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Although I welcome the measure in principle, I wonder whether it will work in practice, at least over the next few years. It just so happens that the Select Committee on Home Affairs, on which I have the honour to sit, is investigating the procedures by which the Criminal Records Bureau will be established. We met the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), two days ago, and the Director General of the Data Protection Agency yesterday, and learned some alarming facts, which imply that joined-up government is non-existent in this respect.
No accurate prediction has been made of the demand that might be placed on the CRB. That creates two problems. First, we do not know precisely how large the computer capacity will have to be, how many terminals will be needed and how many people will have to be available to answer the inquiries. Secondly, it is difficult to assign a cost to the service. That is of particular interest to people who, like me, live in cities where health services are declining. The hospital in Lichfield is under threat, as are the services that it provides. According to the local health authority, that is because there is not enough money.
When I asked the Minister how much it would cost the health service to make inquiries about those two matters, he could not answer. I do not blame him for that--he was right to say that he did not know because the Home Office had not yet decided what the scale of fees should be. That corresponded with the evidence that the Home Office Minister gave to the Home Affairs Committee two days ago--so there is a little bit of joined-up government. He was asked when he would be able to estimate when the fee scales would be available, but he could not say. That creates a budgeting difficulty for the national health service at a time when services in Lichfield--I know that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, are familiar with Lichfield--and other parts of the United Kingdom are under threat.
An additional difficulty concerns the accuracy of information held on the Phoenix database, which is maintained by the police national computer and to which the CRB will have access. About 65 per cent. of its records are inaccurate. Either people are detailed as having committed a crime when they have not or--
We have a negative double whammy--if there is such a thing. The Bill has been brought hastily before the House and we have only three or four hours to discuss huge tranches of amendments. New clause 11 has an interface with section 115 of the Police Act 1997. They relate to the ability to access the CRB, but that will not have accurate information for some time. We do not know how much time; it seems that the Home Office Minister and the police are unable to say.
I asked the Minister earlier about provision for the national health service and others concerned with the new clause to access soft data. After a short pause, he said that the matter was covered by section 115 of the Police Act 1997. I am not sure that it is. I fully accept that the right hon. Gentleman is not a Home Office Minister. However, I ask him to consider the matter in more detail, with the necessary reference. I remind him that soft data, as they are known, are tremendously important, as they concern police intelligence.
Hamilton, who committed the massacre at Dunblane, had no criminal record. The enhanced criminal record certificate, even if it were up to date, would say that he would be all right to operate as one of the types of practitioner listed in detail in suggested new subsection (6C)(a) to (d) and so forth.
Intelligence information given by the local police force to the Scouts stopped the scouts from recruiting Hamilton as a Scout leader. That intelligence is known as soft data. I am not sure that there are mechanisms in new clauses 11 and 12 that would give the national health service access to such data.
On a day when newspapers are, rightly or wrongly, full of condemnation of the sentences that have been handed down by judges to known and convicted paedophiles, it is prescient to remind ourselves that now, much of the information on paedophiles is, before conviction, available only as soft data. The new clause is a worthy provision, but surely the Government would wish it to identify paedophiles and others who might not yet have a criminal conviction. That can be done only through the acquisition of soft data. As I have said, in the absence of a conviction, the enhanced criminal record certificate would produce a negative. The Minister has a duty to the House to ensure that we are satisfied that such soft data are made available.
I shall ask some specific questions. They may be slightly unfair because perhaps they apply more to the Home Office than to the Department of Health, but this is a Department of Health Bill. When does the Minister expect that the information held by the Criminal Records Bureau will be sufficiently accurate to be of real practical use to the NHS? When will the right hon. Gentleman next meet the Minister of State, Home Office to press for the information to be made available to him--assuming that it is accurate? When will he be able to say to the House
Mr. Denham: I shall reply as briefly as possible. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) deserves due credit for the extension from 21 days to 28. I apologise to him for omitting to say that in my earlier remarks. I am pleased that there is no argument in the House with the principle behind new clauses 11 and 12, and I am sure that means that we will be able to agree on those matters.
To touch briefly on the main questions raised by the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge, new clause 12 introduces conditional inclusion for part II services. Consequential amendments provide for conditional inclusion in supplementary lists, personal medical services lists and service lists. The hon. Gentleman is simply wrong in his interpretation that the Bill originally provided for conditional inclusion in PMS lists. The new clause and the amendments are therefore necessary.
Mr. Denham: I may be able to find the time to give an extended reply in due course. However, my initial response is that that covers matters such as the fact that someone should be suitably qualified to be a GP, rather than conditional inclusion in a list. It is desirable that the Bill should be clear, and that there be a specific power covering conditional inclusion in a list, rather than have such inclusion implied, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, in other parts of the Bill.
Amendment No. 59 would change the word "director" to the words "member of the body of persons controlling". The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge said that there was a perfectly satisfactory definition of a director in company law. However, there is a new arrangement: limited liability partnerships do not have directors as such, so to cover them, the Bill needs to include a separate identifier of persons in control. Those partnerships may well be suitable for some providers of health services--in pharmacy, for example.
The hon. Gentleman asked about "this group of sections" which is defined in proposed section 49F(5) in clause 27, and runs from proposed sections 49F to 49O. There is an apparent inconsistency between the terms "practitioner" and "person", but in context they are right. The word "practitioner" is used when it refers to a specific practitioner, such as a member of a medical list. The word "person" is used in the legal sense, and was used in the drafting to deal with a list that could include a corporate body, such as a dental list or a pharmaceutical list. There is a reason behind the apparent inconsistency: in fact, it is not an inconsistency.
The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) asked about enhanced criminal records and soft information. Sections 115(6) and 115(7) of the Police Act 1997 are the relevant provisions which cover the information that he and I wish to see. Most of the other questions that he asked were touched on earlier or--I must, with respect, point out--are matters for my colleagues in the Home Office.
The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge tabled two amendments, with which I must deal. The first relates to local pharmaceutical pilot schemes. The hon. Gentleman is right about the issue, but wrong about the remedy. Amendment No. 31 would mean that if the relevant authority gave directions to terminate a pilot scheme because it was unsatisfactory, it would also have to direct the health authority concerned to make arrangements with all the participants under the national arrangements for pharmaceutical services instead. I accept that if we are to attract volunteers to local pharmaceutical services pilot schemes, especially if they involve the investment of a significant amount of new capital by the provider, we will have to have arrangements for what happens when pilot schemes come to an end.
Clause 39 provides powers to make regulations on the inclusion and reinclusion of premises in pharmaceutical lists. Our intention is that before people start providing LPS, they will be told whether and to what extent they will have a preferential right of return--or, in the case of new providers, transfer--to the national arrangements.
We will consult before we decide the precise criteria for preferential rights, but without prejudging the results of that consultation, I can say that there may well be rights of transfer even when the Secretary of State has to terminate a scheme by direction because it is unsatisfactory. However, that does not mean that we should go as far as the absolute right that would be conferred by the amendment. For example, I do not see why, if the Secretary of State were forced to close a scheme because the service provided had fallen below acceptable standards, the provider should have the right to continue providing the service under part II arrangements.
It would be much better to have the flexibility to tailor the arrangements made in particular cases or types of case to the needs of the health authority and the LPS provider. None of us would want an absolute right to be used as a way of getting round the established rules of entry. That is the main difficulty with the amendment.