National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill
Earl Howe (Conservative)
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, although I am disappointed by what he said. I took great care to frame the amendments in such a way that they did not replicate the amendment that was defeated on Report. It would not have been proper to raise the same issues.
The whole point of these amendments is to give the Secretary of State the option of broadening the functions of the commission—the areas of activity in which it can engage. I do not belittle the functions listed in Clause 20(2). Broadly speaking, the commission is an enabler, which will assist patients' forums and communicate with the Secretary of State. I understand that that is a very important role. But for whom will it speak? I do not believe that it will speak for patients. That is the source of my disappointment. It will speak for the bodies, structures and processes that represent patients, which is at one remove from the coal face.
I understand the Minister's reluctance at this point to confer on the commission what he termed "a representative role". Again, I say that I took care not to be prescriptive in these amendments. If they were accepted, it would be entirely up to the Secretary of State to determine the extent to which the commission should widen the scope of its activities. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, listed a number of subject areas which I considered to be very relevant in that context.
I wanted to stand here with a clear conscience in speaking to the amendments and to convey to the House that I believed they were substantively different from the amendments that we debated and rejected on Report. I believe that I can do so. For that reason, I feel that I can take the opinion of the House.