Clause 5

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 15th January 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health 12:45 pm, 15th January 2008

I would like to say at the outset that I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North and the motivations behind the amendment that he has tabled. However, I hope to persuade him, for a number of reasons, that this is not the most satisfactorily or most legally watertight way of addressing the issue now.

I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth and the hon. Member for Romsey, who spoke on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, about the safeguards that the Bill will put in place in respect of care homes—particularly private care homes. I am happy to repeat the assurance that the Government have made it clear that they are committed to amending the Human Rights Act to ensure that all independent providers of publicly funded care homes are covered by it. We have agreed with the Ministry of Justice—we are at one on this—that we will use the Bill to strengthen the regulatory powers to ensure that the Care Quality Commission can enforce regulatory requirements in line with the relevant provisions of the European convention on human rights. That will apply to all care providers under the Bill.

In the information that I have sent to Committee members, I have already outlined some examples relating to registration. If my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North and other Committee members read that, they will see that we indeed fulfil the commitment in honouring the provisions not just of this Bill, but in wider legislation, including human rights legislation.

We are also underlining the fact that the purpose of regulation is to establish essential minimum requirements that protect people’s dignity and human rights. I have said that before and I will continue to do so. We will be consulting on the nature of the regulations during the passage of the Bill. I invite hon. Members to come back to the regulation requirements when those are discussed. Regardless of the scope of the remedies provided under the Human Rights Act, we expect all providers of regulated health and social care to respect the human rights of all service users.

As I am sure my hon. Friend will be aware because he has followed this matter closely, there is a problem with the extension of the Human Rights Act to contractual arrangements made by individuals that are strictly private, because it also contains a right to privacy. A far more sensible debate is going on, which we need to have in full, about whether the Human Rights Act is, legally, the best framework for regulating entirely private contracts. The hon. Member for Eddisbury acknowledged the need to have a full and proper debate on that matter. That is one reason why my hon. Friend’s amendment would not be the best or the most legally watertight way of proceeding.