Clauses 74, 75 and 76 repeal the three-year time limit on special health authorities, restate the requirements for special health authorities and NHS trusts to keep proper accounts and records, and repeal the powers of the Secretary of State to make a property or staff transfer scheme.
Together, along with the provisions in the Bill to merge NHS England and NHS Improvement and the powers we will discuss in part 3 of the Bill in a few weeks’ time, these technical changes will help ensure that we have flexibility in the arm’s length body landscape to support the delivery of a world-class healthcare system.
Clause 74 repeals legislative provisions that currently impose a three-year time limit on any newly established special health authority. When the three-year time limit was initially imposed under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, it was envisaged that any future special health authority would have time-limited functions and therefore be temporary in nature. This has not proved to be the case.
The NHS Counter Fraud Authority is the only special health authority created since the time limit was introduced. The Government consider it unnecessary for the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, or any other special health authorities that are established in future, to undergo the process of extending their lifespan every three years. As well as repealing the time limit, the clause sets out changes to the statutory instrument used to create the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, to reflect the fact that there is no longer an abolition date.
Clause 75 simply tidies up provisions in the current legislation in respect of requirements to keep accounts. It restates the requirements for special health authorities and NHS trusts to keep proper accounts and records. It also restates a number of requirements in relation to the auditing and publication of accounts. This clause does not create any change in existing arrangements.
Finally, clause 76 abolishes powers taken in the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to transfer property, rights and liabilities from bodies abolished or modified by that Act. Those powers are now spent, so we are removing the clause to ensure neatness of the statute book, especially as a number of bodies in the 2012 Act are being abolished by this Bill. However, we have retained the ability to make transfer schemes in respect of previously transferred property and rights.
The Bill allows property, rights and liabilities that have been transferred previously under section 300(1), to subsequently be transferred to a Minister of the Crown, NHS England, an integrated care board, an NHS trust or foundation trust, or a qualifying company. That will ensure clarity that rights, property and liabilities are properly allocated and maintained, and not lost to the NHS.
These technical changes will support the wider intentions of the Bill to have a flexible and responsive national architecture for managing the healthcare system. I therefore propose that these clauses stand part of the Bill.
I will not detain the Committee for long. We are enjoying the Minister’s conversion as regards the folly of the 2012 Act, this being another example of things not turning out as originally envisaged. As he said, these clauses are necessary and we will not oppose them.