I beg to move amendment No. 7, in
clause 16, page 8, line 38, after 'appoint', insert 'at the end of the period of at least 12 months beginning with the day on which it is passed'.
I shall be brief and hasty. The current provisions typify the problems that guillotine motions pose for the Opposition and Parliament. In due course, I shall explain why the amendment is crucial. First, however, let me say that we are 10 minutes from the final guillotine in this Committee, and it still remains to be seen whether any Labour Members will make a contribution at this late stage. The problem, however, is that we simply do not have enough time to discuss this fundamental issue.
Clause 16 deals with the Bill's short title and commencement. The Opposition are against part 1 root and branch. It introduces fines for local authorities, although the Minister has done her best to call those fines ''reimbursements'' and ''incentives'', among other things. Sadly, the Secretary of State totally undercut and undermined her position in his statement on NHS resources on the Floor of the House yesterday when, as is recorded in column 282 of Hansard, in answer to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam he used the phrase ''On paying fines''. There can be no clearer message to the House or local authorities that authorities are in the Government's firing line for penalisation through fines, frequently through no fault of their own. That is why Opposition Members believe that the Bill is being rushed through Parliament and on to the statute book using guillotines, and without proper scrutiny.
As a sop to some of his Back Benchers, the Secretary of State announced to the House on Second Reading that local authorities would receive £100 million a year over three years. In effect, the Government are taking money from the NHS and giving it to local authorities to pay the fines that they expect them to incur—they are taking from Peter to pay Paul. However, they Hohohey did not even get that right. They have provided £100 million, but local authorities calculate that they will have pay fines of £180 million in the first year—that projection is based on just over 50 per cent. of authorities. That coincides with the Government's estimate in the financial impact assessment of the cost of delayed discharges to the
NHS, although I understand that the two figures relate to different issues.
The £100 million will not solve the problem that the Secretary of State hopes it will. It also represents a missed opportunity. It would surely be far better to use the money to improve and enhance services, rather than to enable authorities to pay their fines. Furthermore, the money will be paid from the beginning of the next financial year, in April 2003. If the Government have their way, however, that will be when the Bill comes into force. I assume that they expect it to be on the statute book by the beginning of the next financial year.
It would be infinitely better, more sensible and more pragmatic, however, if, as amendment No. 7 suggests, the implementation and commencement of the Bill—if we must have it—were delayed by one year, but the local authorities got the £100 million from 1 April 2003. They would then have a year in which to use that money to invest—a favourite buzz word of the Minister's—improve and enhance the services to minimise and further reduce the delayed discharge numbers, and another year in which to strengthen the partnerships between local authorities and the NHS.
Has my hon. Friend had the opportunity to consider the Local Government Association briefing, which asks whether the implementation could be phased and piloted? Local authorities have less than four months to establish new systems and working practices, and the LGA believes that that could cause significant practical difficulties. Even in Sweden, the much vaunted example that we are supposed to be following, implementation took place over two years. Does my hon. Friend agree that the LGA's wishes are being totally disregarded?
The Minister's parliamentary private secretary says, ''Get away'', but Labour Members usually pray in aid their local authority representatives. Sir Jeremy must be regarded as new Labour, because he received a knighthood for his services to local government from the Prime Minister. However, it is extraordinary that as soon as any of them diverge and go off message, they become non-people and are denigrated.
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend's flow of wisdom, but will he confirm that the National Audit Office is supposed to report next month on the discharge of older patients from NHS acute hospitals? Does he agree with the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health when it says of the NAO's report that
''the government would be best advised to wait until it has reported''
and base their proposals on what it says, rather than
''pressing forward with this hasty and ill-considered measure''?
Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing those pertinent comments to the Committee's attention. The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health is right; if we have to have part 1 of the Bill, it should be delayed. It would be foolish to rush it in. The Government should have been warned by what happened when they rushed in the Care Standards Act 2000.
Jacqui Smith rose—
Before the Minister tries to undermine my views, I must add that I know that everyone wants to improve and enhance standards, but the Government refused to listen to those whose views did not coincide with theirs. Because that Act was rushed in, it caused chaos and imposed even more burdens on care homes and the providers of long-term care.
I know that for a fact because I have been to the Minister's constituency and met care home owners in Redditch. It is sad to hear what they have to say. I remember meeting one of the hon. Lady's constituents who had the privilege and pleasure of meeting the hon. Lady when she was a mere parliamentary candidate. That lady complained to her then Labour candidate about the problems in the care home sector—and got a remarkably sympathetic reception. The Minister went even further, and reassured that poor lady that under a Labour Government the bureaucracy and all the associated problems would be swept aside.
Sadly, five years down the road, that lady is not convinced that the advice and information that she was given prior to the 1997 election has been implemented. Her care home—the Minister will agree, I am sure, that it provides first-class care for her constituents and others—has been faced with more bureaucracy, and more burdens have been placed upon it by the Government.
In conclusion, I hope that the Government will think again and not rush in the botched job of a fairly miserable piece of legislation. If they are not prepared to think again, I assure the Minister that not only will we vote for the amendment, we shall try to raise the matter again on Report—
It being Five o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order C relating to Programming [29 October 2002] and the Order of the Committee [10 December 2002], to put forthwith the Question necessary to be concluded at that time.
Motion made and Question put, That clause 16 stand part of the Bill:
The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 7.
On a point of order, Mr. Conway. As we are nearing the end of our deliberations, I want to take the opportunity to thank you and Mr. McWilliam for your chairmanship of a short but quality period in Committee. I also want to thank the Clerk and other officials who have presided over the Committee with such efficiency. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick) for his support as the Government Whip and my PPS, my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love). I commend Labour members of the Committee for their efforts, for some excellent interventions, and for their commitment to the Committee. I also thank my officials for their hard work, and even the hon. Members for West Chelmsford and for Billericay for their opposition—[Interruption.]—for their good-natured opposition. I thank the hon. Members for Sutton and Cheam and for Cheadle for their good-natured opposition, too, and especially the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam for her well informed opposition.
Our scrutiny of the Bill has been useful. It has been short but productive. I hope and believe that the Bill will go much further and will make a considerable difference to people for whom everyone in the Committee, whatever our differences, wants to ensure the very best deal.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Conway. May I add my thanks and associate myself with the Minister's comments by thanking you and your colleague, Mr. McWilliam, for the way in which you chaired this Committee. It is the first time that I have attended a Committee under your chairmanship, but I hope that it is not the last. I also want to thank my hon. Friends for their help in opposing a Bill part 1 of which is iniquitous. I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay. I do not want to sound incestuous, but I also want to place on record my thanks to the Minister who, given our differences on part 1, has been as helpful as possible in responding to our concerns. She has ensured that our sittings have been good tempered and enjoyable.
Further to that point of order, I want to put on record my appreciation of the way in which the Committee has been conducted and chaired, and the fact that we have had some helpful and illuminating answers to some of our questions. I fear that that may not have got us to the point of being satisfied with the Bill, but the Committee has none the less been helpful and constructive.
On behalf of John McWilliam and myself, I am grateful to the Committee for its generous comments. It has been a well ordered and well meaning Committee, and I am particularly grateful to the Clerk, the Official Reporters, the police and the Serjeant at Arms for assisting us in our deliberations.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Committee rose at five minutes past Five o'clock.