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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

I do not want to go down that road today. We have more important and pressing issues to discuss. The provisions in the Bill that require the Secretary of State's approval are not predicated on the assumption that the freedoms are for the few only and not the many. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire did not put his argument in those terms, but they are fundamental to his concern that the requirement for approval will act as a stranglehold and an unfair, unnecessary and unreasonable brake on the transition in status from NHS trust to NHS foundation trust. I do not believe that to be true.

Any fair-minded, objective, reasonable observer would say that it is entirely reasonable for the Secretary of State to have the role that we envisage. The primary purpose of NHS foundation trusts is the delivery of NHS services. Under the 1977 Act, the Secretary of State retains ultimate responsibility for the national health service—he is, of course, principally responsible for its funding. The Secretary of State will need to be able to advise on the development and number of NHS foundation trusts. It would be to suspend one's understanding of the real world to say that having given the Secretary of State the statutory responsibility under the 1977 Act of providing a comprehensive, free and effective national health service we should decide now that he should

have no say in the process of delivering those important hospital-based services.

I have the greatest regard for the hon. Gentleman—I keep banging on about that and I promise that that is the last time I say it. Perhaps I ought to bring to an end this elegant courtship developing between he and I. [Interruption.] I was inadvertently wooing the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire, but I have now stopped doing that—I am all right now, thank you, Mr. Atkinson.

Given the Secretary of State's statutory responsibilities and his responsibility to this House for how NHS resources are used, it is ridiculous to argue that we should not give him any role whatsoever in deciding which NHS trusts should become NHS foundation trusts.