Clause 13 — Regulation of the health professions

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 7th March 2011.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 9:30 pm, 7th March 2011

We have learned tonight that London SNP has control over Edinburgh SNP, because it is the Westminster SNP Members who determine the response to the Scotland Bill, and not their colleagues in the Scottish Parliament, who have a completely different point of view on a number of these measures.

The Scotland Act 1998 provides that the regulation of certain health professions is a subject matter reserved to the Westminster Parliament. Clause 13 implements the Calman recommendation to reserve the regulation of all health professions, not just those specified in the Scotland Act. The clause re-reserves the regulation of health professions, and I can confirm that the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee has stated that it is not opposed to the re-reservation of powers to the UK Parliament. The Scottish Parliament will vote on the Scotland Bill on Thursday, and we await the outcome of that vote, as I have said previously. Further, devolution is not a one-way street, and the Scotland Bill, like Calman, is about delivering a balanced package that works for the people of Scotland, as Tom Greatrex said. The Scotland Bill does just that: it updates the Scotland Act with a two-way transfer of powers.

Since Royal Assent of the Scotland Act, the regulation of any health professions not regulated by the legislation listed in section G2 of schedule 5 has been a matter that falls within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. The Westminster Parliament was, therefore, unable to introduce legislation to regulate such professions without such legislation also being approved by resolution of the Scottish Parliament. Although the Scottish Parliament has had the power to introduce for Scotland separate legislation in respect of the regulation of these health professions and any other health professions not included within section G2, it has chosen not to do so and instead has approved the use of the existing, reserved machinery orders made under section 60 of the Health Act 1999 to regulate new groups of health care professionals.

The Calman commission criticised this mixed economy and considered that the current situation was unnecessarily time-consuming and cumbersome owing to the need to obtain agreement from the Scottish Parliament. The commission also pointed out that the current mixed economy presented risks in terms of consistency that could lead to the fragmentation of standards across the UK and threaten the mobility of practitioners across all four countries, which is a point that Members have raised. The Government agree that there are risks with the current situation. The Calman commission also noted that the current processes gave the Scottish Parliament some influence over the regulation of reserved professions—for instance, where there are orders and regulations relating to the regulation of professions that cover both devolved and reserved matters. The commission also took the view that there should be a common approach to the regulation of the health professions.

The Government have accepted the arguments made by the Calman commission, so the clause re-reserves the regulation of all health care professions currently regulated by legislation. It also has the practical effect of reserving to the Westminster Parliament the subject matter of the regulation of any new health professions in the future.

Notwithstanding the reservation that the clause will deliver, the UK Government will continue to agree policy in relation to the regulation of the health professions with the Scottish Government. The UK Government, through the Department of Health in England, will continue to engage closely with officials in the Scottish Government—and, for that matter, with the Administrations in Northern Ireland and Wales—to develop future policy proposals concerning the regulation of health care professionals. This will ensure that the views of the Scottish people will be taken into consideration as we go forwards, but in a manner that will deliver a consistent approach to regulation that works for the whole of the UK.