Clause 101

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 22nd January 2008.

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Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health 11:45 am, 22nd January 2008

This, and the next couple of clauses deal with accountability, consultation and patient and public involvement. It may be helpful if from the outset I remind the Committee about the extent of patient and public involvement in the OHPA.

There will be lay members on its board and, under clause 93, there will always be a lay member on its hearing panels. Under clause 100, the OHPA will be required to keep the public informed of its activities and, under clause 101, it will have to consult. Under clause 102, it will have to consult on drafts of its rules—specifically with bodies that appear to represent the interests of patients and other persons whom it considers appropriate, including regulatory bodies.

The amendments seek to address those matters in a number of specific ways. I stress that, as an executive non-departmental public body, the OHPA will be expected to follow best practice on consultation as set out in the Government’s code of practice. Criterion 4 of that code states that feedback should be given

“regarding the responses received and how the consultation process influenced the policy.”

Furthermore, specific statements within the criterion cover how responses should be analysed with particular attention given to representative bodies. The consultation should state when and where the summary responses will be published, an explanation should be given of how to respond to specific questions, and information should be provided on themes not covered by the question. The code of practice has proved popular with stakeholder organisations who regularly participate in consultations. The code has also been used as a model by other public sector bodies in the UK.

Amendments Nos. 226 and 228 place a requirement on the Privy Council to note representations made to the OHPA by the relevant regulatory bodies. I have already mentioned that under clause 202 there is a requirement for the OHPA to consult with other bodies, including regulatory bodies. The difficulty I have with the amendment goes back to something I said earlier: it moves away from the OHPA being independent from the professions and the regulatory bodies who use its services. The amendment does not suggest the independence that we all want for the OHPA, particularly if further representations are allowed. In addition, by providing the regulators with a secondary pathway to make representations on the rules, the consultation process is undermined because it would exclude other parties  specified in legislation and others who may have responded. Any modification to the rules will be on the basis of discussions between the OHPA and the Privy Council.

In response to a question from the hon. Lady, the Privy Council plays a role in respect of certain statutory regulatory bodies and other bodies incorporated by royal charter that cover a number of professions. It also plays a role in the world of higher education. I learned something new in this briefing because in my day the President of the Council was also the Leader of the House. Now, apparently the President of the Council is Baroness Ashton.