Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 13th October 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative 8:45 pm, 13th October 2003

I rise to move Amendment No. 144 which would add a new subsection to Clause 8. Under Clause 8(1) the trust can alter its constitution with the approval of the regulator but there is nothing in either Clause 8 or Schedule 1 which says what processes must be followed in making an alteration.

I am sure that there are good reasons for changing the constitution of a body. Time moves on and things that were not thought about get invented and other circumstances change. I have no problem with that. In the company law sector, which the Minister tends to discount entirely, there are clearly laid down ways of changing a company's memorandum and articles, which is the equivalent of a constitution. They involve resolutions put to the members and have to be passed normally by 50 per cent or 75 per cent of the members voting, depending on the issue. However, this Bill is completely silent on the matter.

When this issue was debated in another place in Committee in the context of a slightly different amendment, the then Minister, Ms Blears, said:

"At this stage, we do not want to prescribe numbers in the Bill, or to be inflexible about how that change might come about".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee E, 22/5/03; col. 306.]

Let me translate that for the Committee; as with so much of the governance arrangements for foundation trusts we do not have the faintest idea how this will work, so we shall make it up as we go along. The Committee will not be surprised to learn that there is nothing in the guide to developing governance arrangements either. It appears that the Government still do not know the answer.

Our amendment is an attempt to put some process in the Bill. It states that the regulator must be satisfied that the board of governors has approved a change, which in the corporate sector would be a certified board minute. It would also give the regulator power to require the change to be approved by the members. Other approaches could doubtless be taken but, whatever the imperfections of our amendment, it is many times better than complete silence. I beg to move.