Clause 8

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 15th January 2008.

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Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health) 6:15 pm, 15th January 2008

Under the clause relating to the grant or refusal of registration as a service provider, we are seeking to place some restriction on the actions that the commission may take “at any time”. Amendment No. 9 would add a new subsection (5A) providing that

“the Commission shall be obliged to publish its reasons for any actions it takes.”

Amendment No. 10 does the same for the processes in clause 11.

I am happy that the regulator needs to be fleet of foot—a phrase that I sought to impress on the Minister earlier—in its approach to regulation and that as it registers and reviews services, it might find that important additions are needed to the registration procedure. Our concern is somewhat simple, but twofold. The Bill gives the commission the licence to change the registration of providers at will, and with what regularity it chooses. What assurances can the Minister give that that will not happen to the point at which it could become unpredictable and, at worst, done on a whim, rather than at will?

More concerning, given the lack of independence from ministerial meddling that the CQC has regarding the arguments that we have managed to make, but the Minister has not accepted, are the potential changes in registration that are driven by political exigencies rather than regulatory need, without any reference to the House or consultation with stakeholders. Under what circumstances does the Minister see those powers being used? Does he have examples from the current regulators, and what checks and balances are in place so that they are not abused?