Report (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 6th March 2012.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 9:00 pm, 6th March 2012

My Lords, I shall speak also to government Amendments 197A, 197B, 197C, 198A, 198B, 199A, 199B, 200A, 300ZA and 300ZB.

Monitor will continue as the regulator of NHS foundation trusts, as I have said. We had always intended this to be the case and I welcome the opportunity to clarify our position. Monitor will regulate foundation trusts through a new licensing regime, which it will administer jointly with the Care Quality Commission. This will help to strengthen collaboration between the two regulators. It will license foundation trusts to provide NHS services, as it would license anyone else who wished to do so, to ensure that NHS services are protected as financially sustainable and of high clinical quality.

Part 3 anticipates that Monitor will set differential licence conditions for foundation trusts to reflect their unique status and governance structures. Monitor would have power to intervene and direct foundation trusts to take action to ensure compliance with licence conditions. This would include the power to enforce requirements on foundation trusts to maintain continuity of NHS services and protect essential NHS assets, consistent with its principal purpose, as defined in statute. Those powers are set out in Clause 105. I emphasise that these enforcement powers would not be transitional.

However, I recognise that this was not as clear in the Bill as it could have been. I am grateful to noble Lords, particularly my noble friends Lord Clement-Jones, Lord Marks, Lady Barker and Lady Tyler, for their work in highlighting this issue. I have tabled four Amendments to Clause 111-Amendments 196C, 197A, 197B and 197C-which clarify the position. These enduring powers would enable Monitor to require a foundation trust to remove directors or governors in exceptional circumstances as a form of remedial action, where it considered this necessary. This would be appropriate only in the case of a very serious breach of licence conditions.

In addition, for a transitional period until at least 2016, Monitor would retain express powers to fire or suspend foundation trust directors and governors directly. As now, this power could be used only where a foundation trust had failed to comply with a notice from Monitor to remove or suspend individuals itself. These powers are for use when a foundation trust is at risk of breaching its licence conditions to provide NHS services because of a failure of governance. This is more likely in the early years of a trust's existence, when its governors are all new to the role and are building up their capability to hold its directors to account. That is why the powers consist of those to fire or suspend directors and governors.

I understand the concerns of noble Lords to ensure that this additional power remains available for as long as Parliament considers necessary, while we work with Monitor, the Foundation Trust Network and others to support governors to develop their capability in holding their boards to account. Therefore, I have tabled five amendments-Amendments 198A, 198B, 199A, 199B and 200A-which provide for Monitor to retain this power unless and until the Secretary of State makes an order to withdraw it, either for all foundation trusts or individual trusts. I beg to move.