My Lords, this group of amendments is on the question of foundation trusts' private income cap. All of us are agreed that the number of private patients and the amount of private income are important considerations for foundation trusts. The risks to the NHS of too much private income and private treatment in foundation trust hospitals are clear and perhaps do not need rehearsing at length. If too many beds in such hospitals are taken up with private patients, unless we are very careful, that may limit accessibility of those beds to NHS patients. The development of foundation trust hospitals with an unusually great proportion of private income may-again, unless we are very careful-threaten to undermine the commitment to reducing health inequalities that runs through the Bill. Emergence of "star hospitals" could threaten other hospitals in the region.
Finally, the threat of foundation hospitals being subject to EU competition law would have been greater if it were possible to have foundation trust hospitals a majority of whose income was private; that, at any rate, is our view. This is one of the principal reasons for the cap on caps, by which the principal purpose of foundation trust hospitals can only be fulfilled if more than half of foundation trusts' income is NHS income. That is the so-called 49 per cent.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that the only reason that that majority provision can be said to send the wrong message is that, sadly, some in her party have taken to the airwaves to say that there is a hidden agenda to the Bill by which the Government seek to make national health foundation trust hospitals have 49 per cent of their income from private patients. There is no such hidden agenda. Frankly, it has not been responsible politics to raise people's fears by going around the country suggesting the contrary.