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New Clause 12 — De-authorisation of NHS foundation trusts

Part of New Member – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 12th October 2009.

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Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health 5:45 pm, 12th October 2009

I hear rumbles from a sedentary position as the hon. Gentleman asks why no one asked Monitor to do it. There were considerable discussions between us and Monitor, which led to the appointment of the new full-time chief executive. Those discussions went very well. Monitor listened to the points of view that were expressed through Government and Opposition Back Benchers who represent the area, and who said, "Look, we need more action." At that stage, Monitor thought that it was all right, but it accepted after discussion that it needed to act more effectively, and I am pleased that it could do so.

May I deal with the points made by Sandra Gidley? Lessons need to be learned, and she rightly suggested that in future Monitor needs to assess problems properly if there is a foundation trust application. She wondered, too, whether 14 days was the right period. If we have discussions with Monitor, we can extend that period if a longer investigation needs to be conducted, so I hope that I can reassure her on that matter. She rightly expressed concern about the timing of some of this, but the long vacation intervened and various other processes meant that we had to act and we were able to undertake a full, proper consultation.

May I respond to the points made by Mr. O'Brien? First, George Alberti and Dr. David Colin-Thomé conducted investigations and there are reports on this. Robert Francis is producing a report, which we hope will enable us to look at the more local issues. We need a rigorous process, and with the various reports that have been produced, we have covered it. The hon. Member Eddisbury appears to have no real wish for the Minister to be able to intervene, even in the most dramatic circumstances, which is not a tenable position for those on the Opposition Front-Bench to take. It is very much at odds with that taken by the Staffordshire MPs, who want to see a circumstance, at least in extremis, in which Ministers can intervene and take action.

I am concerned about the position that the Conservative Front-Bench team have managed to take, which is at odds with the way in which most people would want cases such as the situation in Mid Staffordshire to be dealt with. It undermines, too, in an extreme situation the whole principle of parliamentary accountability. Ministers must be able to come to the Dispatch Box and say that they would take the required action if they needed to do so. Monitor can make a decision in such cases to de-authorise where necessary. To refuse Monitor that power would mean that Members of Parliament would not have the level of accountability that they needed, but that seems to be the position that the Conservatives-at least, their Front-Bench team-have taken. I am glad to see the Staffordshire Members in the Chamber, because Members from all parties share the view that we need a much more effective legal system in place to deal with such situations in future.

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