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[Part II]

Part of Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 20th May 2003.

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Photo of John Hutton John Hutton Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (Health) 6:30 pm, 20th May 2003

Even if we did accept that that would be a major risk and embarrassment to the programme, the hon. Gentleman's amendment would not have the effect he describes. If he wants to do what he has suggested, he needs another amendment to give effect to that.

There is another element to the hon. Gentleman's argument that he has not thought through. He needs to take a look at clause 4(3), because he has misunderstood the process of application. He sees it as a series of big bang moments, but clause 4(3) is an iterative process. Having got the Secretary of State's approval, it is envisaged in the Bill—this rather undermines the hon. Gentleman's case for other amendments—that the application by the applicant can be varied. If the regulator has concerns about the application, it can be varied where there is disagreement. In other words, problems can be overcome by a process of discussion. The scenarios that the hon. Gentleman painted are extremely unlikely.

At the end of the day, a balance must be struck, and a judgment made. We should like the process to begin where it is stated in the Bill it should start—the point at which the application has gone through—so that arrangements can be put in place for the shadow board to be chosen. It is unlikely that the hon. Gentleman's scenario would ever come to pass, first because of the robustness of the process, and secondly because of the way that we have considered and put together the process. There is no once-and-for-all judgment at the beginning. The regulator has ample opportunity in discussions with the applicant to resolve difficulties.

The hon. Gentleman made a good point but spoilt it with exaggeration towards the end of his remarks. We have considered the process very carefully in light of his amendment, but I am satisfied that the process under the Bill is sensible. It is not, as the hon. Gentleman has effectively described it, a Mickey Mouse process.