Health and Social Care Bill — Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 8th February 2012.

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Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour 9:15 pm, 8th February 2012

My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this group of amendments, but I want to make a couple of points and leave a question with the Minister. I have always been in the camp that feels that Clause 4 was misguided and should be abandoned. I can see the case, which was put very well by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, for retaining Clause 4 with these more controlled features. Listening to this debate, I have a number of concerns.

There is genuine concern that there might be a really rogue clinical commissioning group, but listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has revived my concern that somewhere along the line, if we are not very careful and are too controlling, we will stop the initiatives that we want from commissioners as the NHS faces considerable challenges. As the House knows, I do not have the same fear that other Members of your Lordships' House have about third-sector or independent-sector providers, so I would not want anything in the peace that we see breaking out here to inhibit creative clinical commissioning groups setting off on new paths for new types of services simply because major people in the NHS have not woken up to the need for significant change. I hope that the Minister can reassure me that, in accepting this more nuanced version of Clause 4 on autonomy, we are not really inhibiting the creativity of clinical commissioning groups to bring in new players, even if it may seem a rather radical idea when they start to do it.

Finally, as the Minister knows, I have a mild obsession with the whole issue of a pre-failure provision in this legislation, which we will come to later. One of my continuing concerns is that we do not want to end up with a situation where we are restricting the ability of the National Commissioning Board to begin to intervene-to tackle failure at the local level-simply because autonomy requires people to flounder along as long as they like on the grounds that it is all about localism. I hope the nuanced version of Clause 4 that we are getting is still accepted as something that would enable the National Commissioning Board to intervene when there was a total failure by providers and commissioners at the local level to tackle the problems of clinical and financial unsustainability.