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Thursday, March 04, 2004

UK Government fail the devolution test again

Proposals from the UK Government to introduce a Children's Commissioner for England have failed the devolution test. Whereas I welcome the move, I do not do so if it means diminishing the powers and influence of the Welsh Children's Commissioner. For the last three years, the Children's Commissioner has done a superb job, working with children right across Wales to promote their concerns and interests. He has developed relationships with the police and probation service to help Welsh children, even though he has no direct responsibility over those services. However, the Bill says that the Commissioner appointed by Westminster will be responsible for everything except where the matter has been devolved to the National Assembly. As my colleague, Kirsty Williams, has said, "There are very few adults in Wales who understand exactly which services are delivered in Wales. This Bill expects children to understand the niceties about what the assembly does and what parliament is responsible for. Does anyone seriously expect that to work? This Bill was a chance to make the Children's Commissioner in Wales an even more powerful advocate of children's rights. The Bill is cutting the ground from underneath the commissioner's feet. Why does a Bill in London need to set out in such detail what happens in Wales? Doesn't the UK government trust their own colleagues in Wales to develop a tailor made solution for Wales? The Bill may be a step forward for children in England but it is undoubtedly a step backwards for children in Wales."

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