It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl, and an absolute pleasure to respond to the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough. I congratulate him on bringing this important reform forward and thank him for working so constructively with the Government to put the National Data Guardian on a statutory footing.
This is an important reform. As the shadow Minister mentioned, the public are rightly concerned about information and data that is held on them and the extent to which that is shared. The new National Data Guardian will do much to reassure people that the environment in which data is held and managed is one that respects their privacy, while at the same time ensuring that appropriate safeguarding can be achieved. Given the culture that exists within our health services, the comfort with which organisations can respond to the advice given by the National Data Guardian will make for a much more effective system to support the public.
I confirm the Government’s support for and commitment to the Bill. We very much wish it to succeed. We see real benefits to all individuals in ensuring that we share health and care data in a safe, secure and legal way. The Bill will go a long way to increasing public trust in the appropriate and effective use of health and care data. The National Data Guardian has already established herself as an independent and authoritative voice for the patient and service user in how their data is used in the health and adult social care system.
Let me address some of the points that have been raised. Clearly, my hon. Friends will be concerned about the potential costs, as we would be as Conservatives. The estimates we have established as a result of the impact assessment provide for some extra expenditure, and that is for additional staffing so that the published guidance has a legal status—that will be a natural outcome of putting the Data Guardian on a legal footing. There will be some additional costs, and we have been generous in our estimates for them.
The shadow Minister asked a number of questions about other agencies that might be covered by the Bill, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough said, the Bill as drafted covers public health. Provisions in the Bill will extend to local authority functions with respect to adult social care, but not to children because they are covered by a different legal framework.
The hon. Member for Rhondda raised some good points to which we could ask the National Data Guardian to have regard. He is right to say that we as Members of Parliament often take up health and social care issues on behalf of our constituents, and nothing is intended to get in the way of that. Indeed, it could be helpful to us if the National Data Guardian gave instructions to those bodies about their obligation to be open and transparent. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, and other hon. Members, have often found that the spirit of openness that we expect when we challenge something is not always respected. In that culture of openness, and with respect for privacy and safety, we support the Bill.