Clause 44

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 17th January 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health) 2:30 pm, 17th January 2008

Having listened to the Minister, I shall not resist the clause. I have reserved our position, but I think it fair to point out, given what he has just said about the burden and given that three regulators are coming together, that in the previous discussion we envisaged that almost all the people will arrive in a much bigger organisation, so the capacity to deploy the staff and the expert teams should be there to help to overcome some of the great burdens that will arise in going through the first year, particularly with regard to registrations. One has to bear in mind that this was exactly the position that the CSCI managed in establishing itself. During its first year, it was both carrying out regulation and doing these reports. That was not postponed for a year while it established itself and did its various inspections and regulation.

The point still applies. I accept that the Minister has sought to give some assurance that Ministers would not want to appear in any sense to fetter the independence and autonomy of the regulator, but I can envisage circumstances—that is why we are here, scrutinising the Bill—in which the temptation is almost too great to resist if something particularly difficult is arising. One can envisage meetings that are less of a ministerial nature and more of an inevitably political nature—we all carry both hats—and we need to be conscious of that. Unless I put it on the table specifically, the danger is that if something like that happened, we would be seen to be falling down on our job.

As I said, I reserve our position for a Division on amendment No. 260 when we get to clause 158, but I note that the Minister has taken seriously the points that we have been making and I am grateful for that.