Committee (1st Day)
Health and Social Care Bill
Lord Newton of Braintree (Conservative)
I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for not sitting down, but it may be obvious to the House that one of my more strenuous activities is moving from the sedentary position to a standing one. I prefer not to do it unnecessarily frequently.
I do not agree with that, but I have also made it clear that I have no objection to this being made a little clearer than it is thought to be in the drafting, which is what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is looking for. If I might just go on, I will not do so at great length. The noble Baroness was also very sensible and right to acknowledge that the way forward suggested by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay was better. At the moment, on balance, it probably is. I am agnostic on that; I am naturally supportive of my noble and learned friend, but these are different ways of achieving an objective that we all share.
I will not say much more except for one point on the autonomy clause and issues that have more recently been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. I have some sympathy with my noble friend Lady Williams on the autonomy clause, which we have yet to get to. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, was listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Warner, said: a lot of people who have commented on the apparent or alleged withdrawal of Secretary of State powers in this Bill have not actually read what is in the Bill.
I will give one example. Under the arrangements made by the previous Government for Monitor to be the controller and regulator of foundation trusts, I think I am right in saying that the Secretary of State had no power to intervene. In this Bill, he does. If Monitor fails to do the right things, the Secretary of State can intervene. That was not the case before.
One thing that I was very iffy about-I do not know how Hansard will deal with "iffy"; perhaps I should say "uncertain"-in the previous Government's record was their setting up of foundation trusts. The rhetoric was that the Secretary of State was abandoning responsibility to foundation trusts and Monitor without any power to control what happened. That situation was introduced by the Labour Government and is corrected by the Bill. We have heard a lot of distortion about what the Bill is intended to do and what it actually does. My concern is to reassure the public about what in my view are unfounded fears. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, has materially helped us in that.