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[Part II]

Part of Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:58 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) 5:58 pm, 20th May 2003

The four amendments are broadly designed to do the same thing: remove the Secretary of State from having any locus whatsoever in the process in which an NHS trust becomes established as an NHS foundation hospital. Amendment No. 246, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon, would require the local agreement of a range of parties identified in his amendment before the location can be considered by the regulator.

The issue is simple: does the Secretary of State have a legitimate role to play in establishing NHS foundation trusts? It is crystal clear to me that he does and that he should have the role that we set out in the Bill. I could partly understand the concerns of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire about the role of the Secretary of State, if it were Government policy for just a handful of NHS trusts to have the opportunity to become foundation trusts. He might then legitimately argue that to require the approval of the Secretary of State would somehow act as a barrier to the many taking advantage of the things he thinks might be offered to the few. He knows well and true that that is not the Government's intention.