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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 31—Complaints about social services.

Government new clause 32—Complaints regulations: supplementary.

Government new clause 33—Representations relating to special guardianship support services.

Government amendment No. 301.

Amendment No. 40, in clause 107, page 44, line 7, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

'(1) Complaints under this Act may be made by an individual or a body of persons, whether incorporated or not.
(1A) A complaint may be submitted in respect of—
(a) the exercise by an NHS body of any of its functions,
(b) the provision by any person of health care for which the body is responsible.
(c) the provision of services by the body or any other person in pursuance of arrangements made by the body under section 31 of the Health Act 1999 in relation to the exercise of the health-related functions of a local authority.

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(1B) A complaint may be initiated by—
(a) the person aggrieved,
(b) his personal representative,
(c) a member of his family,
(d) an independent advocate, or
(e) some body or individual suitable to represent him.'.

Amendment No. 41, in page 44, line 7, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Amendment No. 42, in page 44, line 17, leave out 'may in particular make' and insert 'shall make further'.

Amendment No. 43, in page 44, line 17, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Amendment No. 44, in page 44, line 18, leave out paragraph (a).

Amendment No. 45, in page 44, line 20, at end insert

', including timescales for completion of each stage'.

Amendment No. 46, in page 44, line 26, at end insert—

'(h) for a specific complaint and redress procedure for challenging the refusal of NHS-funded continuing care'.

Amendment No. 47, in page 44, line 27, leave out subsection (3).

Amendment No. 48, in page 44, line 29, leave out

'and within the prescribed period'.

Amendment No. 49, in page 44, line 37, leave out paragraph (d).

Amendment No. 50, in page 44, line 37, at end insert—

'(e) primary care practices providing NHS services under contract, and other private providers treating patients under contract with an NHS body'.

Amendment No. 51, in page 44, line 37, at end insert—

'(4A) The provision that may be made under subsection (2)(f) includes the provision for a report about a complaint to recommend the making of an ex-gratia payment in respect of injuries sustained, loss of earnings or expenses incurred as a consequence of the incident or incidents complained about.'.

Amendment No. 52, in page 45, line 4, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Amendment No. 53, in page 45, line 6, at end insert—

'(6A) Provision under subsection (2)(g) will include provision for a complaint to be referred to either the CHAI or the Health Service Commissioner if the complaints procedure has not been completed at the relevant stage within a reasonable timeframe.'.

Amendment No. 54, in page 45, line 16, at end insert—

'(8A) Regulations under this section shall include provisions for the right to an oral hearing with the investigating officers of the relevant body where appropriate.'.

Amendment No. 26, in page 45, line 19, at end insert—

'(10) No regulations may be made under this section unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House.'.

Government amendments Nos. 302 and 303.

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Amendment No. 55, in clause 109, page 46, line 43, at end insert—

'( ) for circumstances in which a complaint may be considered, including—
(i) the breach of any duty under Part IV of the Care Standards Act 2000, and
(ii) the breach of any duty to provide services under Part III of the Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 (c.19).'.

Amendment No. 27, in page 47, line 41, at end insert—

'(10) No regulations may be made under this section unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House.'.

Government amendments Nos. 304 to 312 and 316 to 318.

Amendment No. 28, in clause 181, page 95, line 35, after 'from', insert

'regulations under section 107 or 109 or'.

Government amendments Nos. 313 to 315 and 319.

Dr. Ladyman: We now come to the part of the Bill that everyone is really interested in. I wish to speak to Government new clauses 30, 31 and 32, and I will comment on the other new clauses and amendments in this group. I shall try to be as brief as possible so that other hon. Members can speak.

Government new clauses 30 to 32 will replace clauses 107 to 110 on health and social services complaints in England and Wales, so removing a large amount of repetition of common provisions by combining those clauses into a supplementary clause. I apologise to the House for tabling replacement clauses on Report, but I hope that hon. Members will agree that that approach is preferable to tabling a large number of drafting amendments. I took that decision because I thought it preferable to introduce the new clauses on Report, rather than waiting for the Bill to reach the Lords. Time constraints did not allow a debate on the complaints clauses in Committee, so time has not been wasted debating those clauses that we now propose to replace.

Sir Patrick Cormack rose—

Dr. Ladyman: New clause 30 will allow regulations to be made setting out the procedure to be followed when considering complaints received by an NHS body in England and Wales about the exercise of its functions.

Hon. Members: Give way.

Dr. Ladyman: I shall give way, but then I want to make progress.

Sir Patrick Cormack: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but that is the very point that I am making. Does he truly and sincerely think that the

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House now has adequate time to debate what was not debated in Committee? Can he give a straight answer to that question?

Dr. Ladyman: The House has voted on the programme motion; the House clearly believes that it has adequate time.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Dr. Ladyman: Yes, but this is the last time.

Lynne Jones: My hon. Friend says that he took that decision. May I ask whether he personally took the decision?

Dr. Ladyman: Of course not; I made a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Health and he made the decision.

New clause 31 will allow regulations to be made setting out the procedure to be followed when considering complaints received by a local authority in England or Wales about the discharge of its social services functions.

New clause 30(1) and (2), and new clause 31(1) and (3) will allow regulations to be made setting out the procedure for handling and considering complaints where a complaint is made about the exercise of an NHS body's functions or health care provided by or for such a body, or where a complaint is made to a local authority in England or Wales respectively. The regulations made under those clauses can specify in what circumstances a complaint will trigger the formal complaints procedures, as prescribed in the regulations.

NHS bodies or local authorities may often be able to address concerns expressed or issues raised by service users, or their relatives or carers, without the formal complaints procedures being used. We want people to have access to the formal procedures when they want them, but we do not want to force people to undertake the whole process if they prefer a less formal approach.

There are also a number of drafting amendments to provide for consistency and clarity of wording between the various complaints clauses. The new clauses make it clear that, if the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, the Commission for Social Care Inspection or, in Wales, the independent panel, refer a complaint to the health service commissioner or local government ombudsman, the commissioner or ombudsman will have discretion about the action that they might take in response and are not obliged to investigate every case. A further amendment aims to clarify the intention of clause 109(8) and reconcile it with the language used in the Children Act 1989 in respect of representations and complaints.

The purpose of new clause 32 is to combine all common provisions that exist for the handling and consideration of health care and social services complaints for both England and Wales into one new clause. It has been drafted to clarify the policy intentions and any procedural differences between health care and social services in both England and Wales. Subsection (2) combines common provisions in clauses 107 to 110, and specifies the persons who may make a complaint,

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the complaints which may or may not be made, complaints which need not be considered, the period within which complaints must be made and the procedures for making and considering a complaint. It also allows for regulations to be made about which complaints may be heard, about the making of a report about the complaint and the action to be taken once a complaint is made.

Subsection (3) is intended to provide for the body considering a complaint to be able to recover its costs from the body complained about if it wishes, depending on precisely how it decides to execute the functions being bestowed on it to investigate and resolve complaints. The new wording of subsection (3) is intended to clarify the position on who makes the payment and to whom the payment is made. It also replaces the word "fee", which implies a service rendered, with "payment", which more accurately reflects the position that the payment is to cover costs incurred in considering the complaint.

The new clause also contains a consequential amendment to ensure consistency of wording in the Bill in relation to disclosure of information to third parties. As currently drafted, clauses 107(9), 108(9), 109(9) and 110(10) may be interpreted as applying to unspecified obligations of confidence, which would mean that they would override obligations arising under statute as well as common law. The clause does not override the specific protections from disclosure for individuals set out in the Data Protection Act 1998: information relating to individuals must not be disclosed without the consent of that individual unless it is necessary to do so for any of the reasons specified in the Act. Personal data will still need to be processed lawfully in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and it is not the intention that information relating to individuals will be disclosed without their consent unless the Data Protection Act provides that that may be done.

Subsection (5) allows for regulations to provide for cross-cutting complaints, not all of which could be considered under one set of regulations. The intention is that when a complaint would fall to be considered under two different schemes, the regulations enable the complaint to be considered in parallel. A single complaint of this kind would trigger action under both sets of regulations, each working in parallel, so that for the complainant, it appears as one system.

New clause 33 tidies up the legislation by revoking section 14G of the Children Act 1989 and inserting a new subsection into section 26 of that Act, which brings complaints about such special guardianship support services functions as may be specified in regulations within the ambit of the complaints procedure established under section 26. Section 14G was inserted into the Children Act 1989 by section 115 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The policy intention was always that complaints about special guardianship support services in relation to children should be considered under the Children Act complaints procedure.

The Bill preserves a separate procedure for the consideration of complaints that are capable of being considered under section 24D or section 26 of the Children Act, and we therefore need to make it possible

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for some complaints about special guardianship support services to be considered under this procedure. We also want such complaints to come within the provisions for further consideration by the Commission for Social Care Inspection under clause 111. The most effective way of achieving that is to revoke section 14G of the Children Act, and to extend the coverage of section 26 to include those complaints, which is what the new clause does.

Work is still to be done on defining the precise nature of special guardianship support services. During the passage of the Adoption and Children Bill, the Government promised that we would consult stakeholders extensively on the development of support services for special guardianship. The definitive range of support services will be finalised only after a public consultation. We will then wish to consider which complaints about which services will be considered under the Children Act procedure because we envisage that only complaints relating to the provision of services that are directly for the benefit of a child should be considered under that procedure. That explains why we need to be able to specify the functions that will be considered under the Children Act procedure in regulations. That is consistent with the system for complaints from people provided by the adoption service. There should be parity for special guardianship.

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