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Standing Committee E
Thursday 5 June 2003
[Mr. Peter Atkinson in the Chair]
The Chairman: I understand that a document has not yet arrived, so I propose a 10-minute suspension of the Committee until we sort that out.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): On a point of order, Mr. Atkinson. You were not here this morning to witness the chaos over the set of amendments. The Minister has clearly not been prepared for them. Opposition Members have not had a chance to see the documentation that was due to be prepared. Frankly, it should have been here this morning; has not been delivered for the afternoon sitting, so I should like to propose that the Committee adjourn until Tuesday to give the Minister time to get his act together, and Opposition Members a chance to see the documentation from the Department.
The Chairman: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I have said that I am prepared to suspend the Committee for 10 minutes, and that is what I intend to do at the moment.
The Chairman: It has been requested that the Committee remain suspended for a further five minutes to allow hon. Members to read the documents.
The Chairman: Again at the request of the Committee, I suspend the sitting for a further 15 minutes.
Sir George Young: On a point of order, Mr. Atkinson. Might I might make a suggestion that would enable the Committee to catch up on some of the time that it has lost. The group of Government amendments that we are debating deals with the relationship between the regime for foundation trusts and other NHS bodies, as confirmed by the document helpfully provided by the Department of Health. Nearly all the amendments apply the clause to foundation trusts. The section of the Bill on
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foundation trusts was dealt with almost exclusively by the Minister of State, who is now with us. Would it enable us to make faster progress if he were to handle this group of amendments?
The Chairman: Order. Which Minister deals with which clauses is a matter for the Ministers and not for the Chair.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford): On a point of order, Mr. Atkinson. Are you are aware, the Government rightly place on any Standing Committee Parliamentary Private Secretaries from the Department responsible for the business. They are, by tradition, non-speaking members of Committees on the subject for which they are Parliamentary Private Secretaries. You were not here this morning, but part of our problem has been that the Minister moved formally a group of highly important Government amendments. When the Committee expressed its surprise and concern, the Minister made a statement that I hope, on reflection, he would consider to have been unfair, in that he said that he had made a mistake in moving them formally and that he had received bad advice from his Parliamentary Private Secretary. The Parliamentary Private Secretary is unable to defend himself in Committee. It seems unfair for him to be put in that awkward position. Can the Minister, through the Chair, withdraw that—
Mr. Mike Hall (Weaver Vale): Further to that point of order, Mr. Atkinson. What the hon. Gentleman has said is correct. I gave my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary bad advice and I acknowledge that. No apology is necessary.
The Chairman: Order. Once again, that is not an issue for the Chair. The Committee has heard what has been said on both sides.
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): On a point of order, Mr. Atkinson.
The Chairman: Can there be another point of order?
Mr. Lansley: Yes, indeed, there is a separate point of order that might be a matter for you, Mr. Atkinson. We have lost some 40 minutes from the intended allocation of time for the discussion of these matters between now and Tuesday evening. In protecting the ability of the Committee to discuss matters fully and fairly, can you advise how we might recover that time?
The Chairman: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I am reluctant to advise him because, as he knows, the Committee is open ended and can sit for as long as it likes tonight, although I was hoping that it would not.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): On a point of order, Mr. Atkinson. I put on record my thanks for the way in which the Chair has granted us time to study the documentation. Opposition Members—I hope that I speak for the Liberal Democrats as well—are grateful for the amount of time for which you suspended the Committee while we considered the three-page document that was produced at 2.32 this afternoon for the Committee to peruse. I would also like to place on record that, while not unprecedented, it is unusual and fairly shambolic
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for 23 Government amendments to be clarified at such a late stage in the Committee's proceedings. The Government have told us that this is a piece of flagship legislation that has been well thought through, yet we are already privy to Government amendments that run into the hundreds.
The Chairman: Order. The hon. Lady is making a speech, not a point of order. That is not a matter for the Chair. What Ministers bring to the Committee and when they bring it is a matter for Ministers. No doubt, the Ministers have heard what the hon. Lady has said.
Mrs. Gillan: Further to that point of order, Mr. Atkinson, can you advise me whether you would be willing to grant further suspensions should the situation arise again, and would you express an opinion as to whether the Government should conduct the business of the Committee in that fashion? Is it not fair that we should have time to consider such important and fundamental changes to the Bill?
The Chairman: Order. I take the hon. Lady's point. As Chairman, I want to ensure that all hon. Members have an opportunity to read all documents, and I shall continue to do that. Once again, when and how documents are produced is a matter for Ministers.
Dr. Harris: Further to that point of order, Mr. Atkinson, I associate myself with the thanks of the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) for the suspension. It gave us time to read the documents that arrived at such short notice.
The Chairman: Perhaps we can now get on with the business of the Committee. As I was, fortunately, not here this morning, I understand that we are dealing with clause 43.
Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 274,
That Clause 43 be transferred to the end of line 14 on page 20.—[Mr. Lammy.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:
Government amendments Nos. 275 to 278.
Amendment No. 514, in
clause 46, page 16, line 9, leave out from 'trust' to end of line 9.
Amendment No. 513, in
clause 46, page 16, line 11, leave out from 'it' to 'and' in line 12.
Amendment No. 517, in
clause 47, page 16, line 30, leave out paragraph (b).
Amendment No. 516, in
clause 47, page 16, line 24, leave out paragraph (a).
Amendment No. 512, in
clause 47, page 16, line 41, leave out 'if regulations so provide'.
Amendment No. 480, in
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Government amendments Nos. 282 and 283.
Amendment No. 481, in
clause 49, page 17, line 23, leave out 'other than' and insert 'including'.
Amendment No. 397, in
clause 49, page 17, line 24, after 'sections', insert '45 and'.
Government amendments Nos. 173, 287, 289 to 291, 294 to 297, 30, 298, 300, 303, 452, 306 and 307.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. David Lammy): You have heard much of what happened this morning, Mr. Atkinson. In providing the Committee with an explanatory note, I was seeking to be as helpful as possible with what I accept is a complex group of amendments. However, I should put on record that nearly all the amendments in the group were tabled on 21 May, according to parliamentary counsel, so they were available to members of the Committee a fortnight ago.
Mrs. Gillan: Could the Under-Secretary tell the Committee when the explanatory note was prepared?
Mr. Lammy: As this morning's Hansard will show, the explanatory note was prepared at lunchtime to assist the Committee in its deliberations. However, the amendments have been available for two weeks.
As I said this morning, each of the Government amendments is designed to ensure that CHAI should be able to consider the quality of services in foundation trusts as in other NHS bodies. I assure hon. Members that the changes that we are making are designed simply for that purpose. There is no hidden side to what we are doing. To make the legislation simpler and clearer, we have to make several technical amendments, to which I began speaking this morning.
Chris Grayling: The Minister refers to technical amendments. May I take issue with him on whether they are technical and ask him a question? Clause 54 as it will be reconstituted permits CHAI to investigate the financial side of any NHS trust. We know that the star-rating system in part reflects the ability of a trust management to maintain or pay off a deficit, yet the explanatory note states:
''Nor would we expect CHAI to routinely inspect or review NHS Foundation Trusts against requirements in its terms of authorisation'',
and uses the example of compliance with the prudential borrowing code. Why would a deficit be treated differently from the prudential borrowing code, and why is the code excluded?