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 Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat 9:00 pm, 6th March 2012

My Lords, I want to speak to my amendments to express my thanks to the Minister for the amendments that he has tabled, and to give a little rationale for why we were concerned but are now satisfied by the Minister's amendments. On these Benches we were very concerned about the deregulation of foundation trusts in 2016. We believed that putting foundation trusts on the same footing as all other provider licensees was not only dangerous because of the risk of wider application of competition principles, but undesirable since district general hospitals-essentially foundation trusts-are the core of public provision in the health service. They are public assets, funded either conventionally by the Government or by PFI. Sadly, many of us argued at the time that PFI would be an expensive and inflexible method of financing healthcare infrastructure. Nevertheless, district general hospitals are an essential part of the NHS.

Therefore, we proposed amendments that removed Clauses 111 to 114 and retained Monitor's special powers over foundation trusts unless terminated by the Secretary of State with the authority of an affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. We were not saying "never" but the Secretary of State, after some years of the new structure, clearly needs to satisfy Parliament as to why particular foundation trusts no longer need to be subject to regulation by Monitor in this way. It may be possible to make the case for the deregulation of foundation trusts in the future, but currently the assumption should be that foundation trusts will be treated differently from other providers in regulation-not just in the transition period but in the medium term-so that Monitor will have the right to appoint and dismiss directors and governors in that period.

To that end, we very much welcome the amendments tabled by the Minister to meet our concerns. Our amendments talk of an order passed by the affirmative process and the Government's by the negative process but I do not want that to stand between us. The Minister has gone a very long way to meet our concerns, for which I am extremely grateful, as are all my colleagues on these Benches.