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Lord Warner: My Lords, if the noble Lord reads the report carefully he will find that 28 bodies are mentioned, 18 of which are the professional regulatory bodies of professional bodies. If he goes through the report, he will also notice that the authors state that the continuing trend towards separating delivery from central government suggests that the role of independent regulators will become increasingly significant. The Government welcome the report. As the noble Lord will know from our work on the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill, the new Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection will reduce the number of regulators.
Lord Warner: My Lords, the answer to the factual question is that I do not know. I shall write to the noble Baroness. The report shows that there is a need for powerful, independent regulators, and that policy is supported by the Government.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, is it correct that the National Health Service is the largest corporate employer in the United Kingdom? If so, does the Minister agree that that is not in itself a reason for excessive regulation?
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, now that the individual regulatory authorities for the various health professions have been reformed and undergone major reconstitution with government support, is it really necessary to have a council for the regulation of the health professions overseeing the activities of these powerful and well organised individual bodies?
Lord Warner: My Lords, the spirit of the thinking behind that decision echoes some of the ideas in the Better Regulation Task Force report to improve the co-ordination between different regulatory bodies and ensure that best practice is shared. The council tries to achieve that purpose.
Lord Turnberg: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, while there may have been a rational reason for setting up each of the regulatory bodies at the time, it is the accumulation of large numbers that has such a demoralising effect? Does he further agree that it is time for the Government to look at the cumulative effect of these bodies and to consider whether some pruning could be arranged?
Lord Warner: My Lords, I accept the spirit in which my noble friend offers his thoughts. However, as I said earlier, there are proposals in the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill to incorporate the functions of four regulators into the functions of one regulator in the form of the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection. The Government welcome the report. They will consider what further steps can be taken and will respond to the report by the end of the year.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, bearing in mind the long list of inquiries into things that have gone significantly wrong both in the health service and in social care, does the Minister acknowledge that good, streamlined regulation is vital to the community in terms of the human cost?
Earl Howe: My Lords, are the Government relaxed about the fact that since 1997 the number of administrative staff in the NHS has gone up by 27,330, according to the latest figures that I have, while the number of available beds in the NHS has gone down by 14,000?
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very clear reply. I support entirely the common position on the travel ban on Mugabe's thugs. My noble friend will be aware that this policy has given the governing council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva the excuse to cancel the conference which was to be held in London next year and was due to be attended by Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. Does she agree that this raises some very serious issues for the IPU, as not only does it make it impossible for future conferences to be held in any EU member state, it also calls into question the nature of the organisation when it appears that a majority of countries which have no more than a passing acquaintance with parliamentary democracy are able to ride roughshod over the views of the rest?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe that our commitment to upholding the travel ban was demonstrated very fully by our decision not to ask for waivers for banned Zimbabweans to attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference which was scheduled to take place in London next year. The fact is that the IPU has now decided to move the conference from London in order to get round the travel ban in very much the way suggested by my noble friend. Her Majesty's Government regret that decision by the IPU, but we stand by our commitment, under international law, to uphold the travel ban. It is of course a matter for the IPU now to decide where it wants to hold the meetingif, indeed, it wishes to do soand who it wishes to invite to such a meeting.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, refused to answer any of the letters addressed to him by the Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and that when the IPU tried to send a mission of three people to Harare, they were turned back at the door? In view of the fact that the governing council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union passed a resolution on 3rd October condemning the unlawful detention, torture and ill treatment of
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I was not aware of that exchange, or non-exchange, of correspondence that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has drawn to our attention. However, I am bound to say that I am not surprised to learn of the situation he describes.
There are now 79 individuals on the banned list, which will come up for review in the European Union in February next year when, no doubt, points such as the one the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has drawn to our attention will be put before the EU. Your Lordships will also know that there are members of Her Majesty's Government who are banned from travelling to Zimbabwe. I enjoy the very peculiar distinction of having been banned twiceonce as a Trade Minister and once as a Foreign Office Minister.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I believe that the Minister will agree with me that the common position makes specific references to the breakdown of the rule of law and order and to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. How can we reconcile our support for that with the Home Office statement that it is safe to return to Zimbabwe? Indeed, the Home Office's policy requires Zimbabwean asylum seekers to seek voluntary return; unless they do so, they are refused accommodation, support and the right to work. May I suggest to the noble Baroness that there needs to be some reconciliation between this position and our very correct foreign policy, particularly in view of the immediate impact of CHOGM?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am aware of the position that the noble Baroness has drawn to our attention because she was kind enough to bring this matter to the attention of officials in the Foreign Office and the Home Office. I understand that she has had a meeting with officials and that the very matters she has raised with your Lordships are under consideration. She will know, of course, that there is a factsheet available to individuals who wish to return to Zimbabweits details have been discussed with the noble Baroness. However, she has raised some important questions and I understand that she may shortly expect a response from those with whom she has had the discussions.
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