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Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill (Money)

Volume 641: debated on Monday 21 May 2018

Queen’s recommendation signified.

I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred under the Act by the Secretary of State.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) for bringing forward this important Bill. I once again confirm the Government’s support for and commitment to it and our desire to see it succeed.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sure that we can hang on for a couple more minutes before hearing the contribution of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone).

There is well-recorded Labour support for the Bill. The use of data has the potential to improve every aspect of the NHS by, for instance, transforming the way in which we diagnose illnesses such as cancer, and improving the patient experience by ensuring that every clinician at every stage has access to the complete picture. However, as we know from experience, the use of data in the NHS can be controversial, with high levels of suspicion among patients.

That suspicion is not unfounded. Official figures show that more than 100,000 patients were caught up in NHS data blunders in 2016-17. The number of serious data incidents has doubled in a year, and now, on average, there is one every three weeks. Last year it emerged that NHS Shared Business Services had failed to deliver just under 709,000 letters from hospitals to GPs’ surgeries, and that the correspondence had been left in an unknown warehouse. Those examples show the importance of effective, modern data protection laws with robust safeguards, which are central to securing the public’s trust and confidence in the use of personal information within the NHS. The establishment of a state-backed national data guardian for health and social care is one of the ways in which we can improve practice across the NHS and increase public confidence.

That said, the Government have fallen a long way short of their data aspirations. All hospitals and GPs were expected to be able to access GP records by 2014, and by 2015 patients were expected to be able to see all their own records online. We are some way from that, but the direction of travel is clear, which is why the Bill is so important.

The need for a data guardian is obvious, and we will support the motion, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that we are discussing a money resolution for the 94th Bill presented in the current Session. By an amazing coincidence, we have already heard extensively today from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) about his Bill, which was the ninth to be presented but for which there has still been no money resolution. Do we know why that is?

It cannot be right for the Government to decide when to accept the will of the House, or whether to accept it at all. Money resolutions have historically been formalities, introduced as a matter of course after Second Readings, but now we see Ministers picking and choosing when to listen to the sovereign body of this country. The Government are defying the will of the House and overstretching their executive power in the service of their own electoral interests. Nothing in this debate will change that, but one day they will be sitting on these Benches again, and they may come to regret having played so fast and loose with Parliament.

I am grateful to the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), for what he has said about the Bill. I completely understand his closing remarks, and I will try to deal with that dilemma later. It is very strange that a money resolution should be proposed for Bill No. 94 before one has been proposed for Bill No. 9. I also thank the excellent Minister—I think that we may be meeting tomorrow to discuss the Bill—for introducing the motion.

We had a long debate earlier today, which was technically about money resolutions following Second Readings. It was not particularly concerned with the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, but Members became carried away on that subject. What we should be doing tonight is deciding whether the expenditure for my Bill justifies a money resolution, but I can understand why Opposition Members—and, perhaps, some Conservative Members—feel that we should not pass the motion because it would leapfrog a Bill on which there was a substantive debate in the House and a very large vote. My Bill was given a Second Reading only because of the widespread support that it had attracted; there was no debate on it whatsoever. I therefore find myself in something of a dilemma over what course I should recommend to Members later.

Let me, however, explain what the Bill is about. The role of health and social care national data guardian has already been established, but the Bill would put it on a statutory footing. I thought that the need for a money resolution was a little arguable, as the Government were already paying for the same services, but the excellent advice from the Clerks was that we did need one, and the amount of money involved is reasonably substantial.

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said because I am, as he knows, one of the supporters of his Bill, so I am very grateful that we have got to this stage, too. It is said that the cost will be approximately £700,000. Does my hon. Friend think that is a fair estimate, or does he have a different view of the cost of the Bill?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention, but I would like to deal with that later in my remarks.

There is the following deferred Divisions motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Prime Minister:

“That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Mel Stride relating to the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill.”

That is interesting because under Standing Order No. 49 automatically there has to be a debate of up to 45 minutes on a money resolution, so I am not sure why that motion is on the Order Paper. The new version of Standing Orders published on 1 May is in the Vote Office today, and consideration of such a resolution automatically can go through the moment of interruption.

We have just allowed a money resolution to go through on the nod in relation to the Tenant Fees Bill and I think the sums involved are much higher than £700,000, yet under Standing Orders we were not allowed any separate debate on that. Can my hon. Friend explain why his Bill for £700,000 has 45 minutes but a much more expensive Bill has nothing?

Mr Deputy Speaker, I wanted to get credit for the fact that some years ago I got the House to accept that in Second Reading debates we can deal with the money resolution; that is perhaps my only achievement in Parliament. But it is right that if the money resolution does not follow Second Reading immediately there has to be a 45-minute debate, and the Department of Health and Social Care estimate of the cost is £700,000.

No, the Department has estimated that these costs will be approximately £700,000 per year, so actually I suppose they could exceed that. To me, that is quite a lot of money. We have to make sure we know what we are doing tonight and I will leave it to Members to decide.

It is only fair to say that I can understand why Members might want to oppose this money resolution. It is not necessarily because they are against this Bill, but it does stop the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill having much chance of making progress. That is because on certain Fridays private Members’ Bills have priority if they have come out of Committee, and if we pass the money resolution on my Bill tonight I will probably take 26 October while another Bill that has already gone through will take the November slot; there are no more dates available for private Members’ Bills. I can therefore understand why Members might want to vote against this money resolution tonight, and if they did, I would respect that.

Is my hon. Friend saying that if we vote for this money resolution this evening, the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill of an Opposition Member would not be able to proceed?

That is exactly what I am saying, because it would come on as a second Bill and therefore, as it is quite a complex Bill, would not get through. I think that some people who may have been involved in rearranging when money resolutions come through—this new idea of having a choice in relation to money resolutions—were aware of that fact, but I am not sure that everyone in this House was. I considered standing up and recommending that Members should not support this money resolution. However, if I did that, I would be playing into the Government’s hands, because that would stop a private Member’s Bill.

My hon. Friend seems to be saying—in his typically generous way—that, for the greater good, he would be prepared to make a short-term sacrifice in respect of his own Bill. From the debate that took place earlier today, we know that one way of avoiding the problem that he encounters by having to have a money resolution debated and voted on in the House tonight would be to have a Bill without a money resolution. When he drafted his Bill, did he consider whether it would be possible to draft it in such a way that it would not require any more public money?

Absolutely. There was much discussion with the Clerks of the House on that point. As my hon. Friend knows, that money has already been expended on the system that we have. My Bill is actually not going to cost the public purse any more money than at present. I argued strongly that my Bill should not have a money resolution, but the Clerks persuaded me that it was the proper thing to do. I think they felt that, on balance, it was safer to do it like this.

I did not think I would be speaking about a money resolution for my Bill. I did not think that anyone would spend any time on this matter. What normally happens—[Interruption.] No, I think we need to scrutinise this properly—

I do apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I think that we have 45 minutes, whatever happens.

I have lost my thread a bit, but the fact is—

Well, what I am trying to say is that, yes, there is £700,000 of expenditure but we are already paying £700,000 so I am not actually asking for any more money.

I also have a gripe about the time it has taken to get this money resolution here. I am not going to thank the Government for doing this, because I think that that is wrong. This should happen automatically. It is weeks and weeks since the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill had its Second Reading, and that was on exactly the same day that my Bill had its Second Reading. Mine was afterwards. I think there is something a little bit shifty here. I know that other Members want to speak, so let me just say that I want a money resolution and I want my Bill to move forward, but I will quite understand if the House divides tonight as a matter of principle.

What a pleasure it is to follow the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), with whom I am pleased to serve on the Procedure Committee. I will not take up too much of the House’s time tonight, as I have a further lengthy speech to write for a Public Bill Committee on Wednesday morning, but I was rather shocked when I saw this money resolution on the Order Paper, not least because the House spent time debating a similar matter at length this afternoon, as we set out, on a cross-party basis, the need for a money resolution for the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, which was passed unanimously by the House of Commons.

I presume that most Conservative Members have other engagements and cannot be here now, but they spent a huge amount of time this afternoon talking about the importance of money resolutions when committing public money and expenditure. This debate started at 9.44 pm and I think that the hon. Member for Wellingborough has been the only Conservative Member who has stood up to speak on this money resolution, which commits to spending £700,000 of public money. Conservative Members tell us on a regular basis that it is important to have lots of scrutiny when the Government are committing to using taxpayers’ money. Tonight, however, we have heard from the hon. Member for Wellingborough, whose Bill got its Second Reading on the nod, without debate, whereas hon. Members including me came here on a Friday from our constituencies to debate the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill. We spent some four hours doing that, and the Bill was passed. It is the ninth Bill of the Session, whereas this Bill from the hon. Member for Wellingborough is No. 94, so we face the rather bizarre spectacle tonight of a Bill that was ninety-fourth jumping over the Bill of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) and, indeed, the laudable Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) that relates to child refugees. Once again, we see this Government playing party politics with private Members’ legislation.

Proceedings interrupted (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Mel Stride relating to the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill.—(Amanda Milling.)

Question put and agreed to.

Debate resumed.

Main Question again proposed.

What a pleasure it is to take the House past 10 o’clock this evening.

It is quite interesting that schedule 1(15) to the Bill states:

“The Secretary of State must pay to the Data Guardian such sums as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of enabling the Data Guardian to perform his or her functions.”

In addition, the motion we are discussing is not cumbersome and states:

“That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred under the Act by the Secretary of State.”

It would therefore not be a lot of work for the Government to bring forward a money resolution for the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, too. Given that it has been easy tonight, I look forward the money resolution being passed for the Bill of the hon. Member for Wellingborough.

I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing us to debate this motion up to the maximum of 45 minutes. I was disappointed when it was introduced, however, because there was not much detail. We have heard about the approximate sum of £700,000 a year, but paragraph 47 of the Bill’s explanatory notes states:

“The Bill may result in some implementation costs for the bodies and individuals required to have regard to the Data Guardian’s published guidance, in that they will need to review and assess the relevance of the guidance.”

When the Minister comes to respond to this short debate, I hope that she will explain how many of those bodies and individuals are actually funded out of the public purse, and therefore to what extent additional costs will be incurred for the Exchequer in addition to the approximate £700,000 per annum.

I do not know whether the Opposition will call a Division, which they can do following the decision that deferred Divisions shall not apply to this motion this evening, but if they are really keen to move forward with the Bill that they were complaining about this afternoon, which has not yet received a money resolution, they should be using every available procedural device available to them to promote that cause. One is sometimes left with the feeling that there is a bit of gesturing here and that people do not have their heart in it, so I want to see the Opposition’s heart reflected in votes in this House, rather than in just mere words. Having said that, some important points have been made, and I hope that the Minister will respond to them.

Question put and agreed to.