Rhys Jackson takes a look at Darren Millar’s proposed Older People’s Rights Bill, which won the ballot for consideration this week.
Presiding Officer Elin Jones announced the results of a ballot to decide the next Members’ Bill this week. Darren Millar AM’s proposal for an Older People’s Rights Bill was chosen, meaning he can now put his suggestion before the Assembly for a debate and vote on whether it can proceed for further consideration.
The Conservative AM for Clwyd West has been calling for older people’s rights to be enshrined in Welsh law for a long time; he brought forward a short debate on older people’s rights in 2012 and called on the Welsh public sector to abide by the UN Principles for Older Persons two years later.
Mr Millar’s Bill aims to: promote ageing well; place a due regard duty on public bodies – such as the Welsh Government, local authorities and health boards – to further enshrine the rights of older people into Welsh law; and place a duty on the Welsh Government to promote knowledge and understanding of the rights of older people.
What happens next?
Now the ballot has been drawn, Mr Millar has 25 working days to schedule a motion seeking leave to introduce the Bill, giving him until Wednesday 9th January 2019. Along with this motion, an explanatory memorandum must be tabled setting out the policy objectives of the Bill and an initial assessment of its cost.
The Assembly’s Business Committee has 35 working days from the date of the ballot to schedule a debate on this motion, which would mean the latest date a debate could take place is Wednesday 23rd January 2019. This debate would be a called a ‘Leave to proceed’ debate, as Mr Millar’s motion will seek leave to proceed with the Bill. This is an opportunity for the member to make the case for his Bill and convince other AMs to support the motion. If passed, he will then have 13 months to develop and introduce the Older People’s Rights Bill.
The other member proposed bill before AMs at the moment is the Autism Bill. This Bill is being taken forward by Welsh Conservative Paul Davies and is still at stage one of the legislative process having been scrutinised by the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee. The Welsh Government has argued that there is no need for an Autism Bill and that it would only serve to take resources away from current work, a view shared by public bodies and service providers. In contrast, charities and third sector organisations have argued that issues present before the creation of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategic Action Plan for Wales 10 years ago persist. Although many opposition AMs are generally positive about the proposed legislation, it is unlikely the Bill will progress further than a debate on its general principles as the Welsh Government has been opposed to it since scrutiny began in September.
Barring any major changes to the make-up of the Assembly, the Welsh Government will have a majority in the Senedd so will control the fate of the Older People’s Rights Bill. Previously, Older People’s Minister Huw Irranca-Davies has opposed taking a legislative course on older people’s rights, arguing that further legislation is not necessary as the Welsh Government has engaged in work to agree an alternative that will make rights “real for older people”. This means it is likely the Welsh Government will likely be resistant to Mr Millar’s Bill, but a lot could change in 13 months, especially with a new first minister in place.
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