I hear with great interest and respect what my hon. Friend says, but I must mention that in this particular case there is a connection involving Mr. David Nicholson, who was the chairman of Shropshire and Staffordshire strategic health authority at the time that is being described. Subsequent appointments followed and he moved seamlessly up through the ranks to become the chief executive of the national health service. I shall not go into some of the more recent commentary that I have seen in the newspapers, but I must repeat a point that I have made on the Floor of the House and in other contexts: the problems do go back, but the real issue is that there is insufficient power for an override. Although Monitor and a degree of regulation can be in place, swift and last resort action can best be undertaken by the Secretary of State.
I am passionate about this subject and deeply concerned about the effect it has had on my constituency. I shall bring my remarks to a close simply by saying that a lot of the problems that arise-we will see how the Francis report goes-relate to gagging clauses. This week, I have been in communication with a number of people, and I must say that gagging clauses on those who want to blow the whistle should be banned. The trouble with the Act that enables whistleblowing to take place-the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998-is that it is not working. Gagging clauses should be banned by law; they should be made unlawful. It would be extremely helpful if the Minister could refer to that matter, because many of the problems that have accumulated result from people not coming forward. However, in the last resort the Secretary of State has to carry the can.
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