Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:45 pm on 16th October 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative 12:45 pm, 16th October 2003

That is a very constructive suggestion, and I hope the Minister will take it into account.

So far as the Secretary of State's consent is concerned, we will have to agree to differ. We see that the sticky hands of the Secretary of State are far too apparent in relation to foundation trusts. It would be no bad thing, we think, for the regulator to have complete say about whether or not foundation trusts were set up or merged in due course, but we will doubtless not progress that argument.

I take the Minister's point that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel is a mere figment of the Secretary of State's imagination and therefore cannot be referred to in the Bill. But that is a pity, because then we cannot refer to anything that requires the regulator to consult. If the regulator is not required to consult, the independent reconfiguration panel may wither on the vine, but that may of course be what the Secretary of State intends.

I was grateful to the Minister for his reply on consultation and his assurance that the regulations would be out before there was ever any issue of a merger. That will deal with the point in my amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.