European Qualifications (Health and Social Care Professions) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 7th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 1:15 pm, 7th March 2019

My Lords, it is very tempting to follow the noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Deben, in their remarks. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has studied the document issued by the US Government last week on their requirements for a trade deal, but there is a contrast between what Brexiteers told the public about how easy trade deals would be and the demands of the US Government, which this Government will have to accede to in their desperation to get a trade deal, and their implications for the National Health Service. Apart from anything else, they will mean that voluntary control on prices of branded drugs will go and the market which the Government now want to legislate to remove, amending the Health and Social Care Act 2012, would fall foul of the requirements of the US Government on public services, which are very explicit about the areas they want US corporations to bid for.

As the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, I wonder how those on the Front Bench feel about being members of a Government which will be excoriated for decades to come, perhaps as was the pre-war Government in the 1930s, for the lack of preparations they made for the disaster into which they are now taking this country. Of course, this SI is a sort of backstop which, it is hoped, will never come into being. But do we really think the vote will take place next week or will it, as some people feel, be postponed yet again to a cliff edge, when there is no guarantee whatever that there will be an agreement to enter talks about an agreement? This order takes on considerable importance.

I should at this point declare my interests as a member of the General Medical Council and a trustee of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, and say that the GMC welcomes the order on its narrow terms. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that it is the GMC’s view that it can administer the new arrangements effectively without additional substantive burdens being placed on its day-to-day operations. I do not know whether that reassures him; I hope it may.

I should like the Minister to comment on one area which is relevant to what my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, said. It relates to page 9 of the order, where new powers are afforded to regulators effectively to determine what should and should not be comparable clinical qualifications to those gained in the UK. This is clearly of great importance given the way we are going. Instead of the current automatic recognition given to qualifications gained by, for example, doctors, dentists and nurses in another EEA country, the powers allow them to be deemed non-comparable by a regulator if it felt that necessary for patient safety reasons. The order states that the Privy Council would have to approve any such decision by the regulator. On what basis would the Privy Council approve or not approve a request to do so? Without some idea of the criteria to be used, it will be difficult for regulators to adopt the powers in the order in this area with confidence. Do the Government expect to issue guidance to advise regulators on the basis of a Privy Council judgment? Can they do so as quickly as possible, and will they consult the regulators in so doing?