Health Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 6th December 2005.

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[Mr. Eric Illsley in the Chair]

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 10:35 am, 6th December 2005

I beg to move,

That—

(1)during proceedings on the Health Bill the Standing Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.35 a.m. on Tuesday 6th December) meet—

(a)at 3.55 p.m. on Tuesday 6th December;

(b)at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 8th December;

(c)at 10.35 a.m. and 3.55 p.m. on Tuesday 13th December;

(d)at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 15th December;

(e)at 9.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. on Tuesday 20th December;

(f)at 10.35 a.m. and 3.55 p.m. on Tuesday 10th January;

(2)the proceedings shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 8; Schedule 1; Clauses 9 and 10; Schedule 2; Clauses 11 and 12; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 1; Clauses 13 to 15; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 2; Clauses 16 to 30; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 3; Clauses 31 to 52; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 4 (except new Clauses and new Schedules relating to the accounts of health service bodies and the auditing of such accounts); Clause 54; Schedule 4; Clause 55; Schedule 5; Clauses 56 and 57; Schedule 6; Clauses 58 to 66; Schedule 7; Clauses 67 and 68; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 5; Clauses 69 to 71; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 6; Clause 53; Schedule 3; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to the accounts of health service bodies and the auditing of such accounts; Clauses 72 to 76; Schedules 8 and 9; Clauses 77 to 80; remaining new Clauses and new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(3)the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 p.m. on Tuesday 10th January.

I am pleased to move the programme motion because, as a result of discussions through the usual channels before it met, the Programming Sub-Committee did not need to vote on it. That indicates that all parties were pleased with it.

You will be aware, Mr. Illsley, that we plan to continue, if necessary, until 20 December. The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), has placed no knives on our debates; we want to ensure that everyone has ample time to discuss the important parts of the Bill. Without further ado, I commend the motion.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Illsley. It will be a pleasure to serve under you and your fellow Chairman. I do not recall having had the pleasure of serving under your chairmanship before, but I look forward to doing so.

I am grateful to the Minister for moving the programme motion. It seems tight but achievable so long as we constrain ourselves to the subject in hand rather than speaking of extraneous matters. The Minister did not point out that we have nine   substantive subjects to discuss, although one or two loom somewhat larger than the others. However, we must ensure that we have time to discuss other matters that are less controversial but none the less significant.

I am comforted by the fact that the same will not be done with this Bill as happened with the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003. I had the privilege of serving on the Committee that considered that legislation, and I remember that the general medical services contract was added on Report rather than being discussed in Committee. For example, we shall have the opportunity to discuss the general ophthalmic services contract in Committee. I hope that it will be given at least the one and a half hours that was allocated to discussing the general medical services contract. Subsequent events have demonstrated the value of discussing such matters in Committee before implementation exposes all the problems.

I know that the eyes of the nation are upon us today—little else is happening. People will be looking to us to proceed swiftly to discuss Part 1, which is a matter of great interest. I am happy to say that we accept the programme motion; we want to get on with the business at hand.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Thank you, Mr. Illsley, and good morning. This is the first time that I have served under your chairmanship, and I look forward to serving under you and your colleague.

We welcome the flexibility that the programme motion gives us. It will allow us time to discuss Part 1, which has attracted a great deal of attention. However, many members of the Committee will have received representations—for example, about the proposed changes to optometry services. If it seems as though important issues will be squeezed out, the Sub-Committee has the opportunity to revisit the motion. However, to begin with, the flexibility that it gives us is welcome.

One of my worries is that one issue can dominate debates in Committee and that other important changes receive little scrutiny as a result. If we do not scrutinise them in Committee, the danger is that those one or two headline issues will dominate time on Report. That would be regrettable, as further important issues are dealt with later in the Bill. I give you my assurance, Mr. Illsley, that we will not seek to protract proceedings. We will make our points as succinctly as possible and then sit down.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Illsley. I was a member of the Programming Sub-Committee, and I should like to correct the Minister’s assertion that we were “pleased” with the programme. We were in so far as we do not have the knife; that is welcome given that most of the public controversy rests with the initial clauses of the Bill. However, it would be more accurate to say that we were content with the total time available. We must get to the important later clauses, particularly those relating to ophthalmic services and   pharmacy. It would be regrettable if the emphasis on smoking, controversial though that is, were to detract from our consideration of those matters.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

I must now outline one or two arrangements. I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill. Copies are available in the Room. I should also like to remind hon. Members that adequate notice must be given of amendments and that, as a general rule, my fellow Chairman and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including any that may be reached during an afternoon sitting of the Committee.

May I also point out at this juncture that starred amendments Nos. 75 and 76 have been printed in error in the name of the Minister rather than in those of the hon. Members for Northavon (Steve Webb) and for Bristol, West (Stephen Williams)? Hon. Members are free to remove their jackets as they wish when I am chairing the Committee. It might be necessary to seek permission from my fellow Chairman.