Committee (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 14th November 2011.

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Photo of The Archbishop of York The Archbishop of York Bishop 6:30 pm, 14th November 2011

My Lords, I was not going to speak to these probing amendments, but as I have been gratuitously referred to twice it is prudent that I should speak.

The noble Baroness referred to number 11. We should remember that Jesus had 12 disciples; the twelfth betrayed him and so there were eleven left. Then the disciples decided before Pentecost to choose Matthias, so they then had 12 again. They then ran into trouble once St Paul the Apostle came along and they had 13, but they did not know where to put him. Numbers are always dangerous.

I am with the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy. We may need all kinds of characters on the board but it would be wrong to specify them in the Bill. If we do, then we will not have the kind of liberty and freedom to be creative and to enable the Secretary of State to promote a comprehensive health service and improve the quality of service. He needs that to help him promote the health service and then improve it. The board needs to consist of people who have the calibre to do that.

I have sympathy with Amendment 54 but not in the precise form in which it is put. It states:

"The Secretary of State must ensure that a majority of the non-executive members of the Board appointed under subsection (1)(b) have relevant experience".

Those members should have relevant experience but as to whether they should be a majority, again, the discretion should be left to the Secretary of State and the board. If that is specified, they will all be there in big numbers but might end up not delivering or promoting whatever is required. Yes, the people appointed should clearly have relevant experience of either working in the NHS or serving on an NHS body-the NHS is not the same as Rover cars, Marks & Spencer or Tesco and you need people with relevant experience who are able to deliver properly-but I would go for the Secretary of State having people with relevant experience of working in the NHS or serving on a body without necessarily saying that they must be in the majority.

As these are probing amendments, I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that.