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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

I cannot stand here today and say yes or no to that question. That would put me in a ridiculous position. It is for the independent regulator to decide the outcome of applications—his judgment is what matters. However, the process by which the regulator makes a decision is set out in the Bill. It is an iterative process, which includes a series of discussions before a decision is made.

We do not want a re-run of our previous debate, but it is the regulator's decision—not the Secretary of State's—that counts, and which constitutes the body as a foundation trust. For sake of argument, the Secretary of State has a justifiable interest in the

process—of course he does. The hon. Gentleman will not accept that—he has just voted to remove the Secretary of State from that process—but we won the argument; perhaps we will return to it on the Floor of the House where I have every confidence that we can win it again. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the answer that he wants—no Minister could—but it is clear in the Bill that it is ultimately the responsibility of the regulator to make decisions. We have constructed a process in which difficulties in the application can be addressed; they can be raised by the regulator and considered by the applicant. That is the best way to avoid the admittedly unacceptable outcome that the hon. Gentleman presented.