Previous Section Index Home Page

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): I welcome the business statement and I also welcome the fact that the draft orders will be available tonight. When I checked with the Public Bill Office and the Table
18 Feb 2008 : Column 40
Office an hour and a half ago, the explanatory notes were not available. This is a 24-page Bill and it is quite technical, so while I congratulate the Treasury team and the draftspeople on what they have done with the draft orders, can my right hon. and learned Friend say when the explanatory notes will be available for Members?

Ms Harman: The explanatory notes will be available right away, if not sooner. They are very important and I will ensure that they are available as soon as possible today.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Why does the Leader of the House not take the House properly into account? Why not let us have the Second Reading of the Bill tomorrow and the remaining stages the day after? We cannot table amendments until after Second Reading. It is important that the Bill is properly considered—I speak as one who is not fundamentally opposed to it—and therefore all that the Leader of the House has to do is have a slightly more radical reshaping of the next few parliamentary days, perhaps into the beginning of next week. We could have the Second Reading tomorrow, with a vote at 10 o’clock, and the remaining stages the day after. I commend that proposition to the Leader of the House.

Ms Harman: The House will understand that the Bill needs to be considered in this House and in the House of Lords. We have to be sure that we do not prolong any uncertainty and that we come to a swift conclusion. Of course, I have taken into account how the Bill should be dealt with in the House. We want proper scrutiny as well as an outcome that takes place as expeditiously as possible. However, the hon. Gentleman will know that it is not unprecedented in such situations for a Bill to be dealt with in this way. I have a list of Bills—it is far to long for me to read out to the House—that the House was asked to consider in one day because of the circumstances that arose. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is the case. The way in which we are proceeding is necessary and it is not unprecedented.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): The Leader of the House has made it quite clear that she will allow debate only tomorrow and she has refused to answer the question of whether the debate will go beyond 10 o’clock. Her manner, supported by the Chief Whip’s body language, makes it quite clear that debate will not be allowed to go beyond 10 o’clock—only, as far as I can see, because the Chief Whip wants to allow the Labour party to go home at 10 o’clock tomorrow evening.

The Leader of the House was present for the statement a few moments ago and she saw that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite unable to answer a number of questions about how the bank will maintain business as usual. Most of the replies were party political hits at what the Conservative party was supposed to be doing or not doing. There was no explanation of what business as usual will mean for the bank. If every stage of the Bill will be taken in six hours tomorrow—with full parliamentary scrutiny—that surely reduces the handling of the decision to a parliamentary farce after it has taken so long to come to the rather startling decision to
18 Feb 2008 : Column 41
nationalise a bank for an indefinite period, putting huge sums of taxpayers’ money at risk.

Ms Harman: The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been in this House long enough to know that on occasions the Government can ask the House to act decisively when action is needed in respect of a certain situation once we decide that we want to ensure that the uncertainty is as short as possible and that we will bring in a Bill that will give the Government powers to act. He will know that tomorrow will involve the Bill’s Second Reading and its consideration in Committee. We will discuss the powers that will be taken by the Government. There will be further debate on the exercise of those powers, no doubt, as the situation unfolds.


18 Feb 2008 : Column 42

Points of Order

4.42 pm

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I seek your guidance on a point of clarification about the exchange that just took place on the tabling of amendments to the Bill? The Leader of the House did not answer the question about when it would be possible to table amendments to the Bill. Normally, amendments can be tabled only after Second Reading has been completed. Tomorrow, we will consider a business motion and then Second Reading. At what time will it be possible for hon. Members to table amendments to the Bill for consideration in Committee?

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May we also have some guidance on the precise times that are being proposed, first, for Second Reading and, secondly, for Committee?

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If I understand the position, amendments cannot be tabled formally until after Second Reading. Will you give us guidance and advice on how long the House authorities will need to supply them to us in a printed form so that colleagues have a chance to look at them and so that you, your colleagues and Mr. Speaker can order them and decide which are selectable and which should be selected? Would it therefore be possible, from your point of view as Chair, to allow the House to be suspended for half an hour or however long it takes—as has happened on many occasions in the past—while we get our acts together and know what we are about to do to this important Bill?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): First, I shall deal with the two points of order about the tabling of amendments. I am advised that the Public Bill Office will be able to receive and advise Members about the tabling of amendments with effect from this afternoon and this evening. I hope that that addresses the concerns raised by the two hon. Members.

Sir Patrick, there was quite a lot of noise. Would you mind repeating for me your point of order?

Sir Patrick Cormack: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I asked whether the House could have some indication today about how much time we will have for the debates on Second Reading and in Committee.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I must advise the hon. Gentleman that the issue that he raises is a matter for the Government; it is for them to table a motion. I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful than that.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. During the previous statement, the Chancellor quoted me as having said something on the television this morning. He quoted, quite rightly, me saying that it would be wrong to hand over Northern Rock at an undervalue to a private sector organisation. He implied
18 Feb 2008 : Column 43
that I thus approved of his policy. Just for the record, may I read a previous sentence that I had said— [ Interruption. ]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I need to hear the point of order.

Mr. Hammond: I want to make it clear that the Chancellor was taking my words out of context. I said:

Madam Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair, but the hon. Gentleman has placed on the record the point that he wanted to make, and the comments have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench.


18 Feb 2008 : Column 44

Orders of the Day

Health and Social Care Bill

[Relevant document: T he Eighth Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights of Session 2007-08, Legislative Scrutiny: Health and Social Care Bill, HC 303.]

As amended in the Public Bill Committee , considered.

New Clause 1


Certain regulated activities to be functions of a public nature

‘A regulated activity under this Part shall be deemed to be a function of a public nature for the purposes of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42) where it is performed wholly or partly at public expense and pursuant to statutory powers.’.— [Mr. Dismore.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.46 pm

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 2— Human rights framework for Commission—

‘The protection and promotion of human rights shall be central to the performance of the functions of the Commission.’.

New clause 4— Health and social care standards: content—

‘(1) Standards set by the Secretary of State under section 41 shall—

(a) expressly state that all persons for whom health or social care services are provided are entitled to respect for their rights and that service providers (registered in accordance with Chapter 2) have a responsibility to respect such rights;

(b) require that service providers respect the rights of persons for whom health and social care services are provided;

(c) require that service providers provide their staff, whether employed directly or indirectly, with appropriate education and training in relation to respecting the rights of service users;

(d) require service providers to specify and publish the procedures for making a complaint by any person about a regulated activity;

(e) require service providers to put in place appropriate procedures for ensuring that any person who is aware of any failure to respect any other person’s rights in relation to a regulated activity being conducted by that service provider to report such a failure to a designated person;

(f) require service providers to ensure that, where any person is being discharged from a health care service to a social care service regulated under this Part, the rights of such persons are fully respected; and

(g) require service providers to disseminate the standards set under this Part which are applicable to them to users of their services.

(2) The Secretary of State may prepare and publish statements of standards in relation to the provision of health care and social care dealing with matters other than those listed in subsection (1).


18 Feb 2008 : Column 45

(3) In this section, a “designated person” is a person designated by a provider of health or social care services to receive and resolve complaints.’.

Amendment No. 11, in clause 2, page 2, line 13, at end insert—

‘(bb) the availability and adequacy of advocacy services relating to the bodies it regulates,’.

Amendment No. 8, page 2, line 18, at end insert—

‘(da) the need to improve the range and quality of information provided by health care and social care services to users of those services about their rights;’.

Amendment No. 5, page 2, line 28, after second ‘the’, insert ‘rights and’.

Amendment No. 3, in clause 16, page 7, line 28, leave out ‘may’ and insert ‘shall’.

Amendment No. 4, page 7, line 32, after ‘safety’, insert ‘, rights’.

Amendment No. 6, in clause 42, page 21, line 2, after ‘quality’, insert

Amendment No. 7, in clause 92, page 46, line 12, at end insert—

‘“rights” includes human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42).’.

Amendment No. 14, in clause 108, page 54, line 3, after ‘safety’, insert ‘rights’.

Amendment No. 15, in clause 120, page 65, line 25, at end insert—

‘(1A) The appropriate Minister shall by regulations make provision in relation to awareness of, and training in, human rights in accordance with this section.’.

Amendment No. 16, in clause 122, page 66, line 16, at end insert—

‘“rights” include human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998;’.

Amendment No. 17, in schedule 6, page 138, line 29, at end insert—

‘(3A) The OHPA shall have regard to the desirability of improving the awareness of, and training in, human rights of its members.’.

Amendment No. 18, in schedule 9, page 165, line 27, at end insert—

‘(ea) awareness of, and training in, human rights;’.

Mr. Dismore: I also wish to speak in support of new clauses 2 to 4 and amendments Nos. 3 to 18. These new clauses and amendments have been tabled in my name and that of the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), who cannot be here because he is away on Select Committee business, on behalf of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I chair and of which he is a member. As hon. Members will know, we scrutinise all Government Bills for their compatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UK’s international human rights obligations. We report on the most significant human rights issues, and we have now begun to publish amendments to give effect to our recommendations. Our new clauses and amendments deal with omissions from the Bill. We expect to publish another report on the Bill shortly, commenting on some of the proposals in the Bill, particularly those to do with public health.

New clause 1 deals with the scope of the Human Rights Act—in particular, the meaning of the term
18 Feb 2008 : Column 46
“public authority”, which has become somewhat restricted, far more so than originally intended, and is consequently an extremely important issue. My Committee has published two reports in recent years on the meaning of the term “public authority” in section 6 of the Human Rights Act. That section requires public authorities to act in a way that is compatible with the convention rights set out in the schedule to the Act. The definition of the term “public authority” includes

What constitutes a function of a public nature is not further defined in the Human Rights Act. When the issue was discussed during the passage through Parliament of the then Human Rights Bill, it was clearly understood that that provision was intended to cover private sector providers of publicly funded services—public services that had been contracted out to the private sector or wholly privatised, for example.

A series of court cases, starting with the so-called Leonard Cheshire case and culminating in the judgment by the Law Lords in the YL case in June 2007, has narrowed the scope of the Human Rights Act as originally intended, particularly in relation to care homes. The YL case concerned the eviction from a private sector care home of an elderly and frail old lady whose care was paid for by Birmingham city council. By a majority of three to two, the Law Lords ruled that the person concerned could not bring an action against the care home under the Human Rights Act, over the infringement of her rights under article 8 of the convention—the right to respect for her private life and home. They said that her claim lay solely against the local authority that had funded her care. The 1998 Act therefore does not apply to private bodies, and the Law Lords found that that included private care homes, even for publicly funded residents.

In our March 2007 report on this subject, we concluded that there was a strong case for a separate interpretative Act that would clarify the meaning of the phrase “functions of a public nature” in the Human Rights Act. The outcome of the YL judgment has served only to reinforce our concerns and emphasise the need for the Government to act urgently, to reinstate the originally intended scope of the Human Rights Act. That is especially the case given that the Government’s strategy of seeking a positive judgment in a higher court has manifestly failed to deliver the desired outcome.

Since the YL judgment, Ministers have expressed agreement in principle with our position that the current state of the law is unsatisfactory, especially for elderly care home residents, who are an especially vulnerable group that the Human Rights Act should protect. For example, the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), said in Committee that the Government were


Next Section Index Home Page