Health and Social Care Bill

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Clause 145

National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care
Anne Milton: I beg to move amendment No. 75, in clause 145, page 96, line 23, leave out ‘seek to’ and insert ‘make efforts to’.
I am glad that I serve some purpose to the Chairman, if nothing more than to enable him to draw breath. We should all be disappointed if you did not have opportunities to do so, Mr. Conway.
This is a pedantic little amendment, but I make no apology for being a pedant. The Minister says that all will be well because local authorities have a duty to work together, but things are not always so simple; sometimes words matter. The amendment would replace “seek to improve” with “make efforts to”. I am not a lawyer, like my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury, and so am not so familiar with legislation, but I think that wording makes a difference. I should like there to be more emphasis on the board improving
“the practice followed by relevant bodies in relation to the processing of relevant information.”
If the Minister shares my pedantry, perhaps he will agree to the amendment. I do not think that he has agreed to any amendments during this Committee. The change we propose is a small one, and we certainly would not throw it in his face if he agreed to it. We would keep it a secret and not tell a soul.
Mr. O'Brien: My hon. Friend’s amendment is more important than she thinks. Without being too legalistic, as opposed to pedantic, I think that the point of moving from “seek to” to “make efforts to” is that her form would have something against which one would hope to be able to show that efforts have been made and therefore possibly have something to hold to account.
Anne Milton: I thank my hon. Friend, who reinforces my belief that it is important for this place to contain a variety of talents, such as his legal expertise. He is right; it is important that organisations created in legislation can be held to account for their actions. The words “make efforts to” would make a small difference to that.
Mr. Bradshaw: Although we have not accepted any amendments, I have indicated in at least two cases that we intend to address the concerns raised at a later stage. I am not trying to be difficult, but we simply do not think that the amendment would add anything.
I am pleased that the Conservatives agree with our plans to establish a national information governance board for health and social care. We believe that the vigour with which the board will approach its functions will be down to the drive and enthusiasm of its chair, members and officers, rather than the nuance of the words in the Bill. Although I cannot accept the amendment, I reassure the hon. Lady that we shall do all we can to find a chair, members and officers who are passionate about information governance practice and capable of delivering the aims that we all share.
Anne Milton: I thank the Minister. Of course I am disappointed that he did not feel our amendment would add anything to the Bill, but I thank him for considering some of the points that have been made previously in the Committee. I hope that he takes on board some of the comments made today—I am sure he will. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 145 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 146

Duty to consult Board in relation to regulations about patient information
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Anne Milton: My only point on this clause—the same point has come up before—is that although abolishing existing bodies and establishing others often makes a great deal of sense, it is terribly important that absolute clarity of roles is established. That is particularly true in relation to matters addressed by the Health Protection Agency. I refer back to my comments about the Local Government Association not being clear about its functions in emergency situations. I reiterate that when there are measures to be used only in an emergency, such as those that the new body will deal with, it is even more important that guidance is clear and the bodies and boards involved are absolutely au fait with procedures.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 146 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 147 and 148 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 14 agreed to.
Clause 149 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 150

Orders and regulations: Parliamentary control
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. O'Brien: We have moved to the general part of the Bill, part 6. Our amendment No. 66 relates to this clause, and I believe that I said I may wish to press it to a Division. In my point of order in the Committee’s fourth sitting, I pointed out that we were made aware of the memorandum on delegated legislation only the day before our sittings began. The Minister kindly apologised, ascribing the error to a new Library rule. Officials have now succeeded in depositing the paper, and I am pleased to confirm that it is numbered DEP2008-0077. I am of course happy with that explanation, and I should be grateful if the Minister would continue to ensure that his Department and the Government give hon. Members plenty of time to study the Bills that they sponsor, particularly those involving complicated memoranda.
I am conscious that amendment No. 66 would mean that all regulations would need to be confirmed by the affirmative resolution. I am equally sure that I would press it to a Division only to hold the Government’s feet to the fire, as it were, as I have said on rare occasions before, so that they go away and think about the measure. Quite fairly, the Minister has just said that he promises to think about some of the issues that we have raised in amendments. Even if they were not made, they have spurred the possibility of some refinement of the Bill’s drafting, and we may well look forward to some changes on Report.
We will have to focus on that next week because, with the recess on the way, the timetable is such that we will have to table our amendments for Report in the next few days to ensure that we are ready to deal with that stage of the Bill on the first day following the recess. At least, that is what I have been informed. If that proves to be the case, we will have a busy time even in the recess.
I hope that the Minister will look carefully at our arguments. It is important, particularly with this Bill, given that we are dealing with so many entitlements and rights of people who are often in a vulnerable position, and because we are seeking positively to promote itemised and tailored individual public health issues, that we consider using the affirmative resolution procedure.
Amendment No. 260 is coming up on clause 158, so I am trying to work out in my own mind the best way to ensure that the earnestness of our intent is well recorded in the Committee proceedings.
The Chairman: Before the Minister responds, if he intends to do so, I can help the hon. Gentleman. Normally, when amendments are debated in a group, it is important that whoever moves the amendment indicates to the Chair or to the Clerks if they wish to press the amendments to a Division. Otherwise, the group is not specifically put at a later point in the proceedings. With that in mind, if the hon. Gentleman wanted to press to a Division, it would have to be on clause stand part, rather than on an amendment which the Committee has already considered. To avoid that happening with any future amendments that come up in future clauses, the hon. Gentleman or other hon. Member should indicate that they wish to press to a Division. I am sure that we could accommodate them.
Mr. O'Brien: By way of reply, I shall be straight by saying that I cannot recall whether I flagged the fact that I wanted to reserve a position to press amendment No. 66 in clause 150 to a Division. My instinct tells me that I probably did not. However, I did reserve the right to press amendment No. 260 in clause 158 to a Division. I suspect that, for the purposes that I am driving at, I shall have to rely on that reservation.
The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman’s recollections are absolutely right, so we shall be able to accommodate him.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 150 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 151

Orders and controls: control by National Assembly for Wales
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. O'Brien: The clause deals with the regulations relating to the National Assembly for Wales. I shall not press to a Division, but I wish to reinforce how important it is, when we consider how the powers are transmitted and utilised by Welsh Ministers, that the Government recognise that those of us who represent English constituencies in border areas have a grave difficulty in accessing accountability through Parliament for Welsh matters that affect our constituents. Notwithstanding the helpful discussion we had earlier, that has been a running theme and, at many times, a running sore in legislation since devolution. To a lesser degree, that applies to those who represent Welsh constituents in the Westminster Parliament in relation to English matters, such as when my neighbours are treated in a hospital in my constituency.
With those matters in mind, there is still this overhanging difficulty about the accountability through this place and giving our constituents the power to hold to account the actions of both the Executive and the Administration as laid out in the clause. It is an appropriate stand part point to make. I am sure that the Minister already has the point on board.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 151 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
3.15 pm
Clause s 152 and 153 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 154

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. O'Brien: Just in case anyone was getting excited about us galloping away, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford thought she was being pedantic, well here we go. The important point to note is that the clause deals with repeals which are listed in schedule 15. Some 15 Acts passed by the Government over the last nine years will be repealed or amended. They include the Health Act 1999, the Care Standards Act 2000, the Health and Social Care Act 2001, the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002, the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, the National Health Service Act 2006, the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 and the Health Act 2006. So it is clear that the vast majority of those 15 Acts are from this Department’s watch.
Parliament is the place to both propose and pass laws, but it is always helpful if Governments can get it right first time. Most importantly there is a big question about the almost iterative method by which we are making law in this area. Our parliamentary predecessors recognised that ground-breaking law needed a lot of consideration. Of course that was in the days when Bills were not programmed, so they would get full and detailed consideration. I have never been in favour of the new hours of this House and I think we should work through the night when we need to. That would give us plenty of time to discuss everything in detail. This is a good example of where truncated parliamentary scrutiny and iterative law making have ended up with a rather shabby list of Acts that have to be repealed. I am sorry to see that, but it is worth placing on the record because it is a reflection of where we have got to in the legislative procedures, which the House has decided, in its wisdom, to sanction.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 154 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 15

Repeals and revocations
Amendment s made: No. 193, in schedule 15, page 177, line 24, column 2, at end insert—
‘In section 19(4)(b) the word “and” at the end.
In section 21(5)(b) the word “or” at the end.
In section 30A(2)(b) the word “or” at the end.’.
No. 194, in schedule 15, page 177, line 28, column 2, at end insert—
‘Section 120(1).’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]
Mr. O'Brien: On a point of order, Mr. Conway. It may be completely my confusion, but I cannot find these amendments on the selection list.
The Chairman: If it would help the Committee, the Chair and the Clerks have to work from the amendment paper. I realise that this gets very confusing for people, including the Chair, but the other piece of paper lists the amendments that have been grouped for debate.
Mr. O'Brien: So those amendments have been brought forward from the past? We have already debated them.
The Chairman: I shall take advice. From the Clerk’s paper I can see that those were debated with the groupings with amendments Nos. 153 and 95. The amendments have been debated, but not formally moved, which has to be in the order that they appear in the Bill.
Mr. O'Brien: I am grateful. I thought we had dealt with them. I could not work out why I had not prepared myself. I did not know whether I should be standing or not.
The Chairman: It is not marked on my paper, but fortunately the Clerks have it on theirs. They have a firm grip on such matters.
Amendments made: No. 155, in schedule 15, page 177, line 50, column 2, at end insert—
‘Health Act 2006 (c. 28)
In section 61, the words “the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection or”.
In Schedule 5—
(a) the entry for the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, and (b) the entry for the Commission for Social Care Inspection.’.
No. 120, in schedule 15, page 178, line 7, at end insert—
‘Section 38(3)(a)(ii).’.
No. 121, in schedule 15, page 179, line 31, after ‘5A(1)(a)(ii)’ insert—
‘, (3) and (3A)’.
No. 245, in schedule 15, page 180, line 37, column 2, at end insert—
‘In section 5(3), the words “or rating districts”.’
No. 246, in schedule 15, page 181, line 18, column 2, after ‘disease,”’ insert ‘“rating district,”’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]
Schedule 1 5, as amended, agreed to.
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Prepared 25 January 2008