The clause sets out the Bill’s territorial extent. The Bill extends to England and Wales only. The Committee will note that clause 1 provides for the Data Guardian to publish guidance and give advice, information and assistance, but that applies only to the processing of health and social care data in England. However, in regard to application, the provisions extend to England and Wales but apply only to England. The provisions do not extend or apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland. I hope that is perfectly clear.
Well no, it is not really. In fact, it is a little bit worse than that. We return to clause 2(5), which says:
“‘The health service’ means the health service continued under section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006”,
but that Act states:
“The Secretary of State must continue the promotion in England of a comprehensive health service” and so on. I therefore do not understand why the Bill extends to England and Wales. Will the provision will have any relevance whatever in Wales? If not, I do not know why it says that it does.
In regard to application, the provisions extend to England and Wales but apply only to England. I have to confess that my knowledge of devolution arrangements is perhaps not as good as it should be, but our view is that the Bill applies only to England. Although the provisions could extend to England and Wales, it would be within the competence of the National Assembly for Wales to appoint a guardian and make such arrangements. That said, the National Data Guardian is an advisory role—it is not a reserved power under devolution arrangements—and as is common in the operation of the health systems in all four nations, I would expect that the advice and guidance given by the National Data Guardian would be heard and, when appropriate, acted on by the health services in the other nations.
My understanding when preparing for the Committee was that it would apply to England only. I think that is what the Minister has confirmed. Certainly in my part of the world there is quite a lot of movement of patients both ways between England and Wales, because we are quite close to the Welsh border. Can the Minister explain what will happen to patient records in that situation?
Clearly the Bill extends to England, but the purpose of the National Data Guardian is to give advice on the appropriate sharing of data and best practice. I should expect practitioners to have regard to the advice regardless of where they come from, because, notwithstanding the legal framework in which they operate, all health professionals want to behave in a responsible way. We expect the guidance of the National Data Guardian to be good practice. She has been giving advice without statutory powers to do so, and that advice has been respected; I think that that will continue. It is largely through an accident of the current structuring of the health service that the provisions are as they are. The principles under which the Data Guardian will give advice extend way beyond the geography of England.