Health and Social Care Bill — Report (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:15 pm on 27th February 2012.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 11:15 pm, 27th February 2012

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Tyler was quite right because the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, has spoken compellingly, as he always does, and I, for one, am grateful to him for the insights that he gave us.

I begin with an observation which I hope is incontrovertible: voluntary organisations, staff mutuals, co-operatives and social enterprises all play vital roles in delivering innovative, high-quality, user-focused services within their local communities. The Government firmly believe that such organisations have a strong role to play in the health and social care system. This is due to the experience, expertise and insights that they can offer to commissioners and the system more widely.

As I hope your Lordships will recognise, the Bill shows the Government's commitment to fair competition that delivers better outcomes and greater choice for patients and better value for the taxpayer. We want to see providers from all sectors delivering high-quality, person-centred health and care services: we do not want to favour one type of provider over another.

The Government are also supportive of everything that the noble Lord said about the importance of social value and the key role that social enterprises and other organisations can have in building and promoting it. On my visit a few months ago to the Bromley by Bow Centre with the noble Lord I was able to see first hand the excellent work that Andrew Mawson Partnerships has done in reviving and stimulating the local community. One cannot fail to be impressed by this model and vision, which we know works and want to see more of.

Having said that, we need to pause and reflect because these amendments are unnecessary. Amendment 64A is not appropriate because it cuts directly across the role of the NHS Commissioning Board. Simply put, the role of the board is to be a commissioner, not to build providers. We are clear that no provider, whether due to its size or organisational form, should be given preferential treatment in the new system. The provisions introduced by Clause 22 prevent the board, and the Secretary of State and Monitor likewise, giving preferential treatment to any particular type of provider, be they public, for profit or not for profit.

I know that this has generated some concern among voluntary and community organisations. I would like to assure noble Lords and the sector that the board will still be able to make grants and loans to voluntary sector organisations. It will not be able to do that for the sole purpose of increasing the proportion of services provided by the voluntary sector. The board could, however, invest in voluntary organisations where they bring the credible voice of patients, service users and carers to inform commissioning and the development of care pathways, or where the sector's expertise could contribute to the commissioning support required by CCGs and the board. Those are just some examples. The power-which we included in the Bill through an amendment in Committee in another place-mirrors the power that the Secretary of State has now under Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968, which is exercised by strategic health authorities and PCTs. Equivalent provision is also provided in the Bill for CCGs in Clause 25, inserted as new Section 14Z4 of the National Health Act 2006. Voluntary organisations should therefore have no reason to fear that they will be unduly affected by the new system. However, as drafted, Amendment 64A would disadvantage NHS trusts and foundation trusts for profit providers. As a result, I cannot accept it.