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Health and Social Care Bill

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2011

As I told the House on 4 April, we are taking the opportunity presented by a natural break in the legislative process to pause, listen, reflect and improve our plans for modernisation of the health service. We will consider what amendments are required in the light of this.

The Health and Social Care Bill is undoubtedly one of the most controversial pieces of legislation being proposed by the coalition. May I push the Secretary of State a little further on some of the answers that he has given my hon. Friends and ask him exactly how he will ensure adequate parliamentary time to scrutinise the amendments that he will bring forward?

I am not sure that I necessarily subscribe to the hon. Gentleman’s premise. This issue is important and it warrants the kind of attention that we are giving to it, and there is an opportunity to listen, reflect and improve the Bill because we want to ensure that we can thereby strengthen the NHS. On strengthening the NHS, I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not take the opportunity to refer to the £12.9 million increase in the budget for Tameside and Glossop PCT this year—something that Labour would not have offered. The truth is that we are going to strengthen the NHS through the Health and Social Care Bill, as we are strengthening it through our commitment to the priorities of the NHS.

Has my right hon. Friend had any further thoughts on the effect of HealthWatch England’s representatives being included in local health and wellbeing boards? Does he think that the provisions are sufficiently robust to ensure that they have an impact on commissioning?

As my hon. Friend knows, we intend health and wellbeing boards to bring together HealthWatch, plus councillors, commissioning bodies and providers, as part of the process of local representation, so that we can link up NHS commissioning with public health and social care, to see how they collectively meet the joint strategic needs assessment led by the local authority.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). The change of mind on the part of the Opposition Front Bench fazed me, for which I apologise. The hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) wants his opportunity to ask a question, and he should have it.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think there was some confusion between questions 13 and 16.

We obviously want to see important improvements to the Bill, including the deletion of part 3, which drives competition to the heart of the NHS, and of clause 150, which removes the private patients’ income cap. I also want to ask the Secretary of State a specific question. On 16 March, during the Bill’s passage through the House, the Prime Minister said to the Leader of the Opposition:

“Perhaps he would like to…support our anti-cherry-picking amendment.”—[Official Report, 16 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 292.]

Will the Secretary of State tell us whether it is still the Government’s policy to table such an amendment in this House, or whether they intend to do so at a later stage?

As I said earlier, when we have completed this process of listening and reflecting, we will table amendments to the Bill. I will tell the House about them then, just as I told them on 4 April that we were going to go through this process. Let me make it clear that we are intending not to allow cherry-picking. We intend to make it absolutely clear to the private sector or anybody else that they must not be able to compete with the NHS on uneven terms because, actually, that is what the last Labour Government did. Under that Government, we ended up with £250 million being spent on operations in private hospitals that never took place because of the poor nature of the private sector provision that they put in place. We are not introducing competition into the NHS through this Bill. Why does the hon. Gentleman suppose that the last Labour Government set up the competition and co-operation panel, if not—