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Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections and Periods of Suspension) Act 2003 (Consequential Modifications No. 2) Order 2003

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton : My Lords, I beg to move the fourth Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 29th October be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.41 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.19 to 8.41 p.m.]

Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 66.

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 322:

"( ) the Office for Standards in Education;
( ) the Department for Education and Skills;
( ) the CSCI."

10 Nov 2003 : Column 1175

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in Committee I asked the Minister which of the statutory bodies would take the lead on children's issues and, in particular, child protection matters. He said that it would be CSCI. However, I still think that we must be clear about the means by which, in practice, CHAI will access personal named data relating to children, to which the Minister alluded earlier.

It may be that data in which CHAI has a direct interest and needs to access under the code of practice are held not by an NHS body, but by CSCI or Ofsted. Therefore, Amendment No. 322 explores that issue. It is a probing amendment, which I do not intend to press. I have considerable concerns about the free exchange of personal data between government agencies, which, although not possible at present, is implicitly envisaged in the recent Green Paper, entitled, Every Child Matters. The ability of CSCI to access personal data is being considered in the context of the Laming Report. Therefore, I accept that there is little that the Minister can say about that at the moment.

However, he mentioned that Ofsted would be asked to develop a protocol on joint working and information sharing. While that is highly desirable, it brings us back to the concerns raised in the earlier group of amendments. Who will decide whether the protocol is acceptable? Where will the safeguards lie in relation to its use? How is the Data Protection Act to be complied with?

On the previous occasion, the Minister made the point that the duty of co-operation and joint working was already in the Bill; therefore, there should be no need to write in a duty, as proposed in my amendment. Again, I am worried by that comment because it seems to imply that a duty of co-operation on its own would be enough to provide legal cover to either CHAI or CSCI—indeed, also to Ofsted—for the sharing of privileged information. I hope that he did not mean that, but that is how it reads in Hansard. The whole issue seems to be fraught with problems. Perhaps the Minister can shed a little further light on how these matters are being addressed by the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am not sure whether I will satisfy the noble Lord, but I shall press on. The amendment would expand the list of specified bodies to which the subsection refers. I shall try to address each of the suggested new bodies in turn.

We continue to believe that placing Ofsted under a duty to provide information in this manner to CHAI is not appropriate. Noble Lords will already be aware of the co-operation provisions in the Bill, as the noble Earl mentioned. Given the increased remit in relation to children that the recent Green Paper, entitled, Every Child Matters, proposed for Ofsted, it is proper that both bodies should develop together appropriate protocols about joint working and information sharing, rather than effectively making one body subservient to the other. Further, it is worth bearing in

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mind that we have put this Green Paper out to public consultation and we are awaiting the responses. It would not be altogether appropriate to pre-empt that consultation.

Noble Lords opposite have expressed surprise that we did not intend to place both parties under specific duties of co-operation. We fully expect that CHAI and Ofsted, as lead inspectorates in the areas of health and education, will want to work co-operatively and so believe that we do not have to spell this out on the face of the Bill. Ofsted is already able to co-operate with other inspectorates and has often done so, for example, as part of the Street Crimes Initiative. Certainly, as part of my recent experience as chairman of the Youth Justice Board, I saw that Ofsted co-operated very well with criminal justice inspectorates as regards the inspection of secure facilities for juveniles.

Like the Social Services Inspectorate and CSCI in due course, Ofsted is also a member of the local authority inspectorates forum, members of which co-operate and share information as a matter of good practice where this is necessary to promote joined-up working. Members of that forum will co-operate with CHAI where appropriate as a matter of course.

Secondly, this amendment proposes to place a duty on the Department for Education and Skills to provide information to CHAI. In our view, this would not be appropriate. Government departments such as the Department of Health and DfES will need to have regular contact with CHAI and, indeed, CSCI. Should the inspectorates require information held by these government departments, there is no reason why it should not be provided as long as the requirement is justified. There is no need or justification for placing a duty in law on the Secretary of State.

I should also like to draw the attention of the noble Earl to the fact that this power under Clause 66 is designed to enable CHAI to obtain information from inspected bodies, not government or, in the case of Ofsted, non-ministerial departments.

That finally brings me on to the reference to CSCI. As I have just outlined, this clause is intended to allow CHAI to obtain information it requires from inspected bodies—we have made it clear in subsection (2) that this relates to NHS bodies in England and Wales as well as cross-border special health authorities and other persons providing healthcare for or exercising the functions of such bodies or local authorities.

Both CHAI and CSCI are already under duties to co-operate with each other where it seems to them to be appropriate to do so under Clause 118. Such co-operation would include the sharing of information and, again, I therefore consider this amendment to be unnecessary.

I have sought to give a full explanation why I do not think that this amendment is either necessary or appropriate. Turning to the matter of data protection, all I would say to the noble Earl is that these are all public bodies and the requirements of data protection legislation would apply to them in the normal way.

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8.45 p.m.

Earl Howe: My Lords, as I said, this was intended as a probing amendment to tease out whether there would be a free exchange of data between CHAI and CSCI. It certainly appears that I have succeeded in my aim. It worries me that the duty of co-operation set out in the Bill is apparently sufficient to override common law duties of patient confidentiality. That is how I interpret the Minister's reply and I am somewhat shocked.

Lord Warner: My Lords, perhaps I should have made the position more clear. CSCI and Ofsted will be constrained by the requirements of the common law duty of confidentiality as well as the requirements of data protection as regards information they will be able to share. It is not true that the common law duty of confidentiality is set aside.

Earl Howe: My Lords, that is very reassuring and I am glad that I gave the Minister the opportunity to put it on the record. I shall consider these matters further, but the Minister has been most illuminating. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 323 and 323A not moved.]

Clause 68 [Reviews and investigations relating to Wales]:

[Amendments Nos. 324 and 325 not moved.]

Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 326:

    Page 27, line 29, at end insert—

"( ) the availability and quality of information provided to the public about the health care;"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 327 to 330 not moved.]

Clause 69 [Reporting to Secretary of State and regulator]:

[Amendment No. 331 not moved.]

Clause 70 [Right of entry]:

[Amendment No. 332 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 333 not moved.]

Clause 74 [Introductory]:

Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 334:

    Page 30, line 39, at end insert—

"( ) the availability and quality of information provided to the public about the services;"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 335 not moved.]

Clause 75 [Information and advice]:

[Amendments Nos. 336 and 337 not moved.]

Clause 77 [Annual reviews]:

[Amendments Nos. 338 to 340 not moved.]

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Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 341:

    Page 32, line 12, at end insert—

"( ) The Secretary of State may, after consulting the CSCI, by regulations make provision as to the procedure to be followed in respect of the making of representations to the CSCI before the award of a performance rating under this section."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 78 [Other reviews and investigations]:

[Amendment No. 342 not moved.]

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