HC Deb 12 December 1980 vol 995 cc513-4W
Mr. Watson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what changes he is proposing in the constitution of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work; and if he will rake a statement.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

In September 1979 the Government issued a consultation document which drew attention to problems created by the doubling of the council's size since 1962 when it was originally established with 32 members—21 of them appointed by Ministers—and sought comment on a range of options, including retention of the present constitution; a reduction of about a third in the membership; and reduction to 20–25 members, all of them to be appointed by Ministers after appropriate consultations.

We are grateful to the Wide range of interested bodies and individuals who commented. Inevitably, differences of view emerged; but a very large majority—including the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the Association of Directors of Social Services and the comparable bodies in Scotland favoured reduction of the number of members. There was also substantial support for the proposal that the council should he able to delegate some of its executive functions to committees or boards which would be free of the present statutory requirement that two-thirds of their membership should be drawn from the council itself.

After careful consideration of the issues and of all the views expressed on them the Government have now concluded that the best way of improving the council's effectiveness would be to reduce the number of members from the present 64 to a maximum of 25—excluding the chairman—provided that the necessary range of interests and experience could be included in the arrangements for the smaller council. We further concluded that this would be secured by giving Ministers the power to appoint the whole membership after suitable consultations—which would be statutorily required—and the chairman, and by enabling the council to appoint committees and delegate functions to them without the present restrictions or their membership. Such committees would be answerable to the council and their chairmen would have to be members of the council itself. Ministers would have reserve powers to require the council to establish committees to assist in the discharge of its functions as they relate in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland; and to require appointments of chairmen of such committees to be put to it for approval. No changes are proposed in the present functions of the council, or in its status as a wholly independent statutory body.

I hope that there will be an opportunity later in the Session for the introduction of legislation to make the necessary changes. The changes themselves are not likely to be implemented before 1982. In the meantime, the present council will continue with its important work.