Report on the Legislative Consent Motion relating to the Children and Families Bill 2012 - 2013 and 2013 – 2014

Committee: Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Session: 2013/2014

Date: Wednesday, 29 January 2014

ISBN: Only available online

Mandate Report Number: 2011/15

Together with the Minutes of Proceedings of the Committee relating to the Report, Minutes of Evidence, and Written Submissions

Powers

The Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Standing Order 48.

The Committee has power to:

  • Consider and advise on Departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • Consider relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of primary legislation;
  • Call for persons and papers;
  • Initiate inquiries and make reports; and
  • Consider and advise on any matters brought to the Committee by the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Contents of Report

Background to the Bill

Purpose of the legislative consent motion

Committee Consideration

Appendices

Minutes of Evidence

Background to the Bill

1. The Children and Families Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 4 February 2013 and is currently being considered by House of Lords.

2. The Bill is wide ranging in scope, and seeks to reform legislation in a range of areas including adoption and children in care; aspects of the family justice system; children and young people with special educational needs; the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England; statutory rights to leave and pay for parents and adopters; time off work for ante-natal care; and the right to request flexible working

Purpose of the legislative consent motion

3. On 28 November, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Jane Ellison MP, informed the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, of her Government’s intention to table an amendment to the Children and Families Bill. The intention is that this amendment would allow the Secretary of State for Health to make regulations on the standardised packaging of tobacco on a UK-wide basis.

4. However, the DHSSPS has advised Jane Ellison MP, that if the Secretary of State for Health decides to proceed with making regulations following consideration of the independent review on standardised packaging, the DHSSPS requires to be fully consulted at that stage and retain the option of opting out if that is the wish of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

Committee Consideration

5. The Committee took evidence from Department officials on the proposed legislative consent motion on 15 January 2014. The officials advised that the Department did not yet have Executive approval to table a legislative consent motion on this issue.

6. However, the officials explained that the Department took the view that the extension of provisions in the Children and Families Bill, by means of a legislative consent motion, provides the best opportunity for the introduction of standardised packaging in Northern Ireland.

7. The Committee discussed a number of key issues with officials. The first issue concerned the potential alternative mechanisms for legislating on standardised packaging of tobacco if a legislative consent motion was not sought, and the timescales involved. The second issue related to the position in Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

8. Having considered the evidence, the Committee agreed on 15 January 2014 to write to the Minister of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety to advise that in principle it supported the proposed legislative consent motion, pending sight of the final wording. The Committee also asked the Minister to convey its support for the proposed legislative consent motion to his Executive colleagues.

9. The Committee took the view that a legislative consent motion would be the most efficient mechanism for introducing legislation on standardised packaging of tobacco in Northern Ireland.

10. On 24 January 2014, the DHSSPS laid the Legislative Consent Memorandum in the Assembly. This was considered by the Committee at its meeting on 29 January 2014.

11. The Committee agreed to support the Department in seeking the Assembly’s endorsement of the legislative consent motion.

Appendices

  • Appendix 1

Hansard transcript from oral evidence session with Departmental officials (15 January 2014

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