that. I think it's worth just pointing out at this stage that the majority of the amendments that are being made and articulated by Janet there are based on committee recommendations, and those recommendations were made after taking evidence from the public at large, but also you as well. So, that suggests that, at that stage, we weren't reassured by the offer that you were making because we felt the need to put these recommendations into our report.
Now, I recognise that you've moved some way on some of these amendments, and we'll been talking about that through the course of the debates on other groups. But the one thing to bear in mind here is this is legislation, now—that means that this is the instrument of the Assembly, not of Government, and if this Assembly feels that the face of the Bill is unclear on the minimum requirements of a public awareness campaign, then we have the right to suggest the things that we would like to see in that public awareness-raising campaign. The list that Janet has given is a minimum. The reason these have been tabled individually and independently is that some may be acceptable where others may not be, so it will be disappointing to hear that you're rejecting them all, and the reason they need to go on the face of the Bill is that, if you are going to introduce specifics via regulation, at the moment we have no reassurance about how you're going to do that—about what input the Assembly, on behalf of our constituents, could have in designing that public awareness-raising campaign. Unless you accept some amendments in other groups, that is the position with this Bill: the influence of the Assembly will be zero over the content of an awareness-raising campaign.
In terms of it being non-time limited, I think the amendment has been tabled in the way it has not to oblige you to an everlasting, never-ending campaign of awareness raising. But if you bear in mind that, seven years after the introduction of this Bill, there's going to be some reporting on the effectiveness of the Bill, what is the point of doing that if you don't then have an obligation, should the reports require it to be necessary, to continue promoting the changes in the law? I accept that that can't go on for centuries, but to actually limit it to two years on an issue that is so sensitive, and which has a reach beyond our boundaries, I think is genuinely a mistake.
Finally, you mention that safeguarding is everyone's business. I think that's true, but I think Janet Finch-Saunders was right to say that members of the public, ordinary individuals, not professionals, will need assurance that they're doing the right thing. The amendment as listed is not even there to encourage people to do that, although that can be read in that way, but it is to help them be certain that they are doing the right thing. If this is going to be up to the individual, as you've said, and the committee itself wasn't reassured that individuals would know what to do, perhaps I can ask you to consider at Stage 3, if you're going to reject this amendment, how you can reassure members of the public that, if they are going to intervene on the back of this law, they're making things better, not worse.
My comments, really, relate to ongoing awareness-raising campaigns, which I think all of us would want to see, and would appreciate in any changes in legislation. My point, really, is that we have a plethora of legislation that this Assembly has passed in the last 20 years, and I'm not aware of any legislation where, on the face of the Bill we have ongoing awareness-raising campaigns on an indefinite basis. It seems to me that, for some reason, you seem to be wanting to take a completely different approach to this piece of legislation. From what the Deputy Minister is saying—and perhaps I will get some clarity on this—there will be an amendment to the legislation that will say that we have an awareness campaign. That awareness campaign can be the subject of consultation with interested parties in terms of what needs to be included in it. It could also, I assume, Deputy Minister, be an awareness campaign that can be written into a set of guidance for future use. But the point I'm trying to make is that I don't believe that any piece of legislation requires ongoing and indefinite awareness-raising campaigns, and particularly in relation to visitors to Wales. Again, we have other pieces of legislation in Wales that are not applicable in the other parts of the UK. I am not aware that there is a necessity for awareness-raising campaigns with visitors coming into Wales on the raft of the other pieces of legislation that we have that they don't. And similarly, when we go to visit countries that have different legislation, we don't necessarily know what legislation we're going into when we visit that country—you just go there and you accept that you go to a different country and you abide by their laws. So, my key point, Chair, is just the necessity of an ongoing, endless awareness campaign being written onto the face of the Bill.
My comments follow logically from Dawn Bowden's comments, particularly in relation to amendments 1D and 1E. What you would be doing is that this Senedd, if this was on the face of the Bill, the duty on Ministers, would be putting the duty on Ministers in law beyond the life of the fifth Senedd, into the next Senedd term, and putting that duty on those newly elected Ministers after that, which, in principle, would be against the principles of binding—
I'm happy to take it now, because I was going to sum up by agreeing with the point you made, actually.
I'd love that.
You referred to this potentially binding Ministers in future Assemblies; at the moment, we've got an implementation period and a five-year reporting period that takes any reporting on this Act into the Assembly after next. I'm wondering if you're going to have any comments on that when we come to the amendment to change that later on.
Well, when we get to that amendment, I'll make comments if I feel it necessary. But at this point in time, we're talking about amendments 1D and 1E, and particularly in relation to 1D and 1E it just isn't necessary, given the fact that—I won't call it a concession, because I think you made a reasonable point about the Minister making a statement at Stage 3, and I think Dawn Bowden actually supported that as well. That, therefore, makes those amendments unnecessary. Given that, in these circumstances, it is unnecessary to bind Ministers in future Parliaments. And that's my key point, really, which is why I wouldn't vote for those two amendments.
Diolch yn fawr. Dwi jest eisiau siarad yn erbyn gwelliannau 1A ac 1B. Dwi ddim yn credu bod angen ymgyrch barhaol, fel sy'n cael ei amlinellu yn 1A. Dwi'n cytuno'n llwyr fod angen ymgyrch yn ystod y cyfnod o newid, ac felly dwi'n falch iawn o weld bod y Llywodraeth wedi dod â gwelliant 1 ymlaen, a dwi'n gobeithio y bydd ymdrech iawn yn digwydd yn ystod y cyfnod o newid.
O ran 1B, mae gen i gydymdeimlad efo beth sy'n cael ei ddweud yn fan hyn, ond dwi yn credu y dylai unrhyw fath o wybodaeth neu ymgyrch ynglŷn â galluogi rhieni i ddysgu am ddulliau amgen i gosb gorfforol fod yn destun gwaith parhaol, pellgyrhaeddol gan y Llywodraeth, drwy wahanol raglenni, ac nid yn ychwanegiad ar wyneb y Ddeddf yma, sy'n delio â newid bychan i'r gyfraith gyffredin.
Jest ar 1D hefyd—dwi ddim yn cytuno efo hwn chwaith. Eto, dwi'n credu bod angen i hybu ymwybyddiaeth ymysg plant, ac i hynny ddigwydd drwy gonfensiwn hawliau plant, fel rhan o raglen eang o waith i hyrwyddo hawliau plant.
Thank you very much. I just want to speak against amendment 1A and also amendment 1B. I don't believe that there is a need for an indefinite campaign, as is outlined in 1A. I agree entirely that there is a need for a campaign during the period of change, and therefore I'm very glad to see that the Government has brought forward amendment 1, and I do hope that there will be a real push during the period of change.
In terms of amendment 1B, I do have sympathy with what is being said here, but I believe that any kind of information or campaign in terms of enabling parents to learn about alternatives to physical punishment should be the subject of continual far-reaching work by the Government, through various programmes, and it should not be an addition on the face of this Bill, which deals with a small change to the common law.
And then, on 1D also, if I may—I don't agree with this either. Again, I believe that there is a need to promote awareness amongst children, but that should happen through the children's rights convention, as part of a broader programme to promote children's rights.
Thank you all very much for your contributions to the debate and your comments on these amendments today. I just want to re-emphasise that it is as a result of the recommendation from this committee that we are putting this duty to have the awareness campaign on the face of the Bill, and I absolutely recognise the crucial role awareness raising has to play in supporting the implementation of the Bill. I'm very grateful for and appreciate the committee's interest and the work that you've done in this area of work.
But I do think that these amendments are unnecessary. If we go through them, amendment 1A is really open-ended on promoting public awareness. We're committed to a high-intensity awareness over six years from Royal Assent, and there is an expert stakeholder group supporting us with the development of the awareness campaign. All the points that you've been making will be being considered by that group. I think the level of detail on the face of the Bill is not needed.
Okay. Would you just take an intervention on that just to help me understand? A two-year awareness-raising campaign—how have you concluded that—
Definitely, yes. So, I don't think that's needed, amendment 1A. Amendment 1B, about support available to parents and how to access it—again, this level of detail is not required on the face of the Bill. I just want to emphasise we have got this expert implementation group, who are working on all aspects of this Bill, many of whom represent organisations who gave evidence to this committee.
The Bill is a simple one, with a clear purpose. It aims to remove the defence of reasonable punishment. I think lots of these amendments are very helpful and interesting, but would be discussed and would be acted on in the normal pathway of planning and development, and they're not required on the face of the Bill. So, I'm not putting them down, I'm just saying that we don't need them to be there on the face of the Bill.
And then amendment 1C—the information about how to raise concerns—I do repeat that safeguarding is everybody's business, and the same issues apply now as will after this defence has been removed.
Amendment 1D—Ministers to have regard to the need to promote awareness among children—now, children's rights are absolutely enshrined in our policy making, and the entire Bill is about protecting the rights of children. So, it is unnecessary duplication. So, we hope that the Bill will remain focused.
Again, in terms of visitors, the level of detail is simply not required on the face of the Bill. Our awareness-raising campaign will be comprehensive.
And then to pick up a few of the other points that were raised, revisions to the impact assessments are being considered as part of my commitment to update the explanatory memorandum ahead of Stage 3. So, there will be more details on the regulatory impact assessment.
The issue that was raised about the Scottish Bill, that it refers to 'understanding'—now, the Scottish Bill was not a Government Bill, it was a private Member's Bill, and our view is that nothing is added by adding the 'understanding'; 'awareness' is sufficient.
So, basically, I think that the points made have been very useful, but I urge committee members to accept my amendments, but to reject those proposed by Janet Finch-Saunders, as they are unnecessary provisions in terms of what the awareness-raising duty needs to achieve.
Thank you, Deputy Minister. Before disposing of amendment 1, we will deal with the amendments to that amendment. Janet, do you wish to move amendment 1A?
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1A (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 1A (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
Thank you. The question is that amendment 1A be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we have an objection. I therefore take a vote by show of hands. The question is that amendment 1A be agreed. All those in favour, please raise your hands. All those against. There voted two in favour, four against. So, amendment 1A is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1B (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 1B (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 1B be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, I'll take a vote by show of hands. All those in favour of amendment 1B. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 1B is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1C (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 1C (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
Thank you. The question is that amendment 1C be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. All those in favour of amendment 1C, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against, and amendment 1C is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1D (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 1D (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
Thank you. The question is that amendment 1D be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, as there's an objection, I'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 1D, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against, and amendment 1D is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1E (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 1E (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
Okay. The question is that amendment 1E be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 1E, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against, and amendment 1E is not agreed.
If amendment 1 is not agreed, amendment 2C and amendment 4 will fall. Deputy Minister, do you wish to proceed to a vote on amendment 1?
Thank you. Okay. I move amendment 1 in the name of the Deputy Minister. The question is that amendment 1 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we have an objection, so we'll take a vote by show of hands. All those in favour of amendment 1. All those against. So, there voted four in favour, two against, and amendment 1 is agreed.
We'll move on now then to group 2, which relates to the duty to report on the effect of the legislation. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 2, in the name of the Deputy Minister.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 2 (Julie Morgan) moved.
I move amendment 2 in the Deputy Minister's name, and call on the Deputy Minister to speak to her amendments, and the other amendments in this group.
Thank you, Chair. The amendments in this group are to do with the post-implementation review of the Bill, and I believe there was also a committee recommendation to this end from your committee, so you strongly influenced this amendment. It's clear from Members' contributions to this group and recommendations by the committee at Stage 1 that they share my commitment to the importance of post-implementation review of the effect of the abolition of the defence of reasonable punishment.
I've already provided assurance that I agree with the importance placed on such a review, both in the explanatory memorandum and during Stage 1 scrutiny. I also made a commitment to bring forward a Government amendment to put a duty to undertake a post-implementation review on the face of the Bill. I have done this with amendment 2. Amendment 5 sets out that this provision will come into force the day after Royal Assent.
As I said in my responses to the Stage 1 committee report, and as set out in the explanatory memorandum, the post-implementation review of this Bill will not be a single piece of work, but a continuous programme of work during the years following the commencement of section 1. Firstly, we will continue to conduct attitudinal surveys, which will be used to track changes in attitude towards the physical punishment of children and prevalence of parents reporting that they use physical punishment. The surveys will also be used to monitor the effectiveness of our awareness-raising campaign. Secondly, through a dedicated task and finish group, we are working with organisations to put in place arrangements to establish robust methods for capturing meaningful data relating to the Bill and to consider the possible impact on services.
Turning to amendment 2C, this amendment would require Welsh Ministers to prepare and lay before the Assembly a report on the effect of their promotion of public awareness before section 1 is commenced. This amendment is unnecessary and is in conflict with what I think is a priority for the implementation of this Bill: that is, given certainty on the commencement date and in enabling us to work towards this with our partners and stakeholders. I also think this amendment is not required because, as I've already stated, we are preparing to assess the effectiveness of our awareness raising.
In June, I shared the findings of a representative survey, which establishes a baseline on public awareness and opinion towards physical punishment of children and the proposed legislation. I shared this with the committee.
We will undertake these surveys regularly to monitor awareness and attitudes, and these will continue to be published, in line with Welsh Government social research requirements, and we'll ensure that they are shared with the committee. This amendment also creates uncertainty as it creates an expectation of the provision of a report prior to commencement, and is in conflict with the amendment I have tabled on specifying a two-year period on the face of the Bill. I therefore oppose this amendment.
Now, turning to amendment 2A, which requires the post-implementation review to be published after three months of the end of the review period, we have to be conscious of the need to ensure attitudinal studies are undertaken in consistent time periods, so the data from partner organisations may be collated on a calendar or financial year basis. It's for this reason that my amendment 2 commits to preparing and publishing a report as soon as practicable after the five-year reporting period, rather than committing to a specific time period. Requiring the publication of the report within a set timescale could restrict the availability of data, which could lead to a poorer and potentially less up-to-date review for the Assembly. As such, I would encourage Members to oppose this amendment.
I understand the committee's recommendation to have a three-year period stems from a desire for the legislation's impact to be measured during the lifetime of the next Assembly, which is consistent with amendment 2B. However, we have drawn on the experience of New Zealand, which is the only country we are aware of which has changed the law in relation to physical punishment of children and has evaluated its effect. In that case, the review was over five years. A five-year period would provide for a more effective trend analysis and would enable us to review the impact of the Bill when the public and those working on the front line have had a chance to become accustomed to the change. So, that is what I have set out in amendment 2.
I believe the National Assembly should receive the best information possible on the effect of the change in the law, and consider a five-year period would provide this. Of course, that doesn't mean that there won't be opportunity for scrutiny during the lifetime of the next Assembly, as it is our intention to publish the attitudinal reports and updates on our data collection activities on a regular basis. For these reasons, I think it's important to publish the final report after a period of five years, and therefore ask Members to accept my amendment 2 at this stage. However, I am mindful of the committee's recommendation and would be prepared to table an amendment at Stage 3 to place a duty on the Welsh Government to publish an interim report after three years, in addition to a final report after five years. I do think that that would be taking into account what were the wishes of the committee, but also taking into account the views of academics and the New Zealand experience to have five years.
Amendment 2D removes reference to publishing a report and replaces it with a requirement to lay such a report before the National Assembly for Wales. The National Assembly for Wales, or indeed this committee, would be able to scrutinise the post-implementation review report when it is published. In my view, there is no need for an amendment to achieve this aim. However, if Members accept my amendment 2 at this stage, I am prepared to table a further amendment at Stage 3 to require the post-implementation review to be laid before the Assembly, in addition to the requirement for publication. I think this offers transparency and would bring the document to the attention of the widest possible audience. So, on this basis, I would ask Suzy and Janet whether they would consider withdrawing their amendments 2B and 2D and to work with me and my officials to table revised amendments at Stage 3.
I share the sentiment behind amendments 2E, 2F, 2G and 2H, which require detail on what is collected and reported as part of the post-implementation review. However, as I have just set out, our plans for the post-implementation review intend to consider many aspects of the proposals put forward in these amendments and therefore negate the need for unnecessary detail to go on the face of the Bill.
If we are unable to collect and publish this data, it would generally be where we're advised by stakeholders working with us that it would be practically impossible or administratively burdensome, or where, as is the case with a number of prosecutions and police data, this is a non-devolved responsibility of the UK Government. There would be no legal duties on non-devolved bodies to give the Welsh Government the information requested, and this would make a duty on Welsh Ministers problematic.
Evidence from other countries and evidence given to this committee from a wide range of front-line professionals, including social workers, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, was clear that services do not expect to be overwhelmed, or that children will be taken into care unnecessarily, and that very few parents may be charged or prosecuted.
Let me assure you, we are already putting in place arrangements to monitor the effectiveness of the awareness-raising campaign, and we are already working with stakeholders to consider how best to monitor the impact of the Bill on public bodies.
In terms of amendment 2I, we are committed to working with organisations to put in place arrangements to collect data about the possible impact on their services, both to establish a baseline pre-implementation and to monitor the impact post-implementation. We are taking this work forward through the strategic implementation group, which is up and running and is going very well. The data collected will be analysed as part of the post-implementation review of the legislation. At that stage, the Welsh Government can consider with relevant organisations how best to manage any impact on workloads or resources, and any cost implementations, so I really do not see the need for this amendment.
I don't support amendments 2J and 2K. Asking our partners to provide information on the number of employees they've trained, and the costs associated, would place an unnecessary burden on them, and, therefore, an unnecessary expense. I'm not really prepared to place this unnecessary duty on our public services.
In conclusion, for these reasons that I've set out, I urge Members to support my amendments 2 and 5 and reject these other non-Government amendments, which would unnecessarily complicate a Bill that, I have to say, many stakeholders have said to the committee they would prefer to remain as simple as possible. Thank you.
Thank you, Deputy Minister. I open it up for discussion now, then. Janet Finch-Saunders.
Thank you, Chair. I speak to amendments 2C, excluding 2D, to 2K, which relate to the Deputy Minister's amendment 2 on preparing a published report on the effect of abolishing the defence of reasonable punishment. Again, I must stress the importance of getting this right due to the controversial and long-lasting effects of removing the defence of reasonable punishment.
Amendments 2E to 2K outline what we would expect to be within this report, and we would wish to see a commitment from the Deputy Minister to ensure the National Assembly for Wales is fully apprised and able to scrutinise the result of this report.
Amendment 2C requests that the Welsh Government prepare a report on the awareness-raising campaign and lays it before the Assembly before section 1 commences. As I have outlined under my amendments in group 1, the understanding of the public about the implications of the Bill cannot be sidelined. Although the Deputy Minister has repeated her commitment to a public awareness campaign, we, as the National Assembly for Wales, must be able to scrutinise its effectiveness before section 1 begins.
As I noted under amendments 1B to 1E, there are specific groups of people who need to be evaluated on their understanding of the Bill's effect. I'm sure that the Deputy Minister will agree that the harder-to-reach groups are undoubtedly the most vulnerable to any negative impacts that the Bill will have because of the greater potential of a lack of awareness. It is, therefore, important for the Assembly to be able to determine whether the awareness-raising campaign has had a positive effect on these groups of people.
As will also be elaborated under amendment 2D, it is extremely important that we, as the Parliament of Wales, are fully apprised of the awareness-raising campaign's impact. Before we implement what will be a criminal offence, it is vital that we ensure that those affected are not adversely impacted because of a poorly targeted awareness campaign. Therefore, I would be grateful if the Deputy Minister would commit to an independent evaluation of the awareness campaign's effects before section 1 commences.
Moving on to 2E, as part of a suite of amendments on the comprehensive report made by the Welsh Government about the effects of abolishing the defence of reasonable punishment, amendment 2E places a duty to report on the number of people prosecuted in Wales for corporal punishment. Throughout Stage 1, we've been assured by various organisations that any increases in prosecutions would be minimal. However, the chief Crown prosecutor admitted in evidence that if the defence is removed, then obviously there is a greater possibility that it will be referred to the CPS. Furthermore, during initial evidence to committee, the Deputy Minister and her official admitted that the anticipated number of prosecutions outlined in the explanatory memorandum was based on heavily caveated data. Additionally, the information from the police used in these calculations was where physical punishment of some description was logged—the rest of the detail behind that we don't have. Therefore, to ensure that we are fully able to scrutinise whether one of the effects of the Bill is to increase prosecutions, the Deputy Minister must assure us that the Welsh Government will include these figures within their post-implementation report.
Amendment 2F: another potential side effect of the Bill is that referrals to social services will increase, thus having an impact on the number of looked-after children. Therefore, amendment 2F requests that Welsh Government includes the number of looked-after children in local authorities. As we're all acutely aware, the number of looked-after children in Wales has increased dramatically over recent years. The Deputy Minister herself has admitted that the number of looked-after children has risen by 34 per cent over the last 15 years and that it is difficult to know what has caused the rise. However, during evidence, we heard from the British Association of Social Workers Cymru, who stated that due to significant increases, something is not happening at early intervention and prevention. Furthermore, they admitted that the data they currently have is not rich enough to disaggregate between isolated incidents and incidents which escalate, stating, and these are their words:
'We seem to be going straight to safeguarding, and not understanding and not intervening at a much earlier and lower level.'
Now, given that the Welsh Government is focused on early intervention and prevention, during the passage of this Bill, it is only right for the Assembly to scrutinise whether the Bill has had a positive or a negative impact on the number of children who are entering the care system. The Deputy Minister must therefore confirm that there will be an opportunity for the Assembly to examine any data that follows from the referrals of incidents after the Bill's implementation.
Amendments 2G and 2H: linked to the raising of public awareness and amendments 1B to 1E are amendments 2G and 2H. Amendments 2G and 2H relate to the number of reports made to the police and social services by members of the public. As scrutineers of this legislation, we want to know whether the public awareness campaign is working and that members of the public will have more confidence in reporting incidents to the correct authority. In evidence, the Deputy Minister herself thought the likely source of reports would be mixed and was unable to be definitive about where the majority of reports would come from. However, we need to be able to know whether it will be professionals who will be under a duty to report incidents or members of the public who will be reporting future incidents of assaults against children. Therefore, the Deputy Minister must provide us with some indication that data collection for the post-implementation report will include the source of incident reporting.
Amendments 2I to 2J: amendments 2I and 2J relate to reporting the costs incurred by Welsh devolved authorities as part of post-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, both on implementation and training. Now, as I outlined previously during Stage 1, it was pretty clear that there is a lack of quantifiable costs within the Bill and its associated regulatory impact assessment with regard to training costs. The regulatory impact assessment admits that the exact costs of updating training guidance and procedures is unknown, but attempts to reassure by claiming it is expected to be minimal. Blithe explanations such as this contrast sharply to evidence received by the committee on the Bill's potential impact on costs to devolved authorities.
Significantly, the British Association of Social Workers Cymru was critical about the perceived lack of resources for local authorities, stating that there is no money in the pot for early intervention and prevention services, and that
'Not being able to quantify is problematic, because we know that social services is buckling under the strain.'
On costs for training, the British Association of Social Workers Cymru noted that there may be cost implications for additional training as
'training budgets in local authorities are slashed to the bone. Most provision is in-house, it's not necessarily of great quality'.
This reflected the concerns by the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, who raised concerns that the costs of training could come from core budgets. However, the Deputy Minister's response was disappointing to this, stating that costs would be minimal and that she would have thought this sort of measure would be incorporating into the training that we're using already. It is therefore essential that we are able to learn of the costs borne by devolved authorities and the Welsh Government itself over the application of this legislation. While the Deputy Minister claims that updated guidance is expected to be absorbed within existing administrative costs, we do need to be aware of how much effect the Bill has on already overstretched services.
Deputy Minister, you'll be aware of the debate that took place yesterday on school funding and the immense buckling that our headteachers are facing. Training budgets are already stretched to capacity. Consequently, the Deputy Minister must ensure that exact costs of implementation and training are calculated as well as reported to the National Assembly for Wales.
And amendment 2K: this relates to the number of professionals who have attended training as a consequence of the Bill. Now, it was clear from the evidence and the responses the committee received during Stage 1 that training is imperative for the Bill to work well and to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of parents. Comments that highlight the necessity of good training included: professionals working for families should be well prepared for the change and know both what to say and how to act; adequate national training for front-line staff working with families is needed. Welsh Government should also consult directly with front-line professionals to establish what kind of guidance and training would be needed to support them.
And ending on a powerful statement by Jonathan Evans, professor of youth justice policy and practice at the University of Wales. He said:
'Provided training and guidance is given to key professionals, I do not envisage unintended consequences.'
But therein lies the message—'provided training and guidance is given to key professionals'. And there is ambiguity currently in our committee by how that is going to be delivered. Consequently, it is important for us to know how far training is extended to professionals after the Bill's implementation so that we can evaluate whether any negative impact that the Bill may create has been offset.
Thank you, Chair. Deputy Minister, first of all, can I just say thank you for your opening remarks about the possibility of perhaps doing some work around amendment 2B? I'll come to that a little bit later, if I may.
I just want to begin by commenting briefly on what you said about why you'll be rejecting amendment 2C here. I actually don't think that this amendment should affect or jeopardise the commencement date in any way at all. It's an operational requirement to get this work done before the commencement date that's in the draft Bill at the moment. So, failing to meet that would be as a result of operations not going well, rather than anything intrinsic in the Bill, so I'm not sure I can accept your argument on that.
And, on 2D—very pleased to hear that you'd be willing to introduce something about 'laying' rather than 'publishing' at Stage 3, but, in the spirit of recognising that this is the legislature, perhaps I could encourage you just to accept the amendment at this stage, because it doesn't make any difference. Your amendment is going to pass, and this amendment to it would be—I think the gesture there would be very much appreciated.
I'll be speaking mainly to amendments 2A and 2B, but I want to begin, again, by thanking you for moving some way on this and considering amendments to the Bill on the issue of reporting, because I know you were keen to avoid amendments in the name of simplicity; you mentioned it earlier. But this is not a newid bychan, I'm afraid, Siân; the terms and the effect of this Bill are quite extensive, and it does need the reassurances, if you like, necessary to mitigate potentially disproportionate effects of this Bill on families where parents' actions had been lawful up until this point in statute. It does need statutory underpinning. So, I am grateful to you for accepting this duty.
I know that you're sincere that you want this duty to report to show that the Bill is effective in stopping smacking as a punishment, and also that it is not as harmful to parents as perhaps some of us fear. But, if this were me bringing forward this Bill, I think I'd want to show the world that I was doing the right thing a lot sooner than you appear to wish to do. Amendment 2 means that the efficacy of the Bill will not formally be assessed until seven years after it has passed. There are Acts on the statute book that have lasted a lot less time than that. If you're relying on the two-year period before section 1 comes into operation to do much of the heavy lifting on the culture change, and I think that is what you're expecting—you know, showing a reduction in the incidence of physical punishment, reducing the number of, and indeed the likelihood of, parents putting themselves in the path of criminal liability once those two years are up—I really would have thought you'd want people to know sooner, or as soon as the first possible opportunity on that. Waiting five years, I think, will diminish the ability of you to prove the efficacy of those initial two years, and this is why I'm grateful to you for your offer, because there may be a way where we can overcome that.
If the trend of culture change is continuing after year 3—so, basically, in the first year after section 1 comes into effect—that's great, but there's a possibility it's going to reverse. Again, I don't think I'd want to wait five years to find that out. For myself, I think one year would probably be enough, but I think three years is a reasonable compromise, as opposed to five years, for a reporting period. I think seven years is just way too long for a formal evaluation of a Bill's effectiveness. I can't see the reason for quite that length of time—I know you've talked about New Zealand—but neither can the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. I think that's worth pointing out. When they took the step of recommending this duty to evaluate and report, they also took the step of suggesting a three-year reporting period being more in keeping with other post-legislative scrutiny. That's something I think we perhaps need to bear in mind now, as we enter this period of the consolidation of law. Five/seven years is really something of an outlier, and while that might have been appropriate, perhaps, in New Zealand, I don't think that fits in with our timetables generally here in Wales, and, of course, there are other countries that have introduced this over a period of years, and I note that you haven't drawn on them in order to support your argument.
So, can I urge Members and the Minister to consider the arguments behind these amendments? I don't think it's going to reassure anyone—you may want to intervene at this point, Hefin—that we not only won't hear in this Assembly, we won't hear in the next Assembly, about the formal evaluation of this, unless I follow—
Well, let me put the intervention—. I'll do it as an intervention, then. I just feel that—I take your point, and I was expecting it. The point I was making about 1D and 1E is they close down choices to Ministers in future Assemblies. An evaluative practice would actually open up those choices and give future Parliaments more options with regard to this Bill, so I think it's entirely consistent. I don't think the Minister, in putting in amendment 2, was trying to undermine my argument. Actually, I think she's being constructive by doing that, and I think amendment 2 is a practical amendment that's quite helpful, and its consequence will be to open up choices to future Parliaments, whereas my objection to 1D and 1E is they close those down.
Okay, well, as I say, I think, actually, the Deputy Minister's offer of a three-year interim period might be part of a resolution to this. Because I'm not 100 per cent sure I accept your argument, either, because it closes it down for the interim period if we don't move on with the Deputy Minister's suggestion—which I'll talk about now, actually. Because I am tempted to accept your offer. It absolutely makes sense and it's clearly made with the best good faith here. But I need some clarity on what you would allow this Assembly to do in helping define the terms of that interim report. Because you've been very clear that you don't want to accept the things that Janet Finch-Saunders has been talking about in a final report, and yet I can tell you we want to hear about these things. So, if you're in a position where you can give a commitment at Stage 3 not only to introduce an interim report, but that you will consult with, perhaps, this committee—I'll leave it to you—on the contents of that interim report, what we would want to see tested, then I'll be minded not to move amendment 2B. If you can't give me that reassurance, then I'm going to move it anyway and we'll return to it at Stage 3, if you don't mind.
Just a final point on this issue of reporting within three months rather than as soon as practicable, and I do take your point that there may be a misalignment with reporting periods from the organisations you hope to talk to. Again, at Stage 3, I'm happy if you want to make three months six months, or something like that, but 'as soon as practicable' is open ended, and what you think is practicable may be very different from what I or my constituents think is practicable. So, I don't want to stick with what is practicable; I would like you to put a date on this. If it's a case that you think six months is long enough for data gathering and reporting from third parties, I think that's fairly reasonable as well, but I'm not minded to allow you to just keep this open ended. Thank you.
Ie, dwi'n croesawu ychwanegu at y Bil drwy welliant 2, a'r hyn rydych chi wedi'i ddweud heddiw yma hefyd, eich bod chi'n barod i wneud adroddiad interim, a dod â gwelliant ymlaen er mwyn caniatáu hynny trwy'r Bil, a gosod adroddiad gerbron y Cynulliad. Mae gen i ddiddordeb yn beth mae Suzy yn ei ddweud, a lot o gydymdeimlad efo trio ei glymu fo lawr i gyfnodau amser penodol, a pheidio â dweud 'pan fydd hi'n ymarferol'. Felly, byddwn i'n eich annog chi i beidio â symud eich gwelliannau chi os cewch chi'r cadarnhad rydych chi eisiau ei glywed y bore yma gan y Gweinidog ynglŷn â'r materion yma.
Yes, I welcome adding to the Bill through amendment 2, and what you've said today also, that you're willing to provide an interim report and bring an amendment forward to allow that through the Bill, and to lay a report before the Assembly. I am interested in what Suzy is saying, and have a lot of sympathy with trying to tie it down to specific time periods, and not say 'when it will be practicable'. Therefore, I would encourage you not to move your amendments if you have the confirmation that you want to hear this morning from the Minister regarding these issues.
Well, just to start off on that point, I think your suggestion about how we consult and discuss, I think I'm very happy to accept that. So, I'm happy to discuss that with you, and with the committee, before the third Stage. So, I hope you will consider removing—.
Right, thank you. Well, just to go on to cover some of the points that have been raised, on the issue of training now, I think Janet raised a number of points about training, and we do have an operations, procedures, processes and training task and finish group as part of our implementation work, and they are considering guidance and training requirements. There are many professional bodies represented on that group, many of whom I think have given evidence here today, and they've really got a chance to have their say. The officials are also looking at training as part of the revision of the explanatory memorandum at Stage 3, so there will be more information about training there. But we have this group looking at it, and it is very key.
Generally, I think that all the contributions are very helpful, and I know they're meant in the spirit of trying to improve the legislation. I can't support amendments 2A, 2C, and amendments 2E to 2K, because these amendments make little difference in terms of practical effect to what we have in the Bill already, or they're covered by the Government amendments that I've moved. But I do hope the committee is reassured that we are committed to undertaking a very thorough, multifaceted review of the impact of the legislation that includes tracking public attitudes and considering impacts on public services. Now, tracking the public attitudes will be going along at regular points, so there's no question there of having to wait; we'll be having regular reporting of public attitudes.
Would you take an intervention there, Deputy Minister? Thank you very much. Of course, I appreciate that you will not be supporting these amendments, but can you give us some indication of how many of the areas of interest to us you will be reporting on? So, even if this is not a statutory commitment, what exactly from our list, our wish list here, would you be prepared to include in your evaluation?
Well, I would actually have thought all of them. All the areas you've raised are very relevant, I think. Obviously, this is not a statutory thing I'm saying, but—
Yes, but considering those points you've put forward, I think all of them have got a great deal of relevance. We will certainly be reporting to the group to consider any of the ideas that you've suggested and, in particular with the data collection and the monitoring task and finish group, which is about developing methods to collect data, we will be putting forward some of the suggestions that you've made on those issues. So, I don't see any problem with that at all.
So, as I say, I can't support the amendments. I'm hopeful you may withdraw the two amendments—I think one of yours and it was one of Janet's, wasn't it—so that we could work together on those before the next stage. Because I am sympathetic to your views on these matters, and I think they do reflect some of the discussions in the committee as well. So, I'd be happy to work with you to bring forward the amendments at Stage 3.
In line with the recommendations of the Finance Committee, further details of the costs associated with the post-implementation review will be provided in a revised regulatory impact assessment at Stage 3. So, I think at this point I would ask that Members reject the non-Government amendments and agree to my amendments 2 and 5, which will ultimately achieve the same policy aim without the need for unnecessary detail on the Bill, with the exception, obviously, of those two amendments, which I'm prepared to look at a way of moving forward on.
Okay. Thank you, Deputy Minister. Before disposing of amendment 2, we will deal with the amendments to that amendment. Janet, do you wish to move amendment 2C?
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2C (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2C (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2C be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so I'll take a vote by show of hands. All those in favour of amendment 2C, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 2C is lost.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2A (Suzy Davies).
Amendment 2A (Suzy Davies) moved.
The question is that amendment 2A be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 2A, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 2A is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2D (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2D (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
Okay. The question is that amendment 2D be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] All those in favour of amendment 2D, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against, and amendment 2D is lost.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2E (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2E (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2E be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 2E, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 2E is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2F (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2F (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2F be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so can I see all those in favour of amendment 2F? All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against, and amendment 2F is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2G (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2G (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2G be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, can I see all those in favour of amendment 2G? All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against, and amendment 2G is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2H (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2H (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2H be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so can I see all those in favour of amendment 2H? All those against? So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 2H is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2I (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2I (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2I be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. Can I see all those in favour of amendment 2I? All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 2I is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2J (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2J (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2J be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so I'll take a vote. Can I see all those in favour of 2J? All those against? So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 2J is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2K (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 2K (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 2K be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I'll therefore take a vote by show of hands. All those in favour of amendment 2K? All those against? So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 2K is not agreed.
In view of the Deputy Minister's reassurances, I won't move this amendment today, but obviously I reserve the right to bring something back if we can't reach consensus. Thank you.
Does any other Member wish to move amendment 2B? Okay, no. Thank you. We'll move on, then.
Ni chynigiwyd gwelliant 2B (Suzy Davies).
Amendment 2B (Suzy Davies) not moved.
If amendment 2 is not agreed, amendment 5 will fall. Deputy Minister, do you wish to proceed to a vote on amendment 2?
Thank you. The question is that amendment 2 be agreed. Does any Member object? Amendment 2—
Okay. Right, we'll therefore take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 2, please show. All those against. So, there voted four in favour, two against, and amendment 2 is agreed.
That takes us on to group 3, which relates to the regulation-making powers in the Bill. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 3 in the name of the Deputy Minister. I move amendment 3 in the Deputy Minister's name and call on the Deputy Minister to speak to her amendments and the other amendments in this group.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 3 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 3 (Julie Morgan) moved.
Thank you very much, Chair. Members will note that I've brought forward an amendment to provide certainty on the date of commencement of the core provision in the Bill, which is obviously to abolish the defence of reasonable punishment. And that is going to be debated under group 5. So, we're obviously debating that after we deal with these particular technical issues—these are technical issues here, basically.
As a consequence of proposing to remove the power for a Welsh Minister to make an Order for commencement, the power to make transitory, transitional or saving provisions in connection with section 1 of the Bill coming into force would also be removed. So, I'm not seeking here to add any new powers to the Bill; amendment 3 will simply add this existing power back onto the face of the Bill where amendments 7 and 8 remove it, and amendment 6 will bring the power into force the day after Royal Assent. In fact, removing the power for the Welsh Ministers to commence the provision in section 1 by Order means the statutory instrument will actually do less than originally intended.
These amendments are technical in nature and while I acknowledge that the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee raised the issue of what procedure should be applied, their report did not call for any change to no procedure being applied. The absence of an Assembly procedure does not mean that Ministers' decisions in relation to transitional powers cannot be scrutinised by the Assembly. Any concerns about the Welsh Ministers' proposals could be put to me in the Senedd. This was a point made to CLAC and, as I say, their final conclusion was that no procedure is the appropriate procedure for such a power. For those reasons, I encourage Members to reject amendment 3A from Suzy.
Thank you very much. Well perhaps, Deputy Minister, I can begin by saying that one person's technical issue is another person's essential part of the legislative procedure and a keen element in scrutiny. But I thank you for noting the Assembly's observations on the ministerial powers granted in this Bill—this time by CLAC, as you say. Moving this—and I'm glad actually that amendment 8, I think it was, has removed an Order provision and we're moving into an area where at least statutory instruments do feature here.
I have to say that amendment 3A is something of a probing amendment, and I'll explain why now. Your amendment 3 seeks to give a familiar range of powers in connection with the coming into force of section 1, but it's actually in a substantive part of section 1 itself now—it's not a separate commencement power. And, actually, I've been listening to the rest of this debate, and thinking that, if you're going to be introducing an awareness campaign and a report, the chances are you're going to need some regulatory powers to introduce some of the aspects of both those policy areas, I think.
And I'm wondering whether the—what is it—transitory, transitional and saving provisions are actually enough powers for you under the course of this Bill. I'm wondering whether you want to consider actually amending this to give yourself the more usual unrestricted power to make regulations in order for you to get section 1 implemented, bearing in mind that it has now been amended from that original, very short and simple—or at least simple in terms of drafting—initial draft. As I say, in anticipation of you rejecting amendments in group 1 I tabled this, in order to make sure that an opportunity remains for the Assembly to bring anything you may wish to introduce under section 1, when it comes into effect, onto the floor of the Assembly. Because while I completely accept that you've acknowledged that statutory instrument is the process for introducing things from now on, it's still possible to do that without procedure, and so I have no idea whether you think what you introduce would be better suited to be introduced by a negative or affirmative procedure.
Amendment 3A is a holding position, which we will return to you in Stage 3, because I think, again, this is an area where it might be valuable for us to discuss quite what kind of powers you're looking for, because I think you probably need something that's beyond transitional, transitory and saving.
Are there any other Members who wish to speak on this group? No. Deputy Minister.
I thank Suzy for that input. We don't actually think it's necessary to have wider powers, but we will keep this under review and at Stage 3, I think that—. When I was looking at this, I was concerned to know what the transitory powers—what we would actually need to do at that stage, but I can understand that there may be links to other Bills in ways that we are not anticipating at the moment that would make it necessary to have those powers. So, basically, I don't think it is necessary to have wider powers, but I can assure you that we'll keep that in review coming up to Stage 3.
Right, okay, well, just before your full stop, would you just confirm that you're happy for us to discuss this before Stage 3?
Okay, thank you. Before disposing of amendment 3, we will deal with the amendment to that amendment. Suzy, do you wish to move amendment 3A?
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 3A (Suzy Davies).
Amendment 3A (Suzy Davies) moved.
The question is that amendment 3A be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, I'll take a vote by show of hands. All those in favour of amendment 3A. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 3A is not agreed.
If amendment 3 is not agreed, amendment 6 will fall. Deputy Minister, do you wish to proceed to a vote on amendment 3?
The question is that amendment 3 be agreed. Does any Member object? Amendment 3 is therefore agreed.
Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.
Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.
The committee will now break for 10 minutes and reconvene at 11.05 a.m.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:54 a 11:06.
The meeting adjourned between 10:54 and 11:06.
Can I welcome Members back? We will move on to group 4, which relates to the duty to ensure sufficient funding. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 11 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move amendment 11 and to speak to her amendments. Janet.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 11 (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 11 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
Thank you. I speak to both amendments in this group. As I outlined under amendments 2I and 2J, there are ongoing concerns about the potential costs for Welsh devolved authorities and the lack of quantifiable costs within the regulatory impact assessment. Now, it was absolutely clear from evidence that we received in this committee that unknown costs would be challenging and potentially problematic. As I have mentioned previously, these concerns would doubtless be most keenly felt in our hard-pressed social services. Furthermore, the Welsh Local Government Association stated that there must be a commitment that whatever the costs are, those costs are met, because it is legislation that is being led by the National Assembly for Wales.
Now, during evidence, the Deputy Minister, when asked about the reliance on a limited number of reporting of cases likely to happen and the potential for a degree of unknown costs stated:
'we are doing our very best to prepare to cover all eventualities that we can anticipate.'
But you couldn't commit to a broad figure, instead telling us that:
'we have to rely on what the people who run those organisations are telling us.'
'We have to measure it as we go along.'
Given that devolved authorities need to plan their budgets for these changes, we only think it is fair for the Welsh Government to provide sufficient funding to alleviate the cost implications of this Bill.
Now, while amendment 11 makes reference to costs borne by local authorities and health boards, I note that amendment 12 takes this further by including other devolved authorities that are not funded by Welsh Government. Anticipating the Deputy Minister's response that few under this category, if any at all, would be affected by the Bill, we are pursuing a principle here, and it is agreement to the principle of providing sufficient funding that we are seeking from you as the Deputy Minister.
Now, these are just two examples of Welsh Government legislation to date that have been underfunded. The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013: last year, the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee found that the Wales annual spend on walking and cycling is half that of England's and one sixth of Holland's. Furthermore, the committee highlighted that the passing of the Act put a requirement on local authorities to continuously improve active travel routes, but were constrained by the funding made available to them. The Minister at the time announced a three-year funding settlement of £60 million. Now, my local authority and other authorities that have done some monitoring on the active travel Act—they simply were not awarded sufficient funding to actually allow the active travel Act to become a meaningful piece of legislation, and the same goes with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. This month, the auditor general has raised concerns that the public services boards created under the Act were limited in their work and impact due to the lack of dedicated funding. Outside of the Welsh Government's regional grant that cannot be spent on projects, councils often contribute through officer time or facilities, but resources and capacity to support those PSBs remain a key risk, as partners don't have the capacity to take on more.
The reason that I wanted these amendments placed in here is I genuinely do not believe that you've even envisioned what, or even estimated the likely cost to be borne by the organisations, and certainly our local authorities and health boards, the impact this Bill is going to have.
Thank you, Janet. Are there other Members who would like to speak in this group, please? No. Okay. I call the Deputy Minister, then.
Thank you, Chair. I can understand that the Member is concerned about the impact of this Bill on public services, but you will see from the explanatory memorandum and from the raft of impact statements published with the Bill that we've done a thorough and extremely diligent job of considering the potential impacts of this Bill before introduction. And as far as we're aware, no other country has done more than us to consider the impacts of similar legislation, and also comprehensively prepared for implementation.
We've explored the published data, which is available from other countries, on the impact of measures they've taken to prohibit the physical punishment of children. We've also spoken to a range of stakeholders in Ireland, New Zealand and Malta, who have legal systems similar to our own. And in these countries, there is no evidence that public services have been overwhelmed following law reform. And stakeholders have been clear when giving evidence to this committee that they do not consider there will be runaway costs, and I think we should trust their judgment on this.
In fact, as this committee notes in its Stage 1 report, those delivering services on the front line have said, without exception, that
'this Bill will improve their ability to protect children living in Wales because it will make the law clear.'
Sally Jenkins of the Association of Directors of Social Services said to this committee:
'In terms of thresholds for children’s services, we would not be anticipating a huge number of referrals to us. There may be a small number of referrals that come through. What we know from other nations is that it will peak and then settle. We recognise that’s likely to happen.'
That's from the front line. Jane Randall, chair of the National Independent Safeguarding Board Wales, said:
'there's no expectation that there's going to be a huge increase in the number of referrals coming through to local authority social services, I think it would be dealt with within their existing resources.'
And Dr Rowena Christmas, Royal College of General Practitioners, said:
'I can't see it's going to lengthen consultations. I can't see that it's going to increase the number of consultations, and I don't think it's going to increase the number of referrals I make to the health visitor or to social services, because if I was worried, I'd make those referrals now regardless of the Bill.'
I just want to say again that the Bill is removing a defence to an offence of common assault, which has formed part of the common law of England and Wales for a very long time. And social services already receive and investigate reports of children being assaulted, including from health and education, so it's not a whole new area of costly activity for any of them. I do think that the evidence that you had at your committee did highlight those points.
As I've already pointed out when discussing group 2 amendments, we're working with organisations to put in place arrangements to collect data about the possible impact on their services, and this will be analysed as part of the post-implementation review of the legislation. Welsh Government can consider with relevant organisations how best to manage any impact on workloads or resources and any cost implications.
I can assure you that work to update the regulatory impact assessment has continued, and I've asked officials to prepare a revised RIA, as recommended at Stage 2, and I expect to share an updated RIA with you in advance of Stage 3. Serious consideration is being given on how to provide more detailed estimates of the unknown costs to public services arising from the Bill, but I think you should be reassured by the evidence that was given, particularly to this committee, from the professionals at the front line.
What the amendments are proposing is outside the normal funding arrangements that operate within Government, and it's not clear why, in the context of the evidence heard at Stage I, such provisions are necessary. I'm sure that Members will agree that future Governments need to be able to consider, within the context of the budget-setting process, what the priorities are, and these considerations would need to be made within the context at that time, for example taking into account any issues that there are—UK Government actions, what happens in relation to Brexit, or any other unforeseen impacts on the economy or Welsh society. All those issues would have to be taken into account.
Furthermore, as is the case now, the National Assembly for Wales scrutinises the Welsh Government budget annually, so it would be able to make an argument for additional funding for public bodies, should it consider that this is required. I do think all the evidence has shown that we do not anticipate that there will be a huge increase of a demand for funding, so I urge Members to reject these amendments, which I believe are unnecessary.
I'd like to ask a question of the Deputy Minister. When we were taking evidence, at an earlier stage, I noticed that part of the stakeholder group—there was some liaison going on with social services departments across Wales. Now, we have 22 local authorities. At that time, the numbers mentioned were quite small—I think only a handful. What discussions have taken place with our local authorities in terms of their social services departments in terms of the lead, the cabinet members, or, indeed, the head of service? I can speak from my own experiences, when going around my constituency, but when I've spoken to some of the family support groups, and, indeed, the departments themselves, they are very concerned about the financial impact that this is going to have on the provision. They're already overstretched, and they see this as another burden—primarily another financial burden. So, how much have you engaged with them?
There's been extensive engagement. We've had meetings with the Association of Directors of Social Services, and they're represented on all our groups, and we're working very closely with them, because, of course, they represent all the local authorities. But I have to say, when I've been going round and meeting lots of different groups, the first thing they say is, 'I'm so glad that you're doing this', and they haven't mentioned any financial implications. But, obviously, we will be very aware of—we are looking at any more evidence that comes up.
Okay. So, I'll still move my amendments. I'm disappointed, really. I was hoping to see some commitment to—this Bill was going to go through, and it's one that could be implemented fully, because sufficient resources were there. I'm not convinced about that, and I know that other organisations are not also. So, I move my amendments.
The question is that amendment 11 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I therefore take a vote by show of hands. All those in favour. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 11 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 12 (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 12 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 12 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] All those in favour of amendment 12. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 12 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 4 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 4 (Julie Morgan) moved.
Okay. I move amendment 4 in the name of the Deputy Minister. The question is that amendment 4 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so I'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 4, please show. All those against. So, there voted four in favour, two against, and amendment 4 is agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 5 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 5 (Julie Morgan) moved.
I move amendment 5 in the name of the Deputy Minister. The question is that amendment 5 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so I'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 5, please show. All those against. So, there voted four in favour, two against, and amendment 5 is agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 6 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 6 (Julie Morgan) moved.
I move amendment 6, then, in the name of the Deputy Minister. The question is that amendment 6 be agreed. Does any Member object? Amendment 6 is therefore agreed.
Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.
Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.
This takes us, then, to the fifth and final group, which relates to commencement. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 9 in the name of Suzy Davies. And I call Suzy Davies to move amendment 9 and to speak to the amendment and the other amendments in the group.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 9 (Suzy Davies).
Amendment 9 (Suzy Davies) moved.
Thank you very much, Chair. Amendment 9 is actually consequential on amendment 10 passing, but it's the lead amendment in the group, so I'll move it to begin the debate.
Minister, I'm speaking here now to amendments 10 and 15 specifically. You've said repeatedly, and I believe you, that you do not wish to criminalise parents but just to stop them physically punishing their children. You could have chosen to try and achieve this through awareness raising and civil enforcement, but by choosing to remove the defence to a criminal act you have entered the arena of criminal law, where the logical consequence is opening parents up to liability—not necessarily getting prosecuted, but liability to prosecution, not just liability to civil sanctions.
I'm sure you'd prefer parents not to be prosecuted, but that decision does not and cannot lie with you. You, like us, have no agency in this, because the powers and the duties of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service sit outside our competence. You cannot and we cannot, by law or otherwise, instruct either of them in the delivery of your policy intention of not criminalising parents. You've acknowledged to this committee and the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee that revised CPS charging guidance and any other guidance on, for example, out-of-court disposals, are key to delivering your policy objectives. You'll remember how concerned this committee was when we learned that your advisory group—the strategic implementation group, is it—was only in the early stages of discussing what these guidelines might look like. So, you're actually asking us to pass law when we have no control over how parents might be punished for smacking their children—no control of the regard given to the relevance of force, the frequency of the offence, any prior conviction, any prior reporting, not even the views of the child in how they might be sentenced, or thresholds that would be appropriate for cautions and other out-of-court disposals; no guidance to the police on thresholds for arrest, let alone charging. And you argue that the rights of the child are what matter, and I agree with you here, but everybody, adult or child, has a right to natural justice and proportionate remedy or censure, and you are in no position to offer us any comfort on these matters at this stage.
Now, CLAC recommended that any revised guidance be made available to AMs before Stage 3. I anticipate that that's unlikely, and I hope I'm wrong, but that's why Janet and I have tabled amendments 10 and 15, which prevent you bringing section 1 into force until that CPS guidance has been fully updated to take into account the change in the law and until pathways away from prosecution have been devised and agreed. That reflects our recommendation 4, this committee's recommendation, as well as CLAC's recommendation 1. It gives your strategic implementation board time to consider how it can get around the other fundamentally worrying issue of the effect of recording reports of apparent physical punishment, even if those reports ultimately prove unfounded. And you have not addressed these in your own amendments.
I have to say, Minister, I think these points are so serious that I would have liked to have tabled amendments preventing you seeking Royal Assent for this Bill until the Assembly has seen drafts of the range of official guidance needed for the police and CPS. I'd have sought a Report Stage, if I could, so that we could consider that evidence. But I'm therefore asking you to support the amendments we have tabled, 10 and 15, so that we can bring some damage limitation to a process that you ultimately cannot control once this Bill has passed.
Now, I know you've got the numbers to pass this Bill, whether you accept amendments or not, but I just hope you can see the danger in pushing forward with a Bill that changes a person's relationship with the criminal law when you have no legal control over the consequences of that, and you're inviting this Assembly to fall into the same trap. I therefore urge the Assembly to avoid this recklessness by supporting these two amendments.
Thank you, Suzy. Are there other Members who wish to speak? No. Janet, do you want to speak?
Yes, I wish to speak to amendments 14 and 16. Amendment 14, however, is consequential to amendment 16 passing.
Amendment 16 prevents this from commencing until parenting support services have been established by the Welsh Government. As was clear during the committee's evidence sessions, present Welsh Government support programmes for parents have insufficient coverage. For example, the capacity and reach of the Healthy Child Wales programme came under question on its role in awareness raising, with health representatives acknowledging that universality had not been achieved, with 53.2 per cent of children in Wales reported as being contacted. Furthermore, existing parenting support is often only available as part of a targeted programme in specific areas, such as Flying Start, and even the children's commissioner noted that much more is needed to support parents to find alternatives to disciplining their children.
Now, the Deputy Minister mentioned the 'Parenting: Give it Time' campaign as part of proposals on a wider package of support for children and their parents. However, the Deputy Minister was challenged on this fact, that this is an online campaign only, and could only respond that the mapping exercise she will undertake. Consequently, it should be remembered that this Bill will affect all parents. Therefore, the Deputy Minister needs to assure the committee and the public that universal support will be provided before the removal of the defence occurs.
Thank you, Chair. I've listened to what stakeholders and committees have said about the importance of ensuring sufficient time is available prior to the change in the law to abolish the defence of reasonable punishment during Stage 1. As a result, I have brought forward amendments in this group to provide certainty around the date for the change in the law.
My amendment 7 will remove the power to commence this core provision of the Bill by Order of the Welsh Ministers and ensure that the defence of reasonable punishment is abolished at the end of a two-year period beginning the day after Royal Assent. That was done to give certainty on the length of time. Up to then, we'd always said 'up to two years'—well, we're giving two years. This certainty will allow key partners, including the police, social services and the Crown Prosecution Service, to plan for changes to guidance, training and data-collection systems more effectively. It'll also provide a focus for our awareness-raising campaign.
My amendment 8 in this group has the consequence of removing the power to make transitional provision, which is replaced by my amendments 3 and 6, and we discussed those in the previous group.
I've listened to the arguments put forward by Suzy Davies and Janet Finch-Saunders for the amendments in this group that they have tabled. These amendments are all about making the commencement of the Bill conditional on something else happening, whether it's waiting for the revision of Crown Prosecution Service guidance, or the establishment of a pathway for diversion from the criminal justice system, or for the provision of parenting support services. And, really, I don't think that we should be going down that road.
As I set out in my letter of response to the Stage 1 report from the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, we've got good working relations with the CPS through the strategic implementation group, and we work very closely with them. But the CPS are an independent body, as Suzy Davies has said in her contribution, not answerable to Welsh Ministers or this legislature, and it's not appropriate for a Minister or the National Assembly to seek to influence the CPS guidelines. We're discussing the issues with the CPS in the implementation group. And, in fact, I think that these amendments—Suzy's amendments in particular—wouldn't just seek to influence the CPS, but would actually give power to a non-devolved body on the way that we legislate in Wales. So, I don't think we should make it conditional on those guidelines being decided. I think you have to rely on the fact that we have got this very good relationship, very close working relationship. And I know they did give evidence to your committee, I believe, the CPS. And I think legislating to effectively give a non-devolved body a power to commence, or not, Assembly legislation would be highly unusual and would raise great uncertainty, I think, if we did go down that track, because I think this is very important Welsh legislation, which does have broad support across the Assembly. And I don't think we should allow non-devolved bodies to be the final arbiters of commencement of our legislation. So, I don't support those amendments. I think the CPS is entirely independent of Government, and must be entirely independent of Government, and will make its own decisions about how and when it will revise its guidance. In addition, you suggest we allow the UK Government to have a say in when Welsh legislation is commenced in an area that was specifically devolved to the Assembly.
The test applied by the proposed amendments as to when commencement could lawfully occur is uncertain. If these amendments passed, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to judge when section 1 could be commenced. This contravenes what stakeholders and committees have asked for, and raises huge uncertainty, which potentially jeopardises the Bill. And I want to assure you again, not only do we have good working relations with the CPS, but also very good working relationships with the police, who are, of course, the other non-devolved body who have great involvement and interest in these issues. The work we do in these groups should not affect the timing of the Bill's commencement. In fact, it's the other way round. My amendment to provide a two-year period between Royal Assent and commencement means these groups can plan their work to a known timescale and deliver in good time before the law comes into force.
And then, when it comes to parenting support, the committee knows that I've committed to reviewing the existing provision of parenting support, and work is already under way through the parenting expert group on this very issue. I have already said I will expand the age range of the 'Parenting: Give it Time' campaign, and I think—. I know Janet Finch-Saunders has made the point that it is an online facility. It is very widely used. It is a very successful tool. But, of course, the universal services are also there. For example, the universal service of the health visitors is absolutely crucial, and that is a service that is for every child. And, of course, the health visitors welcome this legislation very strongly. And the expert group is considering what it'll recommend for the future, and it needs the time to be able to do that, to support the Bill as well as to support parenting more widely.
So, as I said, I think these are important points that you have raised, but I don't think they are appropriate. So, I therefore urge the committee not to support amendments 9 and 10, nor 13, 14 and 15.
Thank you very much, and thank you very much, Deputy Minister, as well. I'm disappointed that you haven't seen what's behind Janet Finch-Saunders's final amendment there, actually. Maybe it's something we'll raise again with you at Stage 3, or maybe in the conversations that we have between now and then. But I want to go back to amendments 10 and 15 that I've raised and your assertion that we're giving, or attempting to give, power to the CPS here. We are not. This amendment is drafted very specifically and in full knowledge that we have no legislative competence in this area. And this is why I go back to where my contribution to this started, and it's your choice to try and resolve the problem of—or, sorry, to try and protect children's rights through the medium of a change to the criminal law rather than the many opportunities that were available to you through the civil law and over which you would have had complete competence.
This Bill—and, actually, you've said a couple of times in your response today that it's important that it's commenced on a certain date. My argument is: it shouldn't be commenced at all unless you are absolutely certain about how it is likely to affect the parents who will now be captured by the removal of the defence. And, while I claim no mischief on the part of the CPS or the police—obviously I don't—there is nothing you can do that would prevent the CPS, should they wish to do it, or indeed the police with their own guidelines, putting in place something that is wholly disproportionate to the offence that is now being released by the removal of a defence. And, because of that, I ask you to consider, or balance, actually, two important things here: one is the rights of the child, obviously at the forefront of your argument on this, which I would argue could be completely and safely protected through the use of civil law on this occasion; and, actually, the rights of the child again to have a good relationship with parents over whose future they will have no say—or at least you cannot allow them to have any say in how those parents might be treated in terms of sentencing. The relationship between parents and children obviously is different in every family, but that's something you ought to protect in what you're trying to do here, and by leaving it open, as you say, to completely different—sorry, undevolved, two undevolved authorities to make decisions about how that relationship could be affected deeply worries me. I know this isn't going to stop your Bill going forward, but I really want you to consider my arguments and how you might try and address them at Stage 3, because leaving, effectively, the delivery of your policy objectives to somebody over whom you have no control, despite your great relationship with them, should worry us all as a legislature. Thank you.
Okay. Thank you, Suzy. Do you wish to proceed to a vote on amendment 9?
The question is that amendment 9 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so I'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 9, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 9 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 13 (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 13 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 13 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 13, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 13 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 14 (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 14 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 14 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 14, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 14 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 7 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 7 (Julie Morgan) moved.
I move amendment 7 in the name of the Deputy Minister. The question is that amendment 7 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so I'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 7, please show. All those against. So, there voted four in favour, two against. Amendment 7 is agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 10 (Suzy Davies).
Amendment 10 (Suzy Davies) moved.
The question is that amendment 10 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 10, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 10 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 15 (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 15 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 15 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 15, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 15 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 16 (Janet Finch-Saunders).
Amendment 16 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.
The question is that amendment 16 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so I'll take a vote. All those in favour of amendment 16, please show. All those against. So, there voted two in favour, four against. Amendment 16 is not agreed.
Cynigiwyd gwelliant 8 (Julie Morgan).
Amendment 8 (Julie Morgan) moved.
I move amendment 8, then, in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 8 be agreed. Does any Member object? Amendment 8 is therefore agreed.
Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.
Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.
Well, that has brought us to the end of our amendments, so can I thank the Deputy Minister and her officials for their attendance? As usual, you will be sent a transcript of the meeting to check for factual accuracy. This completes Stage 2 proceedings. Stage 3 begins tomorrow, and the relevant date of Stage 3 proceedings will be published in due course.
Standing Orders make provision for the Deputy Minister to prepare a revised explanatory memorandum, taking account of the amendments agreed today. The revised memorandum will be laid at least five working days before Stage 3 proceedings. Thank you very much.
Barnwyd y cytunwyd ar bob adran o’r Bil.
All sections of the Bill deemed agreed.
Okay. Item 3, then, is papers to note. Paper to note 1 is a letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, following our meeting on 2 October. Paper to note 2 is a letter from the Minister for Health and Social Services updating the committee on the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' strategy. And paper to note 3 is a letter from myself to the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services regarding early childhood education and care, following the session that we held on 2 October. Are Members happy to note those? Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 4, then, is for me to propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting. Are Members content? Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:40.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:40.