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I will be fairly brief. To sum up, I have no problem with the general aim of the new clause, but I have some regrets about the lack of time to look at it properly to check whether it does what it says on the tin. However, I appreciate that the timing of the consultation meant that it was not possible to introduce anything any earlier.
Some of the criteria appear to have been plucked out of the air and the Secretary of State appears to have some wide-ranging powers to hire and fire, but I am not clear whether those are different from the powers currently in place. There is also the question of whether 14 days is the optimum length of time for Monitor or any alternative regulator to provide sufficient good-quality information.
The consultation originally proposed seven calendar days. As Mr. O'Brien pointed out, we have seen only the edited highlights of the consultation, but the document itself said that the majority of respondents favoured a longer time. There is some flexibility, as the Minister acknowledged that the time scale could be extended, but according to the consultation document a number of people suggested having a short period for the initial response and a longer back-up period if more detail were required. The actual length of time is not specified, so the concern is that this must be got right-otherwise, there will be a tendency to keep kicking the issues into the long grass. I would like an assurance that that cannot happen.
The main gap that is still to be plugged has been mentioned. Tempting as it is to kick around the Staffordshire football again, we have a great deal of business to get through, so let me make just one point here. Mid Staffordshire was given foundation trust status, so there is either something wrong with the process that awarded that status, given what we know was going on in the background, or something wrong with Monitor.
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