Clause 38 - Reconfiguration of services: intervention powers

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 21st September 2021.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 3:45 pm, 21st September 2021

One particular example comes to mind, but given that it is a live one, I will not use it. However, if I semi-anonymise it, there are decisions that are made locally and followed through, and only at that last moment is the process challenged—for example, whether a consultation was done properly—so it triggers a potential referral to the IRP, which could see that process overturned. An earlier power to intervene and an earlier opportunity to engage could in many cases avoid that problem and lead to a smoother process.

Let me make a final point. I would expect most reconfiguration decisions to be managed by the local system, and system players will be encouraged to resolve matters locally where possible and not to require any referral to the Secretary of State. Where cases are highly contentious and require ministerial input, our proposals will allow the Secretary of State to intervene. He is accountable in Parliament for reconfigurations. The shadow Minister made the broader point that if we ask who is responsible for the NHS, people will say the Secretary of State, or potentially the Prime Minister. That is already there in people’s minds. It is right that we have commensurate powers in the Bill to enable the Secretary of State to properly discharge that function and accountability.

I remain touched by the hon. Gentleman’s kind concern about the volume of work I may end up having to do as a result of the measure. I do not quite share his concerns, but I am none the less touched by the thought.

I urge the hon. Member for Bristol South, perhaps in vain, not to press her amendment to a Division, and colleagues on the Committee to support the clause.