Clause 43

Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Frequency and period of review

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

I beg to move amendment No. 33, in clause 43, page 21, line 26, at end insert—

‘(1A) In setting out the frequency with which reviews under section 42 are to be conducted the Commission must identify through a Regulatory Impact Assessment the reduction in the regulatory burden.

(1B) The power of the Commission to increase the regulatory burden shall be set out in regulations approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.’.

The amendment would ensure that the burden of regulation is properly, quantifiably and accountably measured and that where the burden is increased, Parliament has the opportunity to debate whether that is justified. The amendment commends itself.

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

I have a great deal of sympathy with the desire to see a proportionate regulatory system—that came out very clearly in the evidence session. The problem with the amendment is that it would oblige the commission to publish an impact assessment to demonstrate that when it sets the frequency of reviews, they will result in a reduction in regulatory burdens. We agree with that sentiment. That is why clause 2 obliges the commission to have regard at all times to the five principles of good inspection practice: transparency, accountability, consistency, proportionality to risk and targeting where it is most needed. That is also why the commission is required to produce inspection programmes under schedule 4.

We believe that we need to allow the commission the flexibility to vary the frequency of reviews, and for those reviews to not simply be reduced. That would be the impact of the amendment. There has been the example over the last few years of health care associated infections. Most of us would regard as  desirable an increase in the regularity of reviews on particular issues. While I sympathise very strongly with the motivations and sentiments behind the amendment, we believe that the commission should be free to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, while at the same time reducing the overall burden of regulation on providers, as we will discuss later in considering the commission’s gate-keeping functions.

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

That is a fair point. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.