Report (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 6th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Liberal Democrat 5:30 pm, 6th March 2012

My Lords, I will speak briefly, in addition to what my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby said, to the amendments in our names concerning the Secretary of State giving guidance to Monitor: Amendments 163C, 166B, 173A, 173B and 173C.

These are further amendments concerning the role of the Secretary of State and are intended to ensure that the Secretary of State has a practical and effective influence over Monitor's overall approach to the work it does. The Secretary of State would exercise that influence by issuing statutory guidance to Monitor that will have to be published and laid before Parliament. The guidance in each case could be revised but the revised guidance would also have to be published and laid before Parliament.

The heart of the scheme is Amendment 166B. The duty referred to in that amendment under Clause 61(9) is the duty on Monitor to exercise its functions consistently with the Secretary of State's duty to promote a comprehensive health service. The amendment allows the Secretary of State to publish guidance to Monitor on the objectives specified in his mandate to the board and to set out guidance on how those objectives are relevant to the separate work carried out by Monitor. Monitor is, of course, required to have regard to such guidance.

Amendments 173A to 173C empower the Secretary of State to give guidance to Monitor in line with any guidance that he has published under new Section 13E of the 2006 Act. That is the so-called outcomes document issued by the Secretary of State to the board in connection with securing continuing improvement in the quality of services and outcomes achieved by the health service. These amendments make it incumbent on Monitor to have regard to that guidance, which must also be published and laid before Parliament. Amendment 163C concerns reporting by Monitor so that in its annual report Monitor would be required to state what it did to comply with the guidance, envisaged by these amendments, given by the Secretary of State in relation to the exercise of its functions.

These are modest but important amendments. They seek to weave into the fabric of the Bill a clear role for the Secretary of State to give strategic guidance to Monitor in line with the Secretary of State's overarching duties, in particular with the objectives set out by the Secretary of State in his annual mandate to the board, and in line with the outcomes document that he publishes that is designed to ensure the board's performance of its duty to secure improvement in the quality of services.

These amendments are part of creating a coherent and consistent framework within the new structures established by the Bill, to ensure a single and purposive approach by all the bodies within the NHS, with the Secretary of State remaining in charge of setting the strategic objectives for the service. In those circumstances I suggest that they are very welcome.