Clause 16 - Accountable officers and their responsibilities as to controlled drugs

Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 20th December 2005.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health) 10:45 am, 20th December 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 11, in clause 16, page 14, line 6, after ‘regulations’, insert

‘having consulted with representative bodies’.

We are really rattling through the Bill now. We are at part 3 already—who would have thought it? Let us make sure that we keep up the momentum. I hope that the Minister will give lots of satisfactory responses to our amendment; that would expedite the process.

Amendment No. 11 is simple; it has to do with consulting representative bodies before provision is made to require designated bodies to nominate or appoint persons who have prescribed responsibilities on controlled drugs. I hope, Mr. Illsley, that we will have a stand part debate on clause 16—not this morning, I suspect, but at some point. I shall therefore be brisk and to the point now, although there is a great deal to cover.

Controlled drugs are important. The issue stems from Dame Janet Smith’s report on the Shipman tragedies, and it is important and appropriate that we should reflect on it and give it due place in our deliberations. If we are fortunate enough to have a clause stand part debate, Mr. Illsley, I will make no apology for being a little expansive, although I shall not be so this morning.

The amendment has to do with the representations that we have had from what one might call representative bodies, in particular the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, whose nose has been put somewhat out of joint by those who drafted the Bill. The society does not appear to have featured at all well, despite its having been given to understand that it would continue to have a fairly prominent role in the inspection of the regime for controlled drugs.

We can accept that that regime is unsatisfactory as it stands. It is a sort of polyglot arrangement of inspections that is clearly not fit for purpose. Broadly speaking, we welcome the element of the Bill under discussion, stemming, as it does, from Dame Janet’s inquiry. Of course, the Bill does not include that inquiry’s precise recommendations, but it is reflective of them and we are broadly happy with that.

However, it is a pity that we appear to have missed an opportunity to include in the Bill reference to those representative bodies, and not just because they are representative of particular interest groups. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, specifically, is already involved in regulating the system that we have. The society is expert and contains people who have been doing such things for many years. It is a pity that its expertise has not been recognised and that it is not included in the Bill. I am sure that other bodies have also not been included. Any regulations that may be made under this clause would be improved through consultation with the bodies that I have described. That is the purpose of amendment No. 11.

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State, Department of Health 11:00 am, 20th December 2005

I hope that I can quickly reassure the hon. Gentleman that we have not in any way excluded those who might be regarded as key stakeholders from being involved and consulted. We accept their involvement.

It is of the utmost importance that we ensure that representative bodies’ views are heard, and that we listen to them. For that reason, policy development of the Government’s action programme on controlled drugs, “Safer management of controlled drugs: The Government’s response to the Fourth Report of the Shipman Inquiry”, was overseen by an advisory group of key stakeholders, which included the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, the police, the Home Office, strategic health authorities, primary care trusts, patient groups and professional representative bodies.

Therefore a broad group has been assisting the Department of Health. That group helped to produce draft guidance for public consultation on strengthened governance arrangements for controlled drugs. That   draft guidance sets out most of the detail that will be included in regulations. That consultation has now closed, and a final version of the guidance is being produced. The results of the consultation will inform the writing of the regulations. We shall also consult informally with key stakeholders on the detail of the regulations.

The amendment would require consultation with key stakeholders to be included in the Bill. A consultation with the representative bodies on the regulations would also be required, and that would delay implementation of the provisions and duplicate the consultation on the draft guidance on the new arrangements. For that reason, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the amendment to a vote.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

The Minister has given me some reassurance that the input of those bodies has at least been requested. Therefore I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Gillian Merron.]

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes past Eleven o’clock till this day at Two o’clock.