Health and Social Care Bill — Report (4th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 29th February 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 9:00 pm, 29th February 2012

My Lords, with the changes to the Secretary of State's powers under the Bill, it has recently become clear that it would be better to make express provision for the Secretary of State's powers to provide the support functions referred to in the amendment rather than rely on Section 2 of the NHS Act 2006 and risk any legal doubt. The amendment would maintain the current position under the Act and enable the Secretary of State to continue to carry out the activities concerned. The context of this is that Section 2 of the Act gives the Secretary of State a general power to,

"do anything else which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of", his duties in the Act.

The kinds of thing that come under that heading are support facilities and other assistance to the NHS-for example, the department purchases some medicines centrally for the NHS or provides advice to NHS bodies in carrying out procurement activity. It is also involved in arrangements known as NHS shared business services. It provides accounting, payroll and e-procurement services for all types of NHS organisation. There are benefits to the health service in ensuring that the Secretary of State remains able to co-ordinate activity centrally-for example, in certain cases it is likely to be financially beneficial to purchase services centrally.

Perhaps I may make it clear that Amendment 148A does not allow the Secretary of State to commission or provide health services. As noble Lords will be aware, the Bill requires the Secretary of State to exercise his functions to ensure that services are provided but removes the Secretary of State's specific powers to provide or commission NHS services directly. This amendment does not change that.

Amendment 145 agreed.

Amendments 146 to 148A

Moved by Earl Howe

146: Schedule 4, page 317, line 35, at end insert-

"( ) In subsection (9), for "section 224 or 226" substitute "section 225"."

147: Schedule 4, page 318, line 24, at end insert-

"( ) In the heading to the section, omit "Strategic Health Authorities and"."

148: Schedule 4, page 318, line 30, at end insert-

"( ) In the heading to the section, omit "Strategic Health Authorities and"."

148A: Schedule 4, page 319, line 33, at end insert-

"After section 254 insert-

"Support functions of the Secretary of State

254A Support functions of the Secretary of State

(1) The Secretary of State may, for the purpose of assisting any person exercising functions in relation to the health service or providing services for its purposes-

(a) provide (or otherwise make available) to the person goods, materials or other facilities;

(b) facilitate the recruitment and management of the person's staff;

(c) develop or operate information or communication systems;

(d) do such other things to facilitate or support the carrying out of the person's functions or other activities as the Secretary of State considers appropriate;

(e) arrange for any other person to do anything mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (d) or to assist the Secretary of State in doing any such thing.

(2) The power conferred by subsection (1)(a) includes power to purchase goods and materials for the purpose of providing them or making them available.

(3) The Secretary of State may, in connection with anything done under subsection (1), make available the services of any person employed by the Secretary of State.

(4) The powers conferred by this section may be exercised on such terms, including terms as to the making of payments to or by the Secretary of State, as may be agreed.

(5) In this section, "the health service" does not include that part of the health service that is provided in pursuance of the public health functions of the Secretary of State or local authorities.""

Amendments 146 to 148A agreed.

Amendment 148B

Moved by Baroness Murphy

148B: Schedule 4, page 320, line 4, at end insert-

"( ) After subsection (5) insert-

"(5A) The Secretary of State may by directions to the Board specify the minimum amount which the Board must spend in a financial year in making payments under-

(a) this section;

(b) subsection (1) of this section;

(c) subsection (3) of this section.

(5B) The Secretary of State may by directions to the Board specify-

(a) a body or description of bodies to whom payments under subsection (1) or (3), or under either or both of those subsections, must be made by the Board in a financial year;

(b) functions or activities, or descriptions of functions or activities, in respect of which such payments must be made by the Board in a financial year;

(c) the minimum amount that the Board must spend in a financial year in making such payments-

(i) to a body or description of bodies specified in relation to the year under paragraph (a);

(ii) in respect of functions or activities, or descriptions of functions or activities, specified in relation to the year under paragraph (b);

(iii) to a body or description of bodies specified in relation to the year under paragraph (a) in respect of functions or activities or descriptions of functions or activities so specified under paragraph (b).""