Health and Social Care Bill

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Mr. Ian Stewart (Eccles): So what?

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): Could it have anything to do with the fact that those hon. Members who contributed on Second Reading, bar two, spoke against clauses 14 and 15?

Mr. Hammond: My hon. Friend may have hit the nail right on the head. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart) said, ``So what?'' Is he, perhaps, challenging the convention that hon. Members who contribute on Second Reading should, by and large, form the Committee that considers the Bill?

The Chairman: Order. I do not wish to be overzealous at this stage, but the membership of the Committee has nothing to do with the programme resolution. It might be better if the hon. Gentleman returned to that resolution and continued his remarks on another occasion.

Mr. Hammond: Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Maxton. I am not sure at which other stage it would be appropriate to make those remarks. This is a very important point, and it has a bearing on the time that the Committee will require to consider the Bill.

On Second Reading, several hon. Members displayed a very clear knowledge, sometimes backed up by personal experience, of the matters that the Committee will consider, and made worthwhile contributions. I am sure that many of those hon. Members hoped to serve on the Committee, in order to assist it in speeding up its deliberations by giving it the benefit of their considerable knowledge and expertise. What is the Government's motive in putting forward for membership of the Committee several Members who did not contribute on Second Reading, and only one Member who did? On Second Reading, in response to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne), the Minister of State, referring to the Committee that considered the Bill that became the Health Act 1999, said:

    I remember that Committee—it is seared on my memory. I remember in particular the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant)—he is not present tonight, so I assume that he will not be a member of the forthcoming Committee—[Official Report, 10 January 2001; Vol. 360, c. 1187.]

The Minister clearly expected that speaking on Second Reading would be a prerequisite for being selected for membership of the Committee.

I shall move on, but I feel that I have a duty to put the matter on record on behalf of certain hon. Members who made valuable contributions to that debate. They include the hon. Members for Erith and Thamesmead (Mr. Austin), for Ilford, North (Ms Perham) and for Romford (Mrs. Gordon), who had direct personal experience to relate, but were excluded from the Committee simply for committing the sin of questioning the Government line. We now have a Committee drawn from hon. Members who did not speak on Second Reading, with one honourable exception.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford): I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In his list of hon. Members who have not been selected for the Committee, he failed to mention the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), who happens to be chairman of the Select Committee on Health and is extremely knowledgeable on such matters.

Mr. Hammond: As is usual for the hon. Member for Wakefield, with whom I do not always see precisely eye to eye, he made a valuable contribution on Second Reading. I too was disappointed that he was not to be a member of the Committee. As chairman of the Health Committee, the hon. Gentleman invariably speaks in health debates, and I am perhaps not entirely surprised that he was not asked to serve on the Committee. I am certain that some other hon. Members who spoke, who perhaps hold less illustrious positions, would have expected to be asked to serve on the Committee.

2.45 pm

Mr. Ian Stewart: On a point of order, Mr. Maxton. Is it appropriate for the Opposition spokesman to question the composition of the Labour side of the Committee and to make presumptions about why hon. Members were or were not able to attend Second Reading, and which hon. Members are or are not critical of the Government? Surely that is not appropriate.

The Chairman: I have some sympathy with that point of order. I have already asked the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) to consider the motion. It would be better if he now did so.

Mr. Hammond: The point has been made—new Laboured, perhaps—and I am sure that the import of the decisions will become clear as the Committee progresses in its consideration.

I do not know whether it is the perfect moment to raise the matter, but I would like formally to place on the record a point that I raised in the Programming Sub-Committee this morning. I want to preface my remark by expressing my gratitude to the Minister for his undertaking to be as helpful as possible in supplying documentation to the Opposition.

The architecture of the Bill largely functions by amending existing legislation, especially the National Health Service Act 1977. That Act has been amended more times than most people would care to remember, yet nowhere in the House is a fully up-to-date, consolidated and amended copy of it available. When we see reference to, for example, making insertions after section 97 of the 1977 Act, we cannot readily find documentary evidence of that position.

As I said, the Minister has kindly undertaken to give the Opposition as much help as possible on documentation. However, I ask you, Mr. Maxton, whether it could be suggested through the regular meetings of the Chairman's Panel that the responsibility of providing us with documentation belongs not to the Department, but to the House authorities. If hon. Members are to be able properly to consider complicated Bills that work by inserting clauses into much-amended Acts, it is essential that all hon. Members be furnished with an amended, consolidated copy of the relevant base legislation. If we are not, our work is made doubly difficult. I would be extremely grateful to you, Mr. Maxton, if you would take that plea back to the House authorities, perhaps though meetings of the Chairmen's Panel, to see whether in future we might be spared the indignity of having to cobble together photocopies of different statutes from the Library. That was the only way we could piece together the structure of the measure before us today.

Mr. Swayne: We deserve an answer to a simple question before we take a decision. If the Government table substantial amendments, or if the Committee at some stage reaches agreement that some aspect of the Bill requires greater scrutiny than the programme resolution allows, will the Government be flexible in reconvening the Programming Sub-Committee to change the motion? That has already happened in the case of the Standing Committee considering the Vehicles (Crime) Bill. Will a resolution on the Floor of the House be used to change the end date, if scrutiny of the Bill reveals that that is necessary?

Mr. Denham: The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) is unduly crotchety this afternoon.

I make no apology for telling the Committee that we shall attempt to provide extra information for hon. Members if necessary. When the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment, was a housing Minister, he was, I am fairly certain, responsible for the Bill that became the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993. That was the first Bill that I served on as an Opposition Member. During its passage, several additional briefing documents were provided, usually on the day when the Committee was to meet, to explain some of the more technical or complex aspects of the clause and the underlying calculations. I found it useful and good practice. It happens in some Committees and not in others, and I hope to do it where possible.

It is also common practice for Governments, when introducing a measure, to explain that they will be consulting on one or other detailed aspect before implementation. In the case of the performance fund, the consultation is with the NHS. I felt that members of the Committee would want to be able to study the consultation before debating the matter in Committee. We have not done the work at the last possible moment. Rather, we have produced the document at the earliest possible moment, so as not to publish a consultation document after the Committee has considered the matter. We have been endeavouring to help hon. Members, which is how I intend to deal with the Committee.

While I have promised to be as helpful as possible with the Department's resources in assisting members of the Committee, I share the view of the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge that it would be helpful if another way of providing consolidated versions of legislation were available, that did not rely on Departments to put it forward. I draw that to your attention, Mr. Maxton.

I understand that the procedure, in the event of a change to the sitting hours, would be to reconvene the Programming Sub-Committee. The Government showed flexibility this morning in extending the hours initially allocated for debate, although I think that the mood of this morning's meeting was that we should be able to conclude our business within the overall time envelope and not sit as late as is suggested, certainly on Tuesdays. I hope that our intention to make good progress while allowing proper scrutiny is clear.

Question put and agreed to.

The Chairman: As the programming motion to which the Committee has just agreed contains an order of consideration I shall not put the separate order of consideration motion.

Clause 1

Determination of allotments to and resource limits for Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts

Mr. Hammond: I beg to move amendment No. 11, in page 1, line 12, leave out `amount' and insert `amounts'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 12, in page 1, line 12, leave out `a Health Authority' and insert `Health Authorities'.

No. 13, in page 1, line 16, leave out `Authority's'.

No. 14, in page 1, line 16, after `expenditure', insert `of each Authority'.

No. 6, in page 1, line 17, leave out `the' and insert `each'.

No. 7, in page 2, line 3, leave out

    `an amount for a Health Authority'

and insert `amounts for Health Authorities'.

No. 15, in page 2, line 9, leave out `Authority's'.

No. 16, in page 2, line 9, after `expenditure', insert `of each Authority'.

No. 17, in page 2, line 15, leave out `amount' and insert `amounts'.

No. 18, in page 2, line 15, leave out `a Primary Care Trust' and insert `Primary Care Trusts'.

No. 20, in page 2, line 27, leave out

    `an amount for a Primary Care Trust'

and insert

    `amounts for Primary Care Trusts'.

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