Clause 145

Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 24th January 2008.

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National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Shadow Minister (Health)

I beg to move amendment No. 75, in clause 145, page 96, line 23, leave out ‘seek to’ and insert ‘make efforts to’.

I am glad that I serve some purpose to the Chairman, if nothing more than to enable him to draw breath. We should all be disappointed if you did not have opportunities to do so, Mr. Conway.

This is a pedantic little amendment, but I make no apology for being a pedant. The Minister says that all will be well because local authorities have a duty to work together, but things are not always so simple; sometimes words matter. The amendment would  replace “seek to improve” with “make efforts to”. I am not a lawyer, like my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury, and so am not so familiar with legislation, but I think that wording makes a difference. I should like there to be more emphasis on the board improving

“the practice followed by relevant bodies in relation to the processing of relevant information.”

If the Minister shares my pedantry, perhaps he will agree to the amendment. I do not think that he has agreed to any amendments during this Committee. The change we propose is a small one, and we certainly would not throw it in his face if he agreed to it. We would keep it a secret and not tell a soul.

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

My hon. Friend’s amendment is more important than she thinks. Without being too legalistic, as opposed to pedantic, I think that the point of moving from “seek to” to “make efforts to” is that her form would have something against which one would hope to be able to show that efforts have been made and therefore possibly have something to hold to account.

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Shadow Minister (Health)

I thank my hon. Friend, who reinforces my belief that it is important for this place to contain a variety of talents, such as his legal expertise. He is right; it is important that organisations created in legislation can be held to account for their actions. The words “make efforts to” would make a small difference to that.

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

Although we have not accepted any amendments, I have indicated in at least two cases that we intend to address the concerns raised at a later stage. I am not trying to be difficult, but we simply do not think that the amendment would add anything.

I am pleased that the Conservatives agree with our plans to establish a national information governance board for health and social care. We believe that the vigour with which the board will approach its functions will be down to the drive and enthusiasm of its chair, members and officers, rather than the nuance of the words in the Bill. Although I cannot accept the amendment, I reassure the hon. Lady that we shall do all we can to find a chair, members and officers who are passionate about information governance practice and capable of delivering the aims that we all share.

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Shadow Minister (Health)

I thank the Minister. Of course I am disappointed that he did not feel our amendment would add anything to the Bill, but I thank him for considering some of the points that have been made previously in the Committee. I hope that he takes on board some of the comments made today—I am sure he will. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 145 ordered to stand part of the Bill.