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Mr. Bercow: They will be the Ministers next year.

Mr. Swayne: Indeed, they will be in a position to exercise that extraordinary power, but I should like to know about their plans for doing so.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Gisela Stuart): This has been a most interesting debate. At times, I felt in need of a dose of Bach rescue remedy, which I am sure is available not far from here.

New clause 7 seeks to give the National Care Standards Commission the responsibility to maintain a register of complementary or alternative therapists. As has been

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amply illustrated, it would require the Secretary of State to make regulations providing for the method of registering and determining applications. It would further require the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the descriptions, claims and techniques used by therapists, and any other matters pertaining to them that he may specify.

We do not think the new clause necessary. We recognise that developments are moving apace in the provision of treatment and care services; in the range of settings in which they are provided; and in the equipment, techniques and technology through which they are delivered. We also recognise the need to ensure that the door is open to extend the range of services to be regulated in future, if and when necessary.

For that reason, the Bill already contains clause 42, which demonstrates the Government's forward-thinking approach to the regulation of social care and independent health care. It shows that we are building a new regulatory system that will last because it will have the flexibility to move with the times. Clause 42 provides for regulations to be made to bring further health care services within the new regulatory system, if or when considered appropriate at some time in the future. The clause must indicate the parameters of what that means. It has been drafted to refer to health care services that would include those that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) seeks to bring within the National Care Standards Commission's remit under new clause 7.

Independent health care services and establishments that will come within the new regulatory system from the outset are described in clause 2. Those services and establishments are those that we consider, having taken account of the consultation exercise held last year, to have the most pressing need to be regulated. They do not include complementary or alternative therapies. Bearing in mind the flexibilities in clause 42 to extend the regulatory scope of the National Care Standards Commission in future, we see no pressing reason to include such services in the Bill. Provision already exists to allow movement in that direction.

Mr. Hammond: Does the Minister acknowledge that the scope of private sector provision that can be regulated would be determined wholly by what the NHS chose to make available, or not to make available?

12.30 am

Ms Stuart: Some alternative therapies are already available in the NHS, but we simply do not think that the new clause is necessary.

The Government issued guidelines on professional self-regulation in complementary and alternative therapy that encouraged the formation of a single lead body to take forward self-regulation in each therapy. Steady progress is being made, particularly among the more popular therapies, and therapist registers are maintained by the lead bodies for each field. In addition to professional self-regulation, all practitioners of complementary and alternative medicines are subject to a range of general legislation that regulates the claims that they can make publicly, health and safety and the prescribing of medical products.

The new clause would give the National Care Standards Commission the responsibility to maintain a register of alternative and complementary therapists and to regulate

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them. As I have explained, the consultation that we undertook on the regulation of independent health care indicated no pressing need for such measures. The Science and Technology Committee in the other place is currently conducting an inquiry into complementary and alternative medicine, and regulation of the professions is a major theme. In its hearings so far, the Committee has shown no sympathy for the idea of a single body to regulate all therapies. For that reason, the new clause is neither necessary nor appropriate and I ask the House to reject it.

Mrs. Spelman: I have, of course, listened to the observations made on all sides, and I would not pretend to have tabled a perfectly drafted measure. I have a residual concern: when tabloid newspaper headlines refer to one or perhaps more proven cases of abuse involving a therapist, the Government may regret dismissing so lightly the risk faced by the significant number of patients who seek alternative therapies without going through the NHS or the gateway of a GP. Clause 42, which refers to provision through the NHS or primary care trusts, does not cover such circumstances.

We have tried to warn the Government of the risks of leaving a wide range of therapies completely unregulated. I draw to the Minister's attention the example of hypnosis. Members of the public will be left exposed, and an opportunity to raise the status of some long-standing therapies has been missed. However, in the interests of making progress, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 8

Older Persons' Commissioner

'.-- (1) There shall be an office of the Older Persons' Commissioner.

(2) Schedule (The Older Persons' Commissioner) shall have effect with respect to the Older Persons' Commissioner (referred to in this Act as "the Older Persons' Commissioner").'.--[Mr. Burstow.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Burstow: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 9--Review and monitoring of arrangements--

'.--(1) The Older Persons' Commissioner may review, and monitor the operation of, arrangements falling within subsection (2), (3) or (4) for the purpose of ascertaining whether, and to what extent, the arrangements are effective in safeguarding and promoting the rights and welfare of older persons to whom this Part applies.
(2) The arrangements falling within this subsection are the arrangements made by the providers of regulated services in England or Wales, or by the Secretary of State or the Assembly, for dealing with complaints or representations in respect of such services made by or on behalf of older people to whom this Part applies.
(3) The arrangements falling within this subsection are arrangements made by the providers of regulated services in England or Wales, or by the Secretary of State or the Assembly, for ensuring that proper action is taken in response to any disclosure of information which may tend to show--

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(a) that a criminal offence has been committed;
(b) that a person has failed to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject;
(c) that the health and safety of any person has been endangered; or
(d) that information tending to show that any matter falling within one of the preceding paragraphs has been deliberately concealed,
in the course of or in connection with the provision of such services.
(4) The arrangements falling within this subsection are arrangements made (whether by providers of regulated services in England or Wales, by the Secretary of State or the Assembly or by any other person) for making persons available--
(a) to represent the views and wishes of older people to whom this Part applies; or
(b) to provide such older people with advice and support of any prescribed kind.
(5) Regulations may confer power on the Older Persons' Commissioner to require prescribed persons to provide any information which the Older Persons' Commissioner considers it necessary or expedient to have for the purposes of his functions under this section.'.

New clause 10--Examination of cases--

'.--(1) Regulations may make provision for the examination by the Older Persons' Commissioner of the cases of particular older people to whom this Part applies.
(2) The regulations may include provision about--
(a) the types of case which may be examined;
(b) the circumstances in which an examination may be made;
(c) the procedure for conducting an examination, including provision about the representation of parties;
(d) the publication of reports following an examination.
(3) The regulations may make provision for--
(a) requiring persons to provide the Older Persons' Commissioner with information; or
(b) requiring persons who hold or are accountable for information to provide the Older Persons' Commissioner with explanations or other assistance,
for the purpose of an examination or for the purposes of determining whether any recommendation made in a report following an examination has been complied with.
(4) For the purposes mentioned in subsection (3), the Older Persons' Commissioner shall have the same powers as the High Court in respect of--
(a) the attendance and examination of witnesses (including the administration of oaths and affirmations and the examination of witnesses abroad); and
(b) the provision of information.
(5) No person shall be compelled for the purposes mentioned in subsection (3) to give any evidence or provide any information which he could not be compelled to give or provide in civil proceedings before the High Court.
(6) The regulations may make provision for the payment by the Older Persons' Commissioner of sums in respect of expenses or allowances to persons who attend or provide information for the purposes mentioned in subsection (3).'.

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New clause 11--Obstruction etc.--

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