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, as regards grants and loans, we are clear that voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises-and I include bodies of that kind in the same grouping-are and will still be eligible for grants. The key is that those grants must not be given solely because they are voluntary sector organisations or social enterprises. It is a nice distinction, but really it means that voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises will still have to compete fairly for a contract on a fair playing field with other providers. As I have indicated, that means that NHS providers and others are not disadvantaged in the market for NHS-funded services. Nevertheless, the scope will still be there, and they are indeed classed as voluntary sector.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord for raising the important issue of social value. I can assure him that the Government are sympathetic to these principles. That is why the NHS procurement guide already enables NHS commissioners to take account of social and environmental outcomes in their procurement. The Department of Health has also, through its social enterprise fund, invested more than £80 million in the health and social care sector. To answer my noble friend Lord Newby, I am also fully aware of the support for these principles in the Public Services (Social Value) Bill currently being considered by noble Lords. Put simply, if that Bill receives Royal Assent, Amendment 64B will not be necessary. The Public Services (Social Value) Bill will make NHS organisations have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in procurement, and the Government welcome that. The NHS procurement guide, as I said, already enables NHS commissioners to take into account other outcomes in procurement, and we will continue to encourage them to do that, so I think, in the NHS at least, commissioners will notice little change in the guidance that is given to them. Make no mistake, we see a valuable role in the future healthcare system for voluntary sector organisations, social enterprises, staff mutuals and co-operatives. However, that cannot be at the expense of other types of provider, including particularly NHS providers. I hope very much that your Lordships will agree that these two amendments are therefore unnecessary.