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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 8:45 pm, 13th October 2003

Again, I hope that I can enlighten the noble Baroness. There is nothing illogical, sinister or theological about our decision.

In brief, applicants for NHS foundation trusts will be required to publish forward business plans and reports and accounts, along with the constitution and authorisation. They must be made available to the public. That is the point. It is not a muddying of the picture. Our intention is, in keeping with our general commitment, to secure as much public understanding, access and involvement as possible. The Wanless committee referred to public engagement as being a great virtue. This is another example of us trying to secure that. In order to ensure that those documents are widely accessible to the public, the registrar of companies will keep a register of foundation trusts. That will have to include the key constitutional and financial documents and other specified information—for example, the members of the board of directors and governors—for each NHS foundation trust. We are doing this because this is the way in which we can guarantee that the man and woman in the street will have access to information. This is a familiar and customary point to access information. Members of the public will have free access to inspect the register. That register will form the source and will be in a format which can be recognisable and easy to access.

This group of amendments seeks to place responsibility for keeping the register on the independent regulator, but we would argue that this would reduce access and openness. Indeed, the decision that the Registrar of Companies should hold the register was a deliberate one—because it is more accessible that way. In addition, the location of the register with the Registrar of Companies means that information about any joint ventures or spin-off companies on which foundation trusts might decide to embark will be available in the same place as information about the foundation trusts themselves.

I would therefore argue that in all logic, and certainly in order to guarantee openness, this is the right decision.