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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Wednesday 6 June 2018

Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill (Fifth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Ms Nadine Dorries, †Albert Owen

Allan, Lucy (Telford) (Con)

Bone, Mr Peter (Wellingborough) (Con)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

† Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

† Harper, Mr Mark (Forest of Dean) (Con)

† Khan, Afzal (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)

Lee, Karen (Lincoln) (Lab)

† Linden, David (Glasgow East) (SNP)

† Matheson, Christian (City of Chester) (Lab)

Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con)

Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)

Paisley, Ian (North Antrim) (DUP)

† Smith, Chloe (Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office)

Stewart, Bob (Beckenham) (Con)

Wiggin, Bill (North Herefordshire) (Con)

Kenneth Fox, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Wednesday 6 June 2018

[Albert Owen in the Chair]

Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill

Before we begin proceedings, I remind Members to turn their electronic devices to silent mode and not to drink tea or coffee during our sittings. If people wish to go outside and have a break, that is a matter for them.

As the Committee cannot consider the clauses of the Bill until the House has agreed a money resolution, I call Afzal Khan to move that the Committee do now adjourn.

I beg to move, That the Committee do now adjourn.

I thank hon. Members for coming here on this lovely Wednesday morning. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester, who is now Labour’s Front-Bench lead on the Bill. I can only offer my apologies that our time will not be well spent as we are meeting just to adjourn: without a money resolution, we cannot discuss any part of the Bill.

I am determined not to let this rest, as MPs from all parties have made it clear that it is unacceptable that we have not yet had a money resolution. Parliamentary precedent and the will of the House dictate that we should be able to debate the Bill in Committee, and we have only a few weeks before the summer recess.

As the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said in its report, the Government “cannot be confident” that the House of Commons will support the implementation of the boundary commissions’ proposals when they come before us in the autumn. We all agree that we need new boundaries, and the Bill could be a real alternative to the boundary commissions’ proposals—it would not mean resorting to current boundaries for a 2022 general election. However, if we are to have that, we need to get a move on.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. As you were not in the Chair for our previous sitting, you have the blessing of not having already heard what I am about to say. I want to respond to a couple of points made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton. First, I cannot think of a better way to spend some time on a Wednesday morning than sitting in a Committee Room with such esteemed colleagues from both sides of the House. It is a great pleasure, and I look forward to doing so for many Wednesdays to come, even if it is only for a short time and not for as long as we would hope.

The Government have made their position clear, and it should not come as a surprise to the hon. Gentleman: they have not ruled out bringing forward a money resolution, but they feel that the House should have the opportunity to consider the boundary commissions’ reports, which are under way. I note what he said about the report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), but we should not prejudge the House’s decision on the boundary commissions’ reports. It is reasonable to wait for the House to see those reports—we have not seen them yet—and for it then to make a decision. We can then come back to this issue. That is a reasonable position, and the Committee may then be in a position to consider the significant detail of the Bill.

If the Labour party is really signed up to having more equal-sized constituencies, and boundaries drawn using electorates more recent than 18 years ago, on which current boundaries are based, it should not keep trying to put blockages in the way. The last time there was a boundary review, Labour worked with the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords to disrupt it and put it off for five years. I am afraid that it is difficult to see this as anything other than an attempt to do the same all over again. None the less, I look forward to seeing the boundary commissions’ reports and the debate we will then have in the House. We can then come back to this issue.

As the Minister has said on numerous occasions, the Government will then be able to reflect on whether to bring forward a money resolution, and then we may be in a position to debate the Bill. I for one love talking about this subject, as the hon. Gentleman will know from studying Hansard when we took the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 through the House. We spent many happy hours on that on the Floor of the House and I look forward to the opportunity to do so again.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton for welcoming me to the Committee. I can inform the Committee that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) has commenced maternity leave. I have no further news than that but it is my great pleasure to substitute for her.

It is also a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen, though it is also bitter sweet and rueful, because it seems to me that the pleasure will be denied. Proceedings here will be over all too soon, for no other reason than political manoeuvrings, because the Government have failed to recognise a democratic vote on Second Reading to allow the Bill to proceed to Committee stage. The House made a decision and we should respect that.

The Government have form in talking out private Members’ Bills but I venture the possibility that this is the first time a private Member’s Bill has been blocked by not being talked about. This is the first time for such a Bill not to be talked out but to be simply knocked into the long grass.

The right hon. Member for Forest of Dean is more experienced in the matter and I always love to hear his view.

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to an example I gave at the previous sitting of the Committee when the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood was serving on the Front Bench. That was the private Member’s Bill brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) on the European Union referendum, a measure that we now know commanded majority, albeit only a small majority, support in the country.

That Bill did not receive a money resolution, despite the fact that the Prime Minister of the day was in favour of one. There were all sorts of complicated coalition-related reasons for that. This is not the first time that a Bill has not made progress. The Leader of the House, gave several examples in the debate in the House. This is certainly not the first time and probably will not be the last.

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for pointing me in the right direction on that. He talked about reasons within the coalition for not bringing forward a money resolution. I cannot see any reasons why a money resolution should not be brought forward now. At least we could make progress in Committee and then take the Bill back to the House for Report and Third Reading to see whether it still commands support.

I respectfully suggest to the Minister that this really is not a good look. It does not look as though the Government are engaging well in the democratic process. There may be reasons not to introduce a money resolution but the impression it gives is of stifling democracy and ignoring a decision made on the Floor of the House on Second Reading. I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s famous aphorism:

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

That applies very much in the case of this Bill. It might be problematic for the Government to talk about the Bill but it will be even more problematic if they do not, because they will give the impression of running scared of a democratic decision that might not suit their political position.

The Minister’s position seems to be to knock this into the long grass, to see if we can get to recess without a money resolution, and once the House returns after the summer recess, to see if we can get the debate that the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean might have been referring to. That is the debate on the current boundary provisions, which we know are based on an out-of- date register lacking 2 million voters, thus distorting representation.

It is the case that whenever a boundary review is set in train a line has to be drawn somewhere. I would make two points. First, the current boundary review uses electoral registers that are more up to date than existing constituencies, which are 18 years out of date. Secondly, analysis by Matt Singh of the Number Cruncher Politics website, which I have referred to in the House before, shows that the distribution of those 2 million voters across the country was broadly proportionate to the existing electorate. In other words, contrary to the impression the hon. Gentleman was trying to give, that would not have made a significant difference to the distribution of parliamentary constituencies.

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we need a boundary review, that the current constituencies are 18 years out of date—that is unacceptable—and that there is a size discrepancy that needs to be addressed. The problem is that when the current boundary review was launched, the Electoral Commission expressed the view that the current electoral registers were deficient. We asked for time to be given to update those registers. The Government did not provide that time, and sure enough, shortly afterwards, as the European referendum came along, those 2 million extra voters suddenly reappeared on the register.

We know that the registers, although they may be less than 18 years out of date, simply are not sufficiently up to date or fit for purpose for the task 18 months or two years ago, so what is going to happen now? It strikes me that the Minister’s job is to knock the Bill into the long grass—to knock the ball away as often as she can between now and the summer recess, or between now and when the boundary review comes back. It is a bit like Geoffrey Boycott at the crease—I know you are a cricket lover, Mr Owen—knocking back every ball.

Order. Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. I am indeed a sports lover, and I go by the rules. Under the rules of the Committee, we are debating a motion to adjourn rather than the clauses of the Bill. Will he therefore focus on the matter of adjourning the Committee until 13 June, rather than on the details of the Bill, which we are not allowed to discuss?

I am most grateful for your guidance, Mr Owen. My point is that the Minister seems to wish to seek an adjournment now and at future sittings in order to knock back, in Boycott fashion, consideration of the detail of the Bill.

I am reminded of my old mate Michael Atherton and his famous 185 not out to save the test in Johannesburg. The rest of the England batting order collapsed, but Mike managed to save the day. I say to the Minister, however, that that test was not won. Mike Atherton did not succeed in winning the test; he managed only to stave off a decision until the next match. My advice to her, therefore, is that consideration of the Bill may be delayed, but the day of reckoning will come. It would be better for her and for the Government’s reputation if they allowed us to get round to discussing the detail of the Bill, rather than giving the impression that the Bill is not worth discussing, for political reasons as opposed to anything in it.

What a pleasure it is to be back in the political purgatory that is the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill Committee. I am disappointed that the other Chair, the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries), is not here, because we could have called it, “I’m in a Public Bill Committee… Get Me Out of Here!” We seem to meet fairly regularly to consider at length the Bill, which the House passed on Second Reading, but of course is being stonewalled in Committee by the Government.

I warmly welcome the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for City of Chester. I am sure that we all wish the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood a very safe delivery of her baby. I myself—well, for reasons of biology, clearly I am not expecting a baby, but my wife is expecting one in the autumn. At this rate, I wonder whether we will have a money resolution by then. It seems bizarre that we may go for nine months before we get one. The Bill received its Second Reading last year, and since then a number of Bills that were behind this one in the queue have been expedited, in the sense of having been given money resolutions.

Alarmingly, not that long ago the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill, which I believe was 92nd in the queue of private Members’ Bills, received its money resolution. That Bill was brought forward by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. It seems somewhat bizarre that the Government spend huge amounts of time saying, “We need to be careful about committing public money and bringing forward money resolutions.” Surprisingly, I think I was the only Member other than the hon. Gentleman and the Minister to speak in the debate about that resolution. Sometimes the Government say that money resolutions are very important, yet in the case of the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill, the money resolution passed in 13 minutes. There seems to be a case of having a cake and eating it here.

I am approaching one year in this House. As one pulls together an annual report and reflects on the first year, people start to ask questions about what has been done. It is embarrassing to say that I came along to this charade on a Wednesday morning to debate a Bill that cannot be debated, and to get to debate a sittings motion. Probably the only thing I can do is stand up and go through my diary and say we could probably meet a bit sooner than next Wednesday.

I am reminded of some of the work I have been doing with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. I had the great honour and privilege of going to Tunisia after the Arab spring as part of a delegation about capacity building there. During that time, I felt I had to stand up and apologise for that title of “Westminster Foundation for Democracy”, because this is a place of limited democracy. We see that today when we have a Bill in front of us that we cannot debate and cannot even consider clause by clause.

I remember the hope in the faces of those young Arab women in Tunisia that democracy was coming. They would say, “You are from the Mother of all Parliaments. Tell us about this great democracy.” It was quite embarrassing to tell them that we are the only country other than Lesotho that has hereditary chieftains and the only country other than Iran that has unelected clerics legislating.

The right hon. Member for Forest of Dean talks about boundaries that are 18 years out of date. I do not hear him talk about a private Member’s Bill system that is decades upon decades out of date and that is inherently unfair to Back Benchers who want to introduce legislation. The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton brought forward legislation that commanded the support of the House of Commons on Second Reading. We see an arrogant Government blocking that by the most dishonourable means.

As the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean has said, we will come here for many Wednesdays but we are probably reaching a particular point. The elephant in the room is the lack of Democratic Unionist party attendance. We all know that that party holds the key here. They are probably just awaiting the right point to cave in on the Government and I suspect that this Bill might be part of that.

We can come here for Wednesday upon Wednesday. The hon. Member for City of Chester is right. There will come a day of reckoning. I look forward to that day but until then I am happy to stand up and make speeches. However, I do not think that is a great use of my time. This is probably the most embarrassing job I have been asked to do in my first year in this place.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly till Wednesday 13 June at half-past Nine o’clock.

Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Dame Cheryl Gillan

† Bone, Mr Peter (Wellingborough) (Con)

† Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab)

† Chope, Sir Christopher (Christchurch) (Con)

Cooper, Rosie (West Lancashire) (Lab)

† Davies, Philip (Shipley) (Con)

† Day, Martyn (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP)

† Doyle-Price, Jackie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) (Lab)

† Madders, Justin (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)

Malhotra, Seema (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Quince, Will (Colchester) (Con)

Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP)

† Throup, Maggie (Erewash) (Con)

Twigg, Stephen (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op)

Gail Bartlett, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Wednesday 6 June 2018

[Dame Cheryl Gillan in the Chair]

Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill

I do not anticipate that the sitting will be lengthy, but may I remind Members to turn off electronic devices or put them on silent? Also, tea and coffee are not allowed during the sittings; no one is transgressing, but it is felt that there is a need for such announcements.


That, if proceedings on the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill are not completed at this day’s sitting, the Committee shall meet on Wednesdays while the House is sitting at 9.25 am.—(Mr Bone.)


That the Bill be considered in the following order, namely, Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clause 2, Clause 3, Schedule 2, Clauses 4 to 6, new Clauses, new Schedules, remaining proceedings on the Bill.—(Mr Bone.)

Clause 1

National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to consider that schedule 1 be the First schedule to the Bill.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl. I welcome the Minister and shadow Minister to the Committee.

The purpose of the Bill is to put on to a statutory footing the office of the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care, and to promote the provision of advice and guidance about the processing of health and adult social care data in England. It would be remiss of me not to mention the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill): she has worked hard for a long time to establish the position of the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care, and her perseverance and tenacity have ensured that we are on track to deliver it.

I thank the Minister and shadow Minister for their help and support with the Bill—and special thanks, of course, go to Dame Fiona Caldicott, who has pioneered the work on ensuring that the NHS handles data properly. She has been very helpful to me in the preparation of the Bill.

Clause 1 creates the Office of the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care, referred to in the Bill as the “Data Guardian”. It makes general provisions about the Data Guardian’s functions and the way in which they are to be carried out. Subsection (2) empowers the Data Guardian to publish guidance about the processing of health and adult social care data in England. I should like to make it clear that it also covers public health data.

Subsection (3) imposes a duty on certain organisations and individuals to have regard to the National Data Guardian’s published guidance. Comment has been made as to why the Secretary of State is not included in the list. However, the Department of Health and Social Care is already included in the definition of those who have to have regard to the National Data Guardian’s advice, so it would be superfluous to include the Secretary of State.

Subsections (4), (5) and (6) cover requirements in relation to the Data Guardian’s published guidance. Those subsections are intended to keep the guidance relevant over time and, if necessary, updated to reflect new evidence. It has been suggested that subsection (5) should add an obligation that organisations and individuals that process health and social care data should provide the Data Guardian with appropriate information. I argue that that would create a duplication of the remit of regulators that already exist in those sectors. The Data Guardian’s role is as an advocate for the patient and the public, to build and maintain public trust. The role is as much about supporting individuals and organisations to get it right first time as it is about commenting, advising and providing guidance. It is not the intention of this Bill to create another regulator, but that the National Data Guardian should work with the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Care Quality Commission.

It has also been suggested that subsection (6) should add a duty that all data controllers and their data processors must publish their response to all advice issued. That would be extremely burdensome on those organisations and individuals, and it would be toothless without sanctions. Accountability should be assessed through actions, not written responses; the existing regulators would be able to assess the adherence to guidance and would cite the National Data Guardian during any investigation.

Clause 1(7) allows the Data Guardian to give informal advice, assistance and information to anyone, as long as it is about or relates to the processing of health and adult social care data in England. Clause 1(8) gives the Data Guardian flexibility in how far any particular piece of advice, assistance, information or guidance may be extended. The effect is to clarify that the Data Guardian can publish guidance and give advice on specific topics or themes, and can target it to certain organisations, individuals or sectors as appropriate. Clause 1(9) provides that the duty to have regard to the Data Guardian’s published guidance applies only in so far as the guidance is relevant to the functions or services of the body or person.

Clause 1(10) introduces schedule 1 to the Bill. As clause 1 and schedule 1 are being debated together, I will make some brief comments on schedule 1. The schedule makes further provision for the establishment, maintenance and operation of the Office of the Data Guardian. It sets out the Data Guardian’s terms of appointment and covers a broad range of matters related to the Office of the Data Guardian. It includes its constitution, its financial and reporting framework, and how members of staff and advisers are reported and remunerated. I draw the Committee’s attention to paragraph 15 of schedule 1, which provides that the Secretary of State must pay to the Data Guardian the amount that he considers appropriate for the purpose of enabling the Data Guardian to carry out his or her functions.

The Committee will be aware that there was some debate about the cost during the money resolution debate. I thank hon. Members who are here today and those who took part in the debate. I want to make clear that, although the estimated cost is £725,000 per year, that is only an additional £225,000 per year and relates to putting the Data Guardian on a statutory footing. As the Committee will know, there is already a Data Guardian, which costs £500,000; we are just putting this on a statutory footing and saying it is the right thing to do.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on having got his Bill so far. On the costs, the Data Guardian will basically be indemnified for the costs incurred, yet I see that the Data Guardian will have enormous flexibility to publish and give as much guidance or advice as they wish. Surely the Data Guardian could, by giving a lot more advice and guidance over which there is no control, result in significantly increased costs for the public sector?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention and the fact that he is on the Committee; I know that all Committees welcome his membership.

The reason why we have a Data Guardian is to provide safeguarding and to make sure that the data is handled properly. Those costs can only be estimated; as my hon. Friend says, they could be more or less, depending on the requirements. That is exactly why we need a guardian. I would like the costs to be minimal, because that means that we are handling the guardian properly. But if there needs to be more, because there is a requirement to do more, there will be more cost.

Does my hon. Friend know of any case where a regulator given powers by Parliament has chosen to reduce the amount of powers that are used? Surely, the natural thing is for regulators to increase their activity, using the powers to the maximum and thereby increasing the costs.

I agree, but what we are not doing today is creating a regulator; I would not be likely to propose a Bill to create a regulator. The Data Guardian already exists and it is not a regulator—I specifically said that in my opening remarks. Although it is probably true that regulators do that, that is not what I expect to happen with the National Data Guardian.

It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl. I congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough on his notable success in getting the Bill to this stage, and I thank him for his candour during the debate on the money resolution and for his acknowledgment of his good fortune in getting the Bill to this stage ahead of others.

As I mentioned when we debated the money resolution of the Bill, Labour Members welcome the decision to put the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care on a statutory footing. On that basis, we agree with the thrust of the Bill. I am sure that colleagues will be relieved that I do not intend to speak for too long, but I have one or two comments and observations about clause 1—and about clause 2, which we will discuss a little later. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the points made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough, some of which I was going to make anyway.

I mentioned when the money resolution was debated that although the use of data has the potential to improve our health services and treatments beyond recognition, we know from past experience that use of data in the NHS and in wider society can prove controversial and carries high levels of suspicion among patients. We hope that the establishment of the Data Guardian on a statutory footing can give patients confidence that their medical information will be treated in the correct manner. I note from the comments of the hon. Member for Wellingborough that there seems to be an omission from clause 1 as it stands, as there does not seem to be an opportunity for the National Data Guardian to give advice to the Secretary of State himself, although he considers that duty to be covered elsewhere and that such as an addition would be superfluous.

There seems to be a discrepancy that leaves the Data Guardian in an inferior position to either the existing Confidentiality Advisory Group or the Health Research Authority. I would be grateful to know if that was the intention of the legislation. The power to appoint the Data Guardian rests entirely with the Secretary of State, seemingly without any qualification. Is it envisaged that the Health Committee might get an opportunity to comment on such appointments? Recent appointments in the health sector have proven controversial, so it would be appropriate for the Select Committee to comment.

Our second query relates to public health commissioned through local authorities. Given the heavy use of data in public health, it is surprising that that does not seem to be covered by the Bill. Given all the public health activity undertaken by non-public bodies in recent years, I would welcome comments from the Minister and from the hon. Member for Wellingborough about whether the Bill is intended to cover health in the broader sense.

There is also a query about other forms of data that are more directly within the NHS, such as the cancer registry, which resides in Public Health England. It uses data collected by the NHS that could affect the direct care of patients. I would welcome confirmation of whether the Data Guardian is intended to cover that data, too.

The hon. Member for Wellingborough touched on clause 1 (6), which I would like to explore in a little more detail. Labour Members might have expected it to include an obligation for data controllers not only to have regard to advice, but to publish their response to that advice. That expectation is not unrealistic, given that the responses to question 5 of the Government’s consultation were overwhelmingly supportive of such a provision.

In question 5 of the consultation, the Government propose that

“organisations holding health and care data which could be used to identify individuals should be required to publish all materials demonstrating how they have responded to advice from the national data guardian.”

In their response to the consultation, the Government said:

“Responses were supportive of the proposal that the national data guardian should be given formal advice giving powers.”

That would certainly provide reassurances that the National Data Guardian will have real authority and act as an independent voice for patients, but without such statutory backing it is foreseeable that its independence and authority could be undermined. Without a requirement for organisations that receive advice to provide evidence of their response in a way that can be easily disseminated, there is no way we can be sure that the Data Guardian will be effective in doing the important job required by the Bill.

Members will recognise that the requirement for bodies to “have regard” to advice does not always mean that they take action in respect of that advice. An obvious example of that is, of course, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, which we know CCGs often ignore—seemingly with total impunity. I am sure Members do not want a repeat of that with this Bill, so I ask the hon. Gentleman and the Minister to respond on that point in a little more detail. I take the point that providing such responses might be burdensome on authorities controlling data, but I do not think that that cuts the mustard, given our concern about whether this measure will give the Data Guardian sufficient authority and teeth to deal with the issues under discussion.

My final point on clause 1 relates to data sharing and the lack of a positive obligation for bodies to provide that information. For the National Data Guardian to take a view on a particular data issue, it must first know that there is an issue on which to take a view—an unknown unknown, as we say. Could we have a published register of data sharing arrangements to which NHS bodies could sign up and submit a copy of their agreements? That would provide the Data Guardian with a single point of reference from which it could note any new agreements outwith the norm; that is exactly what the Government committed to doing with the current public service delivery data sharing codes of practice currently laid before Parliament.

There is a danger that the Data Guardian will become involved only after an issue has already reached the public’s attention, and possibly after an inappropriate use of data that might already have affected thousands of patients. A positive obligation to shared data arrangements with the Data Guardian might reduce the risk of such an eventuality. I look forward to hearing from the Minister and the hon. Gentleman on those points.

For the sake of our protocols, I should say that I had arranged for the windows to be opened because it is rather warm in this Committee room, but I am perfectly happy if people wish to remove their jackets.

Thank you, Dame Cheryl. I want to raise two small points. The first is slightly to tease the hon. Member for Wellingborough: I cannot imagine another Bill making its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords about which he would be so casual when it came to the amount it might eventually cost. I normally think of him as the most robust challenger of any public expenditure, but I note that in the order of magnitude he is drifting by about 50%. When there is a Labour Government, I look forward to him applying exactly the same logic to all Labour legislation.

My serious point is about how this Bill relates to Members of Parliament, who are probably the single body of people not covered by the Bill, but who might be tangentially affected by it. People often come to us with complaints about their local health board—in my case, in Wales—or about their general practitioner or the provision of care in a care home, through the local authority or some private sector deliverer. We often have highly confidential information stored, almost as if we were a GP or a doctor; certainly to that degree of information. For that matter, that is also sometimes information that has been provided by other authorities such as the police.

Particularly in the light of recent developments on the general data protection regulation, it is obviously important that we ensure that we are abiding within the law and adopting best practice, but it would be a terrible shame if we ended up being unable to keep records relating to people who, to all intents and purposes, have come to us as constituents—almost as patients—and who would be rather surprised if we were to destroy the information we have kept about them. When they turn up seven years later, they expect us to remember every single case we have ever dealt with, or for that matter that our predecessor dealt with. I fully understand why it is right that when a Member of Parliament changes, things start all over again, but it would be crazy to adopt any kind of standard procedure of deleting, for every Parliament or every two or three years, material that could be important to the patient—the client, patient, customer, or constituent, however we want to term them.

Another important element of this relates primarily to the safety of our staff. Sometimes we deal with people who have major psychotic episodes during their life, or have mental health problems. I am not saying that just because someone has a mental health problem, it means they will be problematic, but it may be that when there are repeat visits to an MP’s office, it is useful to have kept the information for several years about the person who has come in through the door. Thus, for instance, if our staff have changed, the new staff will be aware of the potential problems that might exist in relation to an individual.

I hope that the Data Guardian will be able to provide advice to Members of Parliament as well. I know that is not in the Bill and is not its primary purpose, but it would be a mistake if the guardian were to operate in a way that did not take any cognisance of the relationship that Members of Parliament have with local health boards, and with the health service and care provision in general.

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.

I am grateful for the support from the Minister and the shadow Minister, and I wish to pick up on a couple of points. The appointment will be down to the Secretary of State, but I absolutely expect it to go to the Health and Social Care Committee—I think that is understood. A point was raised about advice and having written reports on what is being done, but the argument against that is that we want to see action. There is some confusion—the Data Guardian is not a regulator, and therefore that is not its role. All organisations are covered by a regulator and will take into account what the National Data Guardian says. That is why I do not think that such a provision would work.

I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but it was clear in the Government consultation, and the response to it, that there was an intention for the body to have a few more teeth. Why did that change course?

The problem is that we could easily say that we need to have a regulator, but that is not what the Data Guardian does. We do not want to come along afterwards and say what has gone wrong; we want to get this right at the beginning and work with the different holders of data. It is a different approach. The comparison I think of is when I was involved with combating modern-day slavery. We now have a commissioner for that whose job is not to regulate but to expose and say what is going well or badly, and that helps. There could be pressure on an organisation—for instance, if it gets really bad publicity it will do something about it, but equally the commissioner will show where things are going well. We do not want to move towards a regulator or have lots of enforcement powers because that is totally different to what we have already established with Dame Fiona. Each hospital has a Caldicott guardian in it, so we are basically putting something that works on a statutory footing for the future.

I am pleased by the conversion of the hon. Member for Rhondda to concerns about cost, and I shall remind him of that if there is ever a Labour Government in future—

Well, I am sure there will be a Labour Government sometime in the next century.

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point about MPs and data provided by our constituents. Although I do not think it is particularly relevant to this, I do think all Members are wrestling with what the new regulations mean. Medical practitioners have to hold information for a very long time. I have very detailed medical information from some of my constituents, and serious issues might arise if we were forced to destroy such information. Perhaps the National Data Guardian could give some advice on that point. I get very frustrated when I have to deal with the local hospital, if I do not get a consent form. That is clearly a delaying factor and definitely needs to be cleared up.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 2


Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

We have dealt with the heart of the Bill in clause 1. The subsequent clauses, while important, are not so detailed.

The purpose of clause 2 is to define some of the important terms used in clause 1. For instance, subsection (3) defines “adult social care”. I would clarify that children’s social care data, as has already been mentioned, is not within the scope of the Bill. It is covered via a different legislative framework and that framework has safeguards in place to protect children’s social care data from inappropriate use.

I would also point out that clause 2(7) provides that “processing” has the same meaning as given in section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998. That definition has been used as it is a broad definition that captures a whole range of activity involving data, including obtaining, holding, recording, using and sharing.

I wish to raise a point on the exclusion of children’s data. I appreciate that hon. Members have referred to it already, but we are slightly concerned that although children’s data may be covered elsewhere, the guardian does not have any ability to write to bodies in that respect. It is perfectly reasonable for that to be included; indeed, I think it was included in the original Bill as drafted. We see it as a safety net, rather than an added complication.

I confirm that the Government support the clause. On the point about children, it is our interpretation that the provisions do not prevent the National Data Guardian from engaging constructively with the Department for Education on adult social care data and its interaction with or effect on children’s data. Clearly, this is something we will monitor, but, bearing in mind that the whole ethos behind the creation of the National Data Guardian is to spread good practice and make representations rather than regulations, the concern that the hon. Gentleman has expressed is important, but we do not think it will get in the way of sensible engagement.

Will the Minister clarify what she understands from clause 2(5)? It states:

“‘The health service’ means the health service continued under section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006.”

That obviously includes ambulance services, but does it include those provided by St John Ambulance?

If I may, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman on that point. I would say that it would not, but I will confirm in due course.

The shadow Minister makes a fair point, which goes to the heart of a problem that I have found in the past—that children are looked after by the Department for Education and not the health service. When I dealt with modern-day slavery, I came across exactly the same problem. What the shadow Minister said should be heard loud and clear by the Department for Education.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Consequential amendments

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss that schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.

The clause introduces amendments to other legislation as a consequence of the Bill. Schedule 2 lists five Acts to be altered, following parliamentary counsel’s advice. Those are the Public Records Act 1958, the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967, the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Equality Act 2010.

Why is the hon. Gentleman so keen on disqualifying a Member of the House of Commons from being the Data Guardian?

We have taken parliamentary counsel’s advice—as always, I take advice from people. That is the reason: it is as a consequence of advice given by parliamentary counsel, and I am happy to accept that, unless the hon. Gentleman is thinking of himself in that role.

The consequential amendments introduced are typical for setting up such a body. The Government are content with the clause, as drafted.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 4


Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause sets out the Bill’s territorial extent. The Bill extends to England and Wales only. The Committee will note that clause 1 provides for the Data Guardian to publish guidance and give advice, information and assistance, but that applies only to the processing of health and social care data in England. However, in regard to application, the provisions extend to England and Wales but apply only to England. The provisions do not extend or apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland. I hope that is perfectly clear.

Well no, it is not really. In fact, it is a little bit worse than that. We return to clause 2(5), which says:

“‘The health service’ means the health service continued under section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006”,

but that Act states:

“The Secretary of State must continue the promotion in England of a comprehensive health service”

and so on. I therefore do not understand why the Bill extends to England and Wales. Will the provision will have any relevance whatever in Wales? If not, I do not know why it says that it does.

In regard to application, the provisions extend to England and Wales but apply only to England. I have to confess that my knowledge of devolution arrangements is perhaps not as good as it should be, but our view is that the Bill applies only to England. Although the provisions could extend to England and Wales, it would be within the competence of the National Assembly for Wales to appoint a guardian and make such arrangements. That said, the National Data Guardian is an advisory role—it is not a reserved power under devolution arrangements—and as is common in the operation of the health systems in all four nations, I would expect that the advice and guidance given by the National Data Guardian would be heard and, when appropriate, acted on by the health services in the other nations.

My understanding when preparing for the Committee was that it would apply to England only. I think that is what the Minister has confirmed. Certainly in my part of the world there is quite a lot of movement of patients both ways between England and Wales, because we are quite close to the Welsh border. Can the Minister explain what will happen to patient records in that situation?

Clearly the Bill extends to England, but the purpose of the National Data Guardian is to give advice on the appropriate sharing of data and best practice. I should expect practitioners to have regard to the advice regardless of where they come from, because, notwithstanding the legal framework in which they operate, all health professionals want to behave in a responsible way. We expect the guidance of the National Data Guardian to be good practice. She has been giving advice without statutory powers to do so, and that advice has been respected; I think that that will continue. It is largely through an accident of the current structuring of the health service that the provisions are as they are. The principles under which the Data Guardian will give advice extend way beyond the geography of England.

The Minister has explained that better than I could possibly do.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5


Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause provides for all the Bill’s provisions to be brought into force by regulations made by the Secretary of State. It is a standard clause to be found in many Acts of Parliament.

It may well be a standard clause, but such clauses are often abused by the Government. For example, Parliament passed a measure to outlaw exit payments for public sector workers in the Enterprise Act 2016. We are still waiting for the regulations under that primary legislation to be introduced. The Government now say that they will have to consult on them. Effectively, what Parliament thought was happening—the limiting of public sector exit payments—has not happened.

The Bill is supported across the House, as the measure I have mentioned was. I should be grateful for some indication from the Minister of when the Government will implement it. It could be delayed by the Government by means of the regulation-making powers in the clause; or by the Government’s not appointing the Data Guardian. There are other ways in which it could be delayed, and if we take the past as a guide to the future we should be suspicious of the Government when they are not prepared to include in the Bill a commitment for it to commence on a given date.

Christchurch and Rhondda speak as one, in a uniting of the Christophers, something that will not, I think, happen very often. It is a serious point; I understand that such clauses are a frequently used means of tidying up the process of a Bill coming into force. However, it adds cost, because the Government must go through an additional process; and frankly there is no reason why we should not just put in a date and tell the Government to get their act together—because everyone supports the measure.

I hope—I am sure—that the Minister will now say, “We intend to do it as soon as practicable after the Bill has been through both Houses,” and all the rest of it; but it would be better for the date to be in the Bill, because then she would not have to do anything later, and, to use a valleys word, it would be tidy. Let us be tidy.

Tempted as I am to engage in debate on the abuse or otherwise of statutory instruments, I prefer not to go down that road. Suffice it to say, we should put provisions into action only once they are tidy, to use the term suggested by the hon. Member for Rhondda. We should be governed by the integrity of the rules we pass rather than by speed, but I can confirm that it is the Government’s desire to implement the Bill, which we fully support, as soon as practicable. Clearly, we already have a National Data Guardian; the Bill would just put it on a statutory footing. It is in all our interests that we do that as soon as possible, so the Government are content with the clause.

Will the Minister assure us that she will take personal charge of ensuring that the Bill is brought forward quickly? To go back to the example I quoted earlier, I had a meeting with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and pointed out to her that one of the reasons there was a delay in implementing regulations was that civil servants did not have their heart in it and did not give it sufficient priority. The only way of ensuring that the civil servants in the Minister’s Department deliver on the wishes of the Committee and the House is for her to take charge and deliver. Will she ensure that the Bill is commenced before the end of this calendar year?

I completely agree with everything my hon. Friend says. It is Ministers’ responsibility to ensure that the decisions made by Parliament are actioned as promptly and effectively as possible. I know him well enough to be sure that he will hold me to account on exactly that basis if he does not feel the Bill comes forward quickly enough. I would like to see it commenced by the end of the year, and I will work with my officials to ensure that that is the case. If we cannot achieve that, I will give him an explanation.

I am grateful for the contributions by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and the hon. Member for Rhondda. I absolutely agree with their general comments. I looked carefully when drafting the Bill at the issue they raised. I could have included a provision that the Bill would come into effect, say, six months after it became law, but I did not because we already have a Data Guardian, so there will not be any gap, and I know how much the Government support the Bill. That is the reason we did not put in a date, but under other circumstances I absolutely would have insisted on one.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Short title

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause just requires the Act to be cited as the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Act 2017.

The Government are content with the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Before I close proceedings, may I thank all Members for taking part in the scrutiny of the Bill, and the Hansard reporters and officials from both the House and the Department who have supported us?

On a point of order, Dame Cheryl. I thank you very much for chairing the Committee and all Members for their participation, which is much appreciated.

Further to that point of order, Dame Cheryl. I echo the thanks of my hon. Friend and again thank him for his real industry on what will be an important reform. I also thank colleagues who showed up today for their probing questions, which are always important as we scrutinise legislation.

I do not think those are points of order for the Chair, but it is good that they have been put on the record.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose.