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Session 2000-01
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Standing Committee Debates
Health and Social Care Bill

Health and Social Care Bill

Standing Committee E

Thursday 18 January 2001

[Mr. John Maxton in the Chair]

Health and Social Care Bill

2.30 pm

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that there is a financial resolution in connection with the Bill. Copies are available in the Room. I advise hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments; as a general rule, I do not intend to call starred amendments. I remind Members also that under the programming order made by the House on 10 January, the Committee's proceedings must end on 8 February at the latest. This morning, the Programming Sub-Committee agreed the resolution, copies of which are available in the Room.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Denham): I beg to move,


    (1) during proceedings on the Health and Social Care Bill the Standing Committee do meet on Tuesdays at half-past Ten o'clock and between half-past Four o'clock and Ten o'clock and on Thursdays at half-past Nine o'clock and between half-past Two o'clock and Five o'clock;

    (2) 13 sittings in all shall be allotted to the consideration of the Bill by the


    (3) the proceedings to be taken on the sittings shall be as shown in the second column of the Table below and shall be taken in the order so shown;

    (4) the proceedings which under paragraph (3) are to be taken on any sitting shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the third column of the Table;

    (5) paragraph (3) does not prevent proceedings being taken (in the order shown in the second column of the Table) on any earlier sitting than that provided for under paragraph (3) if all previous proceedings have already been concluded.


SittingProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
1stClause 1 and Clauses 17 and 185 p.m.
2ndClause 16 and Clauses 2 to 6
3rdClause 16 and Clauses 2 to 6 (so far as not previously concluded)10 p.m.
4thClauses 19 to 28
5thClauses 19 to 28 (so far as not previously concluded)5 p.m.
6thClauses 14 and 15, Clauses 7 and 8, Schedule 1, Clauses 9 to 13
7thClauses 24 and 15, Clauses 7 and 8, Schedule 1, Clauses 9 to 13 (so far as not previously concluded)10 p.m.
8thClauses 29 and 30, Schedule 2, Clauses 31 to 40, Schedule 3, Clause 41, Clause 69, Clauses 42 to 44
9thClauses 29 and 30, Schedule 2, Clauses 31 to 40, Schedule 3, Clause 41, Clause 60, Clauses 42 to 44 (so far as not previously concluded)5 p.m.
10thClauses 45 to 58
11thClauses 45 to 58 (so far as not previously concluded)10 p.m.
12thClause 59, Clauses 61 to 66, Schedules 4 and 5, new Clauses and new Schedules
13thClause 59, Clauses 61 to 66, Schedules 4 and 5, new Clauses and new Schedules (so far as not previously concluded)5 p.m.

I look forward to your chairmanship of the Committee, Mr. Maxton. I am sure that we shall have an interesting few weeks scrutinising this important Bill. I look forward also to being one of the first Ministers to take through a Bill under the new ways of working. Given the spirit of the programming meeting this morning, I am sure that the Committee will be co-operative in ensuring that the Bill is properly scrutinised.On Second Reading and again this morning, several hon. Members said that a number of key areas needed our attention—patient scrutiny, the extension of free nursing care and other more technical matters, such as pharmaceutical services.

The timetable is reasonable, which I hope will help you, Mr. Maxton, and the Committee and those outside who want to follow our proceedings. The Government will endeavour to table amendments in a timely fashion, so that hon. Members have a chance to consider them. However, once the Bill was published, it became available to a wide range of outside organisations, and we may want to respond to their comments and proposals by proposing further amendments.

It may help the Committee to know that we may wish to publish additional information as the Bill makes its way through the Committee stage, either for the information of the Committee or for wider discussion in the health service, but we want to do it in a way that is helpful to the Committee. For example, during the next 24 hours we shall be publishing a discussion document on the new arrangements for traffic lighting and performance system in the national health service—a consultation document on the health service—but we want to ensure that copies of that document are on the Members' letter board this evening ahead of our debate next Tuesday.

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that under Sessional Orders, debate on this resolution may last for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge): I welcome the Minister's remarks and I shall make a few comments about them in a moment. I look forward to serving on the Committee under your chairmanship, Mr. Maxton, and, notwithstanding the constraints that the House has placed on our deliberations, I hope that we shall have an opportunity to scrutinise the Bill adequately.

At the outset, I draw the Committee's attention to my registered interest relating to property development, which may be relevant to clause 4. My right hon. and hon. Friends will speak to amendments to that clause; I shall take no part in that debate, but it is right that the Committee is aware of my interest.

We object in principle to the timetabling of the business of the House and the way in which the Government have imposed it upon us. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments that have already been made on the Floor of the House. However, I am disappointed. I have participated in constructive Committee proceedings with the Minister and the Government Whip who are leading on the Bill. My view is that the old system worked well. We managed our business in an informal and progressive way as the Bills went through consideration in Committee. We saw how the debate evolved and which issues needed further deliberation rather than commenced from the outset with a fixed programme. Perhaps we will lose something in our scrutiny of legislation if we are unable to allow further debate on the clauses that come to be seen as important or complex.

The Minister has already indicated that there will be Government amendments. At least I believe that that was what he said. They may be minor amendments, but nearly all hon. Members will have had experience of serving on Standing Committees where the Government have tabled substantial amendments during the course of the Bill. I think of the Care Standards Act 2000, during the progress of which the Government tabled substantial amendments relating to Wales. It is impossible for a Programming Sub-Committee, when setting out a rigid timetable at the outset of the Committee's deliberations, to take into account matters that are unknown to the Committee at the start. I hope that will not happen in this case. However, sooner or later, for perfectly legitimate reasons, the Government will table substantial amendments in Committee that will restrain debate on the clauses programmed for consideration at that point.

The Minister has indicated that he hopes in the next 24 hours to publish a paper on the traffic light system, which the Committee will debate on Tuesday. That is unacceptable. The House is not sitting tomorrow. If amendments for consideration on Tuesday are to be unstarred, they have to be tabled by the rise of the House tonight and yet the Government intend to publish a document that is highly relevant to the controversial matters that we will debate on Tuesday morning.

The Chairman: I should remind the hon. Gentleman that amendments can be tabled up until three o'clock tomorrow.

Mr. Hammond: I am grateful for that advice. It is good news, but it does not alter the substance of my remarks.

As tomorrow is a non-sitting day, the great majority of Members will not be in Westminster. If the Government's document is published tomorrow morning, we are unlikely to have informed responses from health service professionals and managers, in time to formulate orderly amendments by 3 pm tomorrow.

I ask the Minister whether it was impossible to publish the document before today or tomorrow. Perhaps it might be in order to ask you, Mr. Maxton, whether in the light of the unusual circumstances you will adopt a flexible attitude toward starred amendments relating to the traffic light system given that the Minister has told us that late information will be made available.

Mr. Denham indicated dissent.

Mr. Hammond: The Minister shakes his head, but I understood him to say that material new information would be published within the next 24 hours that would inform the Committee's debate on Tuesday morning. I hope that some flexibility can be shown with respect to that.

Having stated my objections in principle to the timetabling arrangements—not just the deadline for the consideration of the Bill, but the fixed milestones within that deadline—and having expressed our concerns about the ability of the Committee properly to scrutinise legislation in those circumstances, we accept that the House has resolved to proceed in such a way. The timetable allocates the limited available time in the most sensible way, attempting to ensure that there is debate on key issues that are likely to be of great concern. However, I get the impression that the Government would not be unhappy for debate on certain parts of the Bill to be curtailed, just as the Prime Minister indicated in his response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) that he was anxious to avoid proper debate wherever possible.

The composition of the Committee, which strikes me as rather extraordinary, makes me suspicious of the Government's motives. I was under the impression that the convention was that the membership of Committees was drawn, by and large, from hon. Members who contributed on Second Reading. For the information of the Government Whip, every single hon. Member on this side of the Committee spoke on Second Reading. With the honourable exception of the Minister, and of the Government Whip, who was unable to contribute on Second Reading, only one Labour Member—I think that I am right, and someone will bounce up and correct me if I am wrong—spoke on Second Reading.


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Prepared 18 January 2001