Clause 75

Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Publication of programme of reviews etc.

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health)

I beg to move amendment No. 44, in clause 75, page 37, line 6, at end add—

‘(5) Subsection (2) does not confer on the Secretary of State the power to prevent the Commission conducting reviews.’.

Under clause 75, the commission

“must...prepare and publish a document setting out” the reviews it proposes to undertake. Subsection (2) provides that

“the Commission must consult...the Secretary of State” on the document. The amendment would prevent the Secretary of State from using the consultation as an opportunity to block certain reviews.

The clause highlights the privileged position of the Secretary of State in relation to the commission. It must be patent by now that we have sought to remove the Secretary of State’s powers in order to make the CQC a genuinely and transparently independent body. I have just one question for the Minister: what is the purpose of consultations under subsection (2), and could the clause be used by the Secretary of State to block reviews, however necessary people feel them to be?

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health

I simply reiterate what I said earlier. The CQC will be completely unfettered in its decisions to undertake reviews in the circumstances that I described.

The amendment would not have any practical effect, because the Secretary of State has no power to prevent the commission from conducting reviews. The amendment seems to refer to the requirement for the CQC to publish in advance its work programme for the more general reviews that it intends to undertake during a specific period. That is a sensible requirement, not least because that way, the organisations concerned will have some idea about the CQC’s work programme. It can formalise its business planning processes—an exercise that already takes place under the existing system to help managers administer burdens of regulation on front-line service providers. The requirement to consult will also ensure dialogue between the commission and the Secretary of State. However and as I have made absolutely clear, important, urgent reviews—or those that the CQC considers urgent in fulfilling its duty on quality and safety—would be completely unfettered and could be undertaken without consultation with anyone.

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health)

I am happy to rely on what the Minister has said and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 75 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 76 to 78 ordered to stand part of the Bill.