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Morgan: An Older Persons' Commissioner for Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I welcome the opportunity to debate what will be an important development for older people in Wales, provided that the powers, influence, and the independence of the commissioner reflect the importance of safeguarding the welfare of older people.

The Government's initial plan to introduce a Bill to create a commissioner for older people, as Val Lloyd outlined, was found in the Government's manifesto of 2003.

At the time, it was treated as something of a gimmick. Unless we get this Bill right, older people in Wales will still regard it as a gimmick, unless we can assure them, and that you can assure them, through this Bill, that the commissioner will have the powers, influence and independence that he or she will need to safeguard the wellbeing of older people.

The rationale for doing something to promote the welfare of older people is outlined in the regulatory impact assessment.

In the 'Options' section, under the 'Do Nothing' heading, it states that: 'This is not a viable option as this would mean that older people's interests would not be properly taken into account, that they would continue to be discriminated against and that their participation and engagement in communities would be poor'.

This sends out a damaging message to older people in Wales, which is that, somehow, a commissioner is needed because that entire group of older people are somehow collectively discriminated against and that they do not get the services and support that they deserve.

If you applied that rationale to every group of people in society, you would have a whole army of individual commissioners undertaking work on behalf of certain groups of people.

Therefore the way that this has been presented has been fairly poor, to say the least.

We will be supporting the amendments. There is broad agreement among the opposition parties on the confusion caused by the Bill over devolved and non-devolved issues and the role of the commissioner in either situation.

The Bill will permit the commissioner to review and examine individual cases, review the discharge of Assembly functions and public services and to make reports, all of which must be within the devolved competence of this institution.

Under the Bill, the commissioner cannot examine individual cases that relate to non-devolved matters.

So, as Jenny Randerson pointed out, older people with problems and concerns relating to pensions and benefits will be confused as to whom to approach to ask for help.

In terms of submitting reports, the commissioner can only do so, according to clause 14, within the devolved context, and the extent to which the commissioner can make reports will not be extended to non-devolved matters.

As pointed out to the Deputy Minister earlier, that is a fundamental inconsistency within the Bill. The commissioner can, under clause 2(3), make representations—such as a simple telephone call to someone in the Assembly—on any matter, be it devolved or non-devolved, but can only lay a formal report on something that is a devolved matter.

So, there is a fundamental weakness in the way in which the commissioner can make formal representations. In using the word 'formal', I mean the laying of a report for the Assembly to consider.

The Deputy Minister and the Government must understand that, while we are talking about the devolved competence and remit of this institution, the Assembly, under Section 30 of the Government of Wales Act 1998, is allowed to take a view on any matter, devolved or non-devolved, affecting Wales.

If we want to take a view on pensions, benefits or the reform of the House of Lords, we are allowed to do so, even though we have no powers in those areas.

So, to say that the commissioner has to fit in to the devolved context is somewhat illogical, bearing in mind what we are able to do as an institution.

There is a problem with the way in which services are delivered, particularly in the context of border issues.

I refer to health services and other services in England. What would the commissioner's role be in those circumstances, as there could be issues that he or she might wish to raise?

We know that the advisory group believes that the commissioner should be able to make representations on non-devolved matters directly to the UK.

This was supported in the consultation exercise. So, any informal arrangements, to which the Deputy Minister referred, will not satisfy the recommendations.

I believe that the Bill could work, and it could provide for a very robust individual to do a very good job on behalf of older people in Wales.

However, it needs a severe amount of tidying up, not least in the way that the commissioner can make reports and representations, and the way in which he or she could take up concerns on behalf of our constituents."

"Yn gyntaf, croesawaf y cyfle i drafod yr hyn a fydd yn ddatblygiad pwysig ar gyfer pobl hyn yng Nghymru, ar yr amod y bydd pwerau, dylanwad, ac annibyniaeth y comisiynydd yn adlewyrchu pwysigrwydd diogelu lles pobl hyn.

Cafwyd cynllun cychwynnol y Llywodraeth i gyflwyno Mesur i greu comisiynydd pobl hyn, fel yr amlinellodd Val Lloyd, ym maniffesto 2003 y Llywodraeth.

Ar y pryd, cafodd ei drin fel rhyw fath o gimig. Oni bai ein bod yn sicrhau bod y Mesur hwn yn iawn gennym, bydd pobl hyn yng Nghymru yn parhau i'w ystyried yn gimig, oni bai ein bod yn gallu eu sicrhau, drwy'r Mesur, y bydd gan y comisiynydd bwerau, dylanwad ac annibyniaeth y bydd angen iddo ef neu hi ddiogelu lles pobl hyn.

Amlinellir y rhesymeg dros wneud rhywbeth i hyrwyddo lles pobl hyn yn yr asesiad effaith reoleiddiol.

Yn yr adran 'Opsiynau', o dan y pennawd 'Gwneud Dim Byd', mae'n nodi: 'Nid yw hwn yn opsiwn dichonadwy oherwydd byddai hyn yn golygu na châi buddiannau pobl hyn eu hystyried yn briodol, y byddai eraill yn parhau i wahaniaethu yn eu herbyn ac y byddai eu cyfranogiad mewn cymunedau yn wael'.

Mae hyn yn anfon neges andwyol i bobl hyn yng Nghymru, hynny yw, rywsut, bod angen comisiynydd oherwydd y gwahaniaethir yn erbyn y grwp cyfan hwnnw o bobl hyn ac nad ydynt yn cael y gwasanaethau a'r gefnogaeth y maent yn eu haeddu.

Pe byddech yn cymhwyso'r rhesymeg honno i bob grwp o bobl mewn cymdeithas, byddai gennych lu o gomisiynwyr unigol yn ymgymryd â gwaith ar ran grwpiau penodol o bobl. Felly, cafodd hyn ei gyflwyno mewn ffordd eithaf gwael, a dweud y lleiaf.

Byddwn yn cefnogi'r gwelliannau. Yn gyffredinol, cytuna'r gwrthbleidiau fod y Mesur yn achosi dryswch o ran materion a ddatganolwyd a materion nas datganolwyd a rôl y comisiynydd yn y naill sefyllfa neu'r llall.

Bydd y Mesur yn caniatáu i'r comisiynydd adolygu ac archwilio achosion unigol, adolygu'r broses o gyflawni swyddogaethau'r Cynulliad a gwasanaethau cyhoeddus a gwneud adroddiadau, a bydd yn rhaid i bob un fod o fewn cymhwysedd datganoledig y sefydliad hwn.

O dan y Mesur, ni all y comisiynydd archwilio achosion unigol sy'n ymwneud â materion nas datganolwyd.

Felly, fel y nododd Jenny Randerson, bydd pobl hyn sydd â phroblemau a phryderon sy'n gysylltiedig â phensiynau a budd-daliadau wedi drysu o ran at bwy y dylid troi am help.

O ran cyflwyno adroddiadau, yr unig ffordd y gall y comisiynydd wneud hynny, yn ôl cymal 14, yw o fewn y cyd-destun datganoledig ac ni fydd y graddau y gall y comisiynydd wneud adroddiadau yn ymestyn i faterion nas datganolwyd.

Fel y nodwyd i'r Dirprwy Weinidog yn gynharach, mae hynny'n anghysondeb sylfaenol o fewn y Mesur.

O dan gymal 2(3) gall y comisiynydd wneud sylwadau—fel galwad ffôn syml i rywun yn y Cynulliad—ar unrhyw fater, pa un a yw'n fater a ddatganolwyd ai peidio, ond dim ond ar fater a ddatganolwyd y gall gyflwyno adroddiad ffurfiol.

Felly, mae gwendid sylfaenol yn y ffordd y gall y comisiynydd wneud sylwadau ffurfiol. Wrth ddefnyddio'r gair 'ffurfiol', golygaf osod adroddiad gerbron y Cynulliad i'w ystyried.

Rhaid i'r Dirprwy Weinidog a'r Llywodraeth ddeall, wrth sôn am gymhwysedd a ddatganolwyd a chylch gwaith y sefydliad hwn, y caniateir i'r Cynulliad, o dan Adran 30 Deddf Llywodraeth Cymru 1998, leisio barn ar unrhyw fater, pa un a yw wedi'i ddatganoli ai peidio, sy'n effeithio ar Gymru.

Os ydym am leisio barn am bensiynau, budd-daliadau neu ddiwygio Ty'r Arglwyddi, caniateir inni wneud hynny, er nad oes gennym unrhyw bwerau yn y meysydd hynny.

Felly, mae dweud bod yn rhaid i'r comisiynydd fod yn rhan o'r cyd-destun datganoledig braidd yn afresymegol, o ystyried yr hyn y gallwn ei wneud fel sefydliad.

Ceir problem gyda'r ffordd y darperir gwasanaethau, yn arbennig yng nghyd-destun materion o ran ffiniau.

Cyfeiriaf at wasanaethau iechyd a gwasanaethau eraill yn Lloegr. Beth fyddai rôl y comisiynydd o dan yr amgylchiadau hynny, oherwydd efallai fod ganddo ef neu ganddi hi faterion i'w codi?

Gwyddom fod y grwp cynghori yn credu y dylai'r comisiynydd fod yn gallu gwneud sylwadau ar faterion nas datganolwyd yn uniongyrchol i'r DU. Cefnogwyd hyn yn yr ymgynghoriad.

Felly, ni fydd unrhyw drefniadau anffurfiol, y cyfeiriodd y Dirprwy Weinidog atynt, yn bodloni'r argymhellion.

Credaf y gallai'r Mesur weithio, ac y gallai ddarparu i unigolyn cadarn iawn wneud swydd dda iawn ar ran pobl hyn yng Nghymru.

Fodd bynnag, mae angen ei dacluso cryn dipyn, yn arbennig o ran ffordd y gall y comisiynydd wneud adroddiadau a sylwadau, a'r ffordd y gallai godi pryderon ar ran ein hetholwyr."

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