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House of Lords (Exclusion of Hereditary Peers) Bill

Mr. David Winnick accordingly presented a Bill to repeal section 2 of the House of Lords Act 1992: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 11 July, and to be printed [Bill 144].

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Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

1.4 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): I beg to move,

    (3) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion 8 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this Order.

Hon. Members: Hooray!

Mr. Hutton: I think that those are probably the only cheers that I will get this afternoon.

We have drafted the programme motion in an attempt to be fair to all sides of the House. The amendments selected for debate today concentrate largely on part 1 of the Bill. That is why the motion devotes the lion's share of the House's time this afternoon to consideration of those amendments.

Clearly, the rest of the Bill is no less important. I hope that the House will find the divisions that we propose acceptable. We have allowed one and three quarter hours for debate of the new GP contract clauses. Many hon. Members will know that the contract is the result of two years of negotiations between the NHS

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Confederation and the British Medical Association. The clauses make the changes to the primary legislation that will allow us to make the new contract a reality. It may help the House if I explain that both the NHS Confederation and the chairman of the BMA's general practitioners committee, Dr. John Chisholm, have indicated to me their support for the Government's amendments.

Aside from the GP contract clauses, the Government's amendments are intended—

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I am extremely grateful to the Minister for giving way, but does he think that those eminent doctors will be satisfied with what they took two years to decide being disposed of by the House in less than two hours?

Mr. Hutton: Given the very high quality of the debate that we will have on that part of the Bill, I have no doubt that they will be perfectly satisfied with an hour and three quarters. I hold the hon. Gentleman in high regard, and I do not want to minimise the point that he makes, as the provisions are very important. I refer to the agreement on these clauses that we have reached with the confederation and the BMA simply to try and reassure hon. Members that the Government's proposals command widespread support in the NHS. I hope that the House will find that helpful.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): The Bill provides that much of the detail in it may be prescribed in regulations. The Minister will understand that that has relevance for the amount of time being allocated for debate. To what extent will those regulations be subject to debate in the House, under the affirmative resolution procedure? That such debates will be required is obvious not from the structure of the new clauses themselves, but from reference to previous legislation.

Mr. Hutton: The regulations will be passed under the negative resolution procedure. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to raise that point in the debate, and that the matter will arise in another place. However, the proposed format is the one used in the existing legislation for the regulations concerning the general medical service contracts, and we are not suggesting that the new proposals receive any less parliamentary scrutiny in this place. Last week, we circulated a set of explanatory notes and information about how the regulation-making powers are intended to be exercised. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members have found that helpful.

This part of the Bill deals with primary care services and, as usual, looks fiendishly complicated. However, the Government are proposing a simplified and more streamlined system for implementing the GMS contract. A smaller volume of secondary legislation will be needed to underpin it. That is one of the principles that we have adopted in framing the provisions.

The programme motion also provides an hour for the Third Reading debate. I believe that it is a fair and balanced attempt to ensure that the House has appropriate opportunity to consider the amended Bill properly. I hope that the House will support the motion.

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1.8 pm

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): The Minister's opening statement that the programme motion has been drafted in an attempt to be fair to all sides of the House gives us a good indication of what the Government's definition of "fairness" is. Before today's debate, 60 clauses had not even been considered in Committee. A total of seven hours for debate today is an insult to the House, in terms of the sheer volume of amendments that we might have to consider. There are 250 amendments and new clauses in the first group selected for debate, Mr. Speaker. I do not know whether you can recall a Bill with that sheer volume of amendments and new clauses, but I doubt that there has been one that has been guillotined to this degree.

Thus, in an extremely short time, we have to consider the whole issue of foundation hospitals, their complexity, their borrowing rights, the role of the regulator, cross-border matters, terms and conditions of service, asset disposal, governance, the role of centrally determined targets, the effects of creating a two-tier system, the interface with the private sector, the cost of maintaining a foundation hospital board and the complexity of the electoral process—and that is just the first group. We then get to the complaints procedure, standards for health and social care—another hugely important issue—provision in cross-border areas and the regulation of social care services, including those for children.

We shall then have one and three quarter hours to debate the whole of the contract that will shape the future of primary care—the whole of it. Until now, we have had no chance, during the whole passage of the Bill, to debate that matter. That shows the importance that the Government accord the whole issue of the forward path for primary care—one and three quarter hours.

We then have to deal with NHS charges and welfare food schemes. To try to squeeze all that and a Third Reading into the time on offer is hugely offensive to many Members; they may hold differing opinions on the issues, but they believe none the less that the House should be given appropriate time so that every voice can be heard.

To add insult to injury, leading the debate for the Government is a Secretary of State who represents a Scottish constituency. He will be trying to push forward measures in England that he will not be forcing through for his constituents in Scotland, using up debating time in this place. Furthermore, the Bill will be backed and voted for by Members representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies who have no say on health in their own constituencies but will be trying to apply these measures to voters in England.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): The hon. Gentleman may not have noticed that Northern Ireland is also represented in the House and that we try to play our part in United Kingdom business. Will he accept that although we would like to play a full part, that is being denied us today, because the Northern Ireland Grand Committee is sitting while this important measure is being debated in the Chamber?

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