Committee (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 14th November 2011.

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Photo of Lord Patel of Bradford Lord Patel of Bradford Labour 3:45 pm, 14th November 2011

My Lords, I have listened carefully and with great interest to the many excellent contributions on this proposed amendment. I am grateful to the Minister for giving a very considered and what I believe to be a very sincere response by recognising the issues. Noble Lords have spoken eloquently about many of the issues: the huge numbers of services and people involved-it is absolutely the big society in action. Yet they also clearly talked about what goes to the heart of this Bill: the barriers that are there to stop the provision of equal services. My "unpopular" noble friend Lord Warner clearly outlined those barriers and I will not repeat them.

We have heard from my noble friends about the importance of the voluntary sector. The Minister clearly repeated the importance of the role of the charitable and voluntary sectors, and the fact that they work with some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I completely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, about the complexity of the situation. She raised the important issue of social enterprises and the potential exemptions and disbenefits there as well.

We are not asking to make a single-line solution to the problem; we are asking for clarity and transparency. This Government have clearly talked about transparency throughout, and it is so important for us to have that information. I listened to what the noble Earl said about them still discussing how the Treasury will go ahead and that they are in the process of taking urgent actions, but those urgent issues have been there for a long time. I suppose that I go back to the issue of my day job, when I am working with service users and local communities. When working with people with mental health problems and drug issues, nobody disagrees with me. Everybody says, "Yep-this is really important and urgent. We have got to look at it and we will. We will talk and we will make sure users are on the panel", but we are still talking about it 20 years on. We need a document or something that focuses the mind. That is why the amendment seeks to ask the Secretary of State to give us the data.

I do not think that a year is problematic. I think it should be six months. Why do we not have these data? The whole premise of lots of the services we provide is that we need high-quality data to tell us what is missing and what is wrong. I am hoping that a report will be presented to give Members of the House an opportunity to reflect on that data and to look at what is going wrong, and where, because the big danger is that there will be a discussion between the charity sector and the Treasury, and that the Treasury will say, "This is what we can and cannot do-accept it". It is important that the House and others outside look at the data and the transparency within that and make an informed decision. I will not keep the Committee much longer. It is such an important issue and, as I genuinely think that we should have a report presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State, I therefore wish to test the opinion of the Committee.