National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill
Lord Peyton of Yeovil (Conservative)
My Lords, perhaps I may briefly remind the noble Lord and your Lordships of some of the sloppy drafting which occurs so frequently in the Bill. I have long been a warm admirer of your Lordships' patience, but sometimes I think that it is overdone.
On page 21, line 22, in Clause 15, to which these amendments refer, there is reference to something called "section 31 arrangements". It may be that those familiar with the jargon will immediately have a good idea of what is meant by "section 31 arrangements". But if one were less well informed, less erudite or less sophisticated in one's approach to these matters one may be—as I am—a bit puzzled.
However, in order to get an explanation one must look further down the page. On line 42 these words occur:
"'section 31 arrangements' means arrangements under regulations under section 31 of the 1999 Act (arrangements between NHS bodies and local authorities.)".
That is by no means my favourite quotation from the Bill, but it will do me for the moment.
At an earlier stage I raised these matters with the Minister. He, as always, was courteous, intelligent and responsive. He extended some hope to me that he would come along with devices such as Keeling schedules and so on, and explain what the Government were at. But of course he was not able to go nearly far enough to suit me. In the letter which he kindly sent me some weeks ago—a copy of which I received yesterday—he indicated that the spirit was willing but the flesh was woefully weak.
I hope very much that the noble Lord will stand up and explain exactly what is meant by the term "section 31 arrangements" and why, if he understands it as clearly as I have no doubt he does, such a definition is not made absolutely clear on the face of the Bill. I really do protest.
The noble Lord, Lord Brightman, would explain far better than I can—if he were here—that this nuisance of legislation by reference has been going on in an increasing tide of nuisance for 150 years. So I agree that it would be unreasonable to expect the present Government in a few months to scrap it. But at least they should go a little beyond saying that they do not like it; they should occasionally lend conviction to their opinions by producing easily comprehensible Bills instead of ones which are loaded with what I can only politely describe as somewhat slovenly garbage.