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Clause 11 - Power of Secretary of State to give

Part of Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 22nd May 2003.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Education) 11:15 am, 22nd May 2003

I see that the Minister is nodding. If it is ring-fenced, with access decisions that are not in the gift of the Secretary of State, what is the Treasury's role in the distribution of that money? Is it genuinely an independent pot with an independent panel that has total freedom to allocate it to whoever it wants, or does some degree of control still rest with the Treasury?

Is there a limit on the total amount of that money? Is it simply an initial amount that is available now, or is it a fund that will be expanded as time goes by? Will it be entirely dedicated to foundation hospitals, and is it the sole source of public capital moneys that foundation hospitals can access? What criteria will those distributing the money use in their lending decisions? Will they be using some of the criteria that are set out in the clauses concerning the prudential code? Will they be looking at the creditworthiness of the trusts?

A private-sector lender to an independent organisation would make judgments and set repayment rates against accepted assessments of creditworthiness. International organisations such as Dun & Bradstreet and Standard & Poor's specialise in producing such ratings. Is similar information being used in the distribution of this money? Does the Minister envisage such ratings being used in those assessments in future?

As regards this money—and, more broadly, the total borrowings that NHS foundation trusts can take on—will these funds appear as part of the PSBR? Are they official public sector borrowings or will they be purely on the balance sheets of the foundation trusts themselves? What provision is being made for any new entrants to the marketplace under clause 5? On what basis will those organisations that are not currently NHS trusts have access to that money if they apply for foundation status? Inside what time frame does the Minister envisage those organisations being in a position to access the funds available, if indeed—[Interruption.]