Terms of reference

Wales Committee terms of reference

Published: 14 February 2020

Last updated: 22 November 2022

What countries does this apply to?

  • Wales


1. In accordance with the Equality Act 2006 (the ‘Act’), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the ‘Commission’) has established the Wales Committee (the ‘Committee’) as a decision-making committee.

2. Powers which are statutorily delegated to the Committee cannot be exercised by the Board.  These are set out in 3(b) and (c) below.

Role and function

3. The role of the Wales Committee is to:

a) advise the Commission on the exercise of its functions in so far as they affect Wales.

b) exercise the Commission’s general powers in respect of activities listed in section 13 of the Act, in so far as in the opinion of the Commission they affect Wales. The activities listed in section 13 of the Act are set out in Appendix 1.

c) exercise the Commission’s power in sections 11(2) (c) and 11 (2) (d) of the Act, in so far as that power, in the opinion of the Commission, affects only Wales (the ‘section 11 advice’). 

d) respond to consultations of the Committee by the Commission in accordance with paragraph 28/20 of Schedule 1 to the Act. This paragraph requires the Commission, before exercising a function in a manner which in the opinion of the Commission is likely to affect persons in Wales, to consult the Committee.

Discharge of functions

4. The Committee discharges the functions set out above by:

a) reviewing matters presented to the Committee by the Board or its officers and providing clear and concise advice which reflects (i) the conditions in, and the devolved context of, Wales and (ii) the impact, risks, or opportunities of the relevant functions. 

b) ensuring that the activities listed in section 13 of the Act are aligned with the Commission’s strategic priorities.

c) ensuring that any section 11 advice to the Welsh Government and Senedd is aligned to the Commission’s overall strategy. 

d) providing advice on any matter on which the Board consults it under paragraph 28/20 of Schedule 1 to the Act.

e) reviewing issues and developments in the human rights and equality agenda in Wales, horizon scanning for issues and opportunities that may impact the Commission and advising the Commission by raising such issues or developments at Committee meetings.

f) giving strategic advice on Welsh Government policy consultations or similar, considered by the executive, in consultation with the Wales Commissioner and the Chair of the Board, to be high risk or of high importance.

g) advising on the development of the Commission’s Strategic Plans, Business Plans, Annual Reports, and other corporate documents.

h) supporting the Wales Commissioner’s responsibility to represent the Commission in Wales. This is including through direct stakeholder engagement, led by the Wales Commissioner and in line with a strategy and programme which has been developed in collaboration with the Head of Wales and other relevant officers, is aligned with the Commission’s priorities and approved in consultation with the Chair of the Board. In developing the strategy and programme, due consideration will be given to issues and developments falling within (e) above.

i) contributing to Board working groups or committees, as agreed by the Board with the input of the Wales Commissioner and the Chair of the relevant group or committee.

5. The Committee provides its advice and responses through the Wales Commissioner as Chair of the Committee. This can be either through oral or written report to the Board, the CEO or other officers. Advice to the Board will be duly minuted.   

6. The Board will consider all advice, oral and written, provided to it by the Committee through the Wales Commissioner. Advice to the Board is not binding and it is for the Board to determine the extent to which the advice is reflected in the exercise of its own functions. In exceptional circumstances where the Board has decided not to follow the Committee’s advice on matters affecting Wales, the Committee can, if a majority of its members so request through the Wales Commissioner, request an informal meeting between the Committee and the Board.


7. The Committee delegates its activities set out in section 13 of the Act and its section 11 advice to the Chief Executive (CEO), with the power to sub-delegate as he or she thinks fit to the Head of Wales or other officer. The Committee has oversight and scrutiny of these functions.  

8. Any delegation (or sub-delegation) may be withdrawn either temporarily or permanently by the Committee (or the CEO) with reasonable notice and recorded in the minute of the meeting at which the decision is taken. Where delegation (or sub-delegation) has been withdrawn temporarily, the notice will specify the length of time of the withdrawal. 


9. The Committee comprises seven members (including the Chair).

10. Committee members are appointed by the Board of the Commission in accordance with the Commission’s Governance Manual.

11. Members will be appointed for a period of between three and five years. They may be reappointed, or extended, for a further period, but their maximum term of office will not exceed seven years.

12. Reappointment is subject to satisfactory performance, in accordance with the member’s terms and conditions of appointment and annual appraisals by the Wales Commissioner and is by mutual agreement between the member and the Commission.

13. The Wales Commissioner will agree any development needs with each Committee member and ensure appropriate access to support and learning opportunities is provided by, for example, facilitating participation by Committee members in relevant wider Committee member or Commissioner induction or learning activities.

14. The normal commitment of a Committee member is 12 days per annum. Members can expect this time to be spread between preparation for and attendance at Committee meetings and participation in other activities, for example learning activities or stakeholder engagement, as agreed with the Chair of the Committee.

Frequency and Format of Meetings

15. The Committee meets formally four times a year, with one informal development session. The Chair may convene additional meetings as necessary.

16. Formal meetings may be in person or virtual, at the discretion of the Chair. Additional meetings will normally be arranged virtually. Additional meetings will be arranged with no less than two weeks’ notice, unless by exception.

Chairing, Quorum and Decisions

17. The Wales Commissioner chairs the Committee.

18. To be quorate, at least three members of the Committee must be present. The Chair of the Committee is included in the quorum. In the absence of the Chair, the Chair will nominate another member of the Committee to chair the meeting.

19. If there is no quorum after 15 minutes of the scheduled start time, the Chair will decide whether to either (i) continue the meeting but vote on any decisions by follow up correspondence; or (ii) adjourn and schedule remaining business for the next meeting. Any decision taken by correspondence will be reported and recorded in the minutes of the next meeting.

20. Attendance in person or virtually can contribute to the quorum, but virtual attendance, in exceptional circumstances, should be agreed in advance with the Chair, unless the whole meeting has been scheduled to be held virtually.

21. The Committee seeks to achieve consensus on major decisions. However, where this is not possible, collective decisions will be based on a majority vote with the Chair of the Committee holding a casting vote.

22. Where the Chair of the Committee is of the view that an urgent matter should be considered by the Committee, they may call an extraordinary meeting of the Committee. Any decision taken at the extraordinary meeting will be recorded in the minutes in the usual way.

23. The Wales Commissioner participates fully in the business of the Board, including informal consultation with the Chair of the Board on any such matters deemed appropriate. As Chair of the Wales Committee, a formal Chair’s action may be necessary in extraordinary circumstances, for example where the Chair is asked by the Chair of the Board to advise urgently on behalf of the Committee. The Chair may circulate a briefing to all members of the Committee for their consideration and reach a decision on the issue based on written responses received. Alternatively, if the matter is particularly urgent, the Chair may make a decision on behalf of the Committee, in consultation with the Chief Executive and/or the Chair of the Board. In both circumstances, the decision will be reported and recorded in the minutes of the next meeting. 

Attendance at Meetings

24. Members are expected to maintain regular attendance at meetings, to attend the whole of a meeting unless by exception, and to give reasonable notice of non-attendance or planned partial attendance at a meeting.

25. The Chair of the Board, CEO, and the Executive Director with responsibility for Wales have a standing invitation to attend meetings of the Committee in a non-voting capacity.

26. The Head of Wales is normally in attendance and acts as the lead officer for the Committee. Other Commission staff may attend meetings, with the permission of the Wales Commissioner, in support of specific items under discussion.

27. Interaction between the Board and the Committee is encouraged. Committee members may attend Board meetings for items of interest on reasonable request with the agreement of the Wales Commissioner and the Chair of the Board. The Wales Commissioner may also invite one or more Commissioners to attend Committee meetings on reasonable notice for items of interest.


28. Secretariat and administrative support is provided by the Governance Team, liaising with the responsible Executive Director, Head of Wales and Wales Commissioner to set the agenda, manage papers and ensure the smooth running of the Committee.

29. Committee papers are available no later than five working days ahead of the meeting, unless in exceptional circumstances and authorised by the Chair.

30. Minutes are recorded at each meeting by the note taker provided by the Governance Team. The minutes are the record of discussion and basis of the advice offered by Committee members to the Board.  

31. Minutes are shared for comment by correspondence to Committee members, normally within ten working days of the meeting. Minutes are then provided for formal approval at the next Committee meeting, following which they are published on the Commission’s website. Once cleared by the Chair following comments received by correspondence, minutes will be provided in draft form for information to the next meeting of the Board.

Reporting Procedures

32. As set out in paragraph 4, the Wales Commissioner communicates the advice of the Committee to the Board.  The Wales Commissioner is also responsible for sharing Board feedback with Committee members, unless the Commissioner and Chair of the Commission agree that, because of its importance, feedback on any issue should be provided in a different manner, for example by the Chair of the Board writing to or offering to meet informally with the Committee.

33. The Wales Commissioner is responsible for keeping the Chair of the Board and the CEO apprised in a timely manner of any key issues pertaining to the Committee.

34. The Governance Team is responsible for keeping the Chair of the Board and the CEO generally informed of forthcoming Committee meeting agendas.

35. In March each year, the Wales Commissioner will present to the Board a written report summarising the exercise and performance of the Committee’s functions, its engagement with stakeholders and the impact achieved in Wales during the previous business year. This report will inform the Commission’s Annual Report and any impact reports produced by the Committee for the Senedd Cymru.

36. The Head of Wales will liaise with the Governance Team to provide any updates or communications to Commission staff regarding the Committee’s activities.


37. Members of the Committee must act with independence, objectivity and impartiality and have a sound understanding of the Commission’s overall objectives and priorities. Committee members must abide by the Commission’s Governance Manual, its Code of Conduct and their terms and conditions of appointment.

38. The Committee acts collectively in making its decisions. Committee members have collective and individual responsibility, along with the Board, to respect confidential discussions and to respect and abide by the decisions of the Committee and of the Board.  Where they are unable to do so, they should resign from the Committee, but would be required to adhere to the responsibility of confidentiality of decision.

39. The Committee and its members must be familiar and operate in line with the Commission’s Values, as published on its website.

40. Declarations of interest are a standing item on the Committee agenda. Any Committee member who becomes aware of a potential conflict of interest relating to matters to be discussed by the Committee must give prior notice to the Chair, who will advise the Governance Team and Head of Wales.

41. If the conflict only becomes apparent at the meeting, the Committee member should declare this at the meeting and, if necessary, withdraw during discussion of the relevant agenda item.

42. Where any such conflict relates to the Chair, they should declare it to the Committee and ask another member of the Committee to chair the relevant part of the meeting. Where the conflict arises during a meeting, the Chair should, if necessary, withdraw during discussion of the relevant item and ask another member of the Committee to chair the relevant item.

43. Committee members should also be proactive about raising any concerns on any matter pertaining to the agenda or the Committee’s functions with the Wales Commissioner as early as possible to allow for such concerns to be heard and addressed. In exceptional circumstances, where it is not appropriate to raise a concern directly with the Wales Commissioner, Committee members should approach the CEO, who will keep the Wales Commissioner and Chair of the Board appropriately informed.

Review of Effectiveness

44. The Committee will formally review its effectiveness and these terms of reference periodically, but within a period of 18 to 24 months. The Wales Commissioner will recommend to the Board for approval any changes necessary to facilitate the effective and efficient conduct of the Committee’s business.

Appendix: Equality Act 2006 references

Section 11(c) and (d) of the Equality Act 2006:

section 11(2) (c) advice to the devolved government about the effect or likely effect of laws

section 11 (2) (d) - advice to the devolved government on the likely effect of a proposed change of law

Section 13 of the Equality Act 2006:  

The activities listed in section 13 are:

(a) publishing or otherwise disseminating ideas or information

(b) undertaking research

(c) providing education or training

(d) giving advice or guidance (whether about the effect or operation of an enactment or otherwise)

(e) arranging for a person to do anything within paragraphs (a) to (d) and

(f) acting jointly with, co-operating with or assisting a person doing anything within paragraphs (a) to (d).

The reference to giving advice in (d) above does not include a reference to preparing, or assisting in the preparation of, a document to be used for the purpose of legal proceedings.

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