Clause 47 - Disclosure of information

Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 10th January 2006.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

The clause is not particularly controversial. However, I am drawn to subsection 3(d), which refers to ''relevant disciplinary proceedings'' in relation to disclosure of information. I am not sure what that means. Does it mean what one would understand as professional disciplinary proceedings, or does it mean internal disciplinary proceedings related, for example, to some managerial function? Also, at what level are we talking? Is it relatively trivial disciplinary proceedings, or matters that are more serious?

Disciplinary issues may range from relatively low-key stuff, such as stealing a paper clip, to far more heinous crimes of the sort that the Minister described in trying to tell us how much fraud goes on in the NHS. That is obviously big-ticket stuff, so we need to know what is really meant by ''relevant disciplinary proceedings''. In particular, some clarification of the word ''relevant'' would be useful.

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Quality and Patient Safety), Department of Health

The hon. Gentleman needs to remember the context within which we expect these powers to be used, because use of the powers will be supervised by senior staff. He may wish to know that   the Counter Fraud and Security Management Service already considers the full range of available sanctions as an investigation into a suspicion of fraud, a security incident or a breach commences and as it proceeds. Its objective in approaching the investigation would be to consider the full range of sanctions available to it in the event that the fraud is proven. Disciplinary proceedings clearly fit into that. The bodies referred to could include professional disciplinary proceedings, the General Medical Council, the General Dental Council and others.

Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is right to think that the full range would be considered. However, it is hard to imagine the counter fraud service using such powers in the event of a relatively small case such as the theft of a paper clip. I realise that he used that to illustrate the range, but I seek to reassure him that the expertise and professional approach that the service adopts in bringing cases will inform the nature, scope and range of the documents that it seeks to access and the amount of information available. The information required to be disclosed will only be that which is absolutely relevant and necessary for the case of fraud to be proven.

Question put and agreed to

Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.