“given the strongest degree of reassurance I have heard to date on the issue.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 31 October 2011; Vol. 731, c. 1088.]

A view was reached in the House of Lords on the basis of assurances that my noble Friend gave. I will not quote from some of the other reflections, but some colleagues there said that this went even further than they had expected.

In answer to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), the Government are committed to a clear definition of sustainable development and think that policy is the right place for it. I have said clearly that we have no difficulties with the 2005 definition, which I think is ably reflected in the amendment. Hon. Members will know that I cannot pre-empt the consultation on the NPPF, but in all the deliberations we have had on the Bill my assurances about the Government’s good faith have always been reflected and brought to a final conclusion. I hope that Opposition Front Benchers will bear that in mind.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): I am sorry to say that the frustration I felt in Committee is now overflowing. The Minister is talking about pre-empting things, but surely by having legislation before he has the policy he is pre-empting the whole process. Everything is back to front. How can we legislate without seeing the detail of the NPPF in its final form?

Greg Clark: That was considered in the House of Lords. These things have always been captured in policy. I could not have been clearer when I said that we have no difficulty with the 2005 strategy or its wording. A cogent case has been made—let me put it that way—for expanding and strengthening the definition in the NPPF. I hope that that demonstrates, on the basis of this House’s experience of the scrutiny of the Bill and the commitments the Government have made, that there is no difference in our commitment to the matter. Indeed, I have expressed a personal view that I think we could go a little further than the 2005 strategy. We will reflect on these contributions in the consultation on the NPPF and respond in due course.

Let me say something about neighbourhood planning, because from the start we all agreed on our ambition to give communities greater opportunity to provide for a vision of their future at a level below the local planning authority. We had some debate about whether it should apply only in parished areas or whether it should be available to non-parished areas, and there was again a degree of consensus on the idea that it should be

7 Nov 2011 : Column 124

available to those parts of the country, including the place to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) referred, where there was no appetite for a town council but where, nevertheless, there might be an appetite for a neighbourhood plan.

9.30 pm

We agreed to strengthen the safeguards, concerns about which were expressed in this place and in the House of Lords. We have done that in Lords amendments 356 to 358 and 368. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington invoked The Dog and Duck as the test of a place that should be used for the gatherings of neighbours in contemplating a neighbourhood plan, and he suggested that its saloon bar should have a minimum of 21 people. In fact, I think he suggested fewer, but we thought there should be 21, and that found favour elsewhere. Such forums should be open as a right to every ward councillor, and it is important that democratically elected representatives should participate, and that neighbourhood planning should contribute to the social, environmental and economic benefit of the area.

Lords amendment 370 introduces the sustainable development test for local planning. Plans, in their examination, will need to conform and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, and the amendment also specifies that a neighbourhood plan can apply to all or part of a parish or neighbourhood area.

Amendment (a) to Lords amendment 369 would provide a statutory right for members of communities to comment. It is clearly important that people are able to express their views, but we regard the amendment as unnecessary, because Lords amendment 369 includes community consultation, with a requirement for a statement of consultation to go forward for examination, and we are consulting now on the regulations to introduce it.

Opposition Front Benchers also introduced the proposal that businesses should be able to participate in making neighbourhood plans. Lords amendment 360 allows councils to designate business neighbourhoods that are wholly or largely occupied by businesses, but there will be a double lock: there will need to be two referendums, and if either the business community or the residential community objects, the matter will be for the local council to decide.

The House of Lords has sent back various amendments on the community infrastructure levy, and we think it important that neighbourhoods retain a stake in the benefits and some contribution to the cost of hosting development, so there is a suggestion that a meaningful proportion of CIL be allocated to them. We will consult on what proportion that should be.

We have considered the restrictions on the use of CIL in response to comments that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) made. The House of Lords concluded that there should be greater flexibility in the use of CIL revenues for that proportion which goes to neighbourhoods, recognising that the effects of development on neighbourhoods are local and diverse, and that it should be possible to consider them.

In considering CIL schedules, the independent assessor must already consider the viability of rates of community infrastructure levy, and we will provide statutory guidance, including an assessment that that should consider the delivery of affordable housing.

7 Nov 2011 : Column 125

The amendments proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington are therefore unnecessary and would remove some of the transparency that CIL offers. There would be a return to case-by-case deals, negotiated privately, which provide no greater benefit than sticking to section 106.

There are some technical amendments on strategic planning. Lords amendments 151 to 155 allow the removal of regional strategies by an order laid by the Secretary of State, rather than through a provision to have their abolition commenced by order. We intend to lay orders revoking the regional strategies as soon as possible after Royal Assent, subject to the voluntary strategic environmental assessment in which we are engaged.

Amendment 156 strengthens the test of soundness of the duty to co-operate, and amendment (a) deals with transitional arrangements. Again, I want to assure the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington and his colleagues that there will be transitional arrangements. In a system that is designed to advantage plan making, in the move from one system to another, it was always intended that we would not contemplate anything that does not allow local authorities to maintain their ability to plan for the future and make decisions in accordance with their needs. So there is no need for legislative measures. Such an approach can be delivered through policy, and we will set that out very clearly in our response to the consultation. I give that commitment.

Mr Betts: We on the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government received much evidence on the important issue of transitional arrangements. Does the Minister accept that the purpose of transitional arrangements is to enable local authorities to adjust to the new planning regime that will eventually be implemented, and to give them time to do so properly? There will be detailed, thorough negotiations with the Local Government Association in trying to reach an agreement about what a proper length of time for that transitional arrangement should be.

Greg Clark: I concur with that.

Overall, the amendments improve the Bill. I am grateful to their lordships for the time they spent scrutinising and approving them, and to all Members of this House and the other place who participated in initiating the amendments we have back with us today.

Roberta Blackman-Woods: I want to try to deal with a number of issues arising from the Lords amendments very quickly indeed. I shall start with amendment (a) to Lords amendment 154 on transitional arrangements.

As with many other key aspects of the Bill, hon. Members will know that discussions have already taken place in this House and in the other place about the need for some form of clear transitional arrangements to be specified in the Bill. In the early stages, it was evident that transitional arrangements were not at the forefront of the Government’s planning agenda but, as time has gone on, it has become increasingly apparent that, without them, the local planning system could be thrown into chaos and confusion.

As such, it is worth trying one last time to convince the Government of the need to include transitional arrangements in the Bill. That seems particularly necessary

7 Nov 2011 : Column 126

because the arrangements are needed very soon. Therefore, the alternative of including them in the national planning policy framework when it is eventually published, which was raised in the other place, is not practical. Previous significant planning legislation in 2004 and 2008 put clear transitional arrangements in the legislation to assist local authorities in moving from one planning system to another. This Bill should do the same.

I heard the Minister’s comments about amendment (a) to Lords amendment 157 on the community infrastructure levy, but Labour Members have grave concerns about the degree of prominence the Government are giving to the issue of unviability and the extent to which that might limit the application of the community infrastructure levy in practice. It is extremely important for there to be independent assessment of the developers’ costs whenever they are arguing unviability. We would like the Minister to consider the matter and if he does not address it in the Bill, to do so in the guidance that accompanies the Bill, so that such a situation does not occur.

The amendment to Lords amendment 369 is very straightforward. In keeping with prescribed requirements, before a neighbourhood planning order can be submitted to the local authority, the amendment would require public consultation to take place. In particular, we want to make sure that community and voluntary organisations get a chance for their voices to be heard. Labour is very keen to ensure, wherever possible, that community and voluntary organisations are able to be fully represented and engaged in the planning process. We would like Lords amendment 369 to be strengthened if possible.

I do not wish to go on at length about our amendment to Lords amendment 370, because we have had a number of opportunities to discuss the need for the Bill to have a definition of sustainable development. The current definition in the NPPF is not strong enough, and we would like the Minister to consider taking on board the definition in the 2005 sustainable development strategy. That is very important.

We understand why neighbourhood business areas have been put into the Bill, but we are concerned to ensure that consultation on those areas includes local residential communities. I will finish my comments there because we would, if possible, like to get to vote on amendment (a) to Lords amendment 154 and amendment (a) to Lords amendment 370.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): I welcome this Bill and these amendments as we pass powers and responsibilities away from Westminster to local authorities.

There is sometimes a dissonance between the laws that we prescribe here in Parliament and their impact on the front line. I would like to ask the Minister a couple of questions to clarify clause 94 and the abolition of the dreaded regional spatial strategies in relation to a constituency dilemma that we face in Bournemouth. Bournemouth borough council is currently drafting its core strategy—the local plan. That is the significant document of planning intent for the next few years but it is still subject to the old regional spatial strategy because the Bill has not passed into law. The RSS obliges councils to make provision for Gypsy and Traveller sites. Three locations have been earmarked for permanent sites in the proximity of the green belt in the northern

7 Nov 2011 : Column 127

part of my constituency. The locals are obviously concerned about this. We had a small debate about nimbyism earlier, but clearly Bournemouth borough council should now have the right to determine whether it wishes to pursue this instead of its being imposed on it by Westminster.

I would argue that three Gypsy and Traveller sites in close proximity in a very quiet part of one single community is a bit much. The area is part of Bournemouth’s very small and diminishing green belt. This is also about sharing and quid pro quo—about assets we have in Dorset that are used by the wider conurbation. For example, we have a vibrant town centre, an airport, and incineration facilities. Bournemouth took the biggest hit as regards housing development following the numbers that were imposed on Dorset by the previous Government; most of the housing built in the county was built in Bournemouth. There is therefore a feeling in Bournemouth that we have already contributed, to some degree, to planning law and planning responsibility. There is therefore a question as to whether it is right for these Gypsy and Traveller sites to be imposed on the area as they have been.

Clause 94 removes the regional spatial strategy, but the Bill is not yet law and the core strategy from Bournemouth borough council has to be submitted. Will the Minister therefore confirm that the removal of the RSS changes the obligations of all core strategies, that there will be an opportunity for councils right across the country to re-submit those core strategies once the Bill receives Royal Assent, and that this all sits well with the other legislation that is affected—the Housing Act 2004, which also covers provision for Gypsy and Traveller sites? I would be grateful for clarification on those issues. To confirm the feelings of residents, I am running a petition that I will shortly hand to the Minister with a collection of signatures to ensure that this message is understood. I look forward to his reply.

Annette Brooke: I welcome the Lords amendments and will comment on two aspects of them.

I agree that transitional arrangements are of prime importance. I accept that they do not necessarily have to be in the Bill, but I urge the Minister to provide some clarity on them as soon as is practical because it is making planning difficult in many respects in local areas.

9.45 pm

Following on from the comments of hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), all Dorset councillors are currently consulting on potential Traveller sites. It will be helpful if there is timely clarity on the consultation on Traveller sites, so that councils are clear about their position.

I have made much of the point that there should be a definition for sustainable development, preferably based on the 2005 definition. I have taken from the Minister tonight a clear indication that we will get a stronger definition of sustainable development and that it is likely to be in the national planning policy framework. I welcome that comment. Of course, I shall return to the Minister to make further comments if that is not the case.

7 Nov 2011 : Column 128

Mr Speaker: Is the Minister looking to speak again?

Greg Clark: I am happy to.

Mr Speaker: We are grateful to the Minister. If one pops the question, one is likely to get the answer.

Greg Clark: I am grateful, Mr Speaker; I do not know what to make of that comment. I will respond to a few of the points that have been made by hon. Members, including the hon. Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods).

I have been clear that there will be transitional arrangements and that we will ensure that they are produced in a timely way so that there is no difficulty with authorities preparing for the introduction of the national planning policy framework. That does not require an amendment. The amendment proposed by the hon. Member for City of Durham does not specify what the transitional arrangements should be. All it does is to elicit the commitments that I have given her tonight. I see that she is nodding. I hope that she accepts that and that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) takes the same view.

On the community infrastructure levy, the regulations already require the independent assessment of viability when an authority considers a claim for CIL relief from a developer to be unviable, especially in the case of affordable housing. I give that commitment. If the hon. Member for City of Durham has any suggestion that the guidance is inadequate in any way, I am happy to meet her to consider that, but that has not been our experience so far.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) knows that we recently concluded a consultation on Gypsy and Traveller policy. It would not be appropriate for me to pre-empt that, but I would say that the abolition of the regional strategies puts clearly into the hands of local authorities the ability to assess the needs of Gypsy and Traveller communities across the country. Of course, the changes that we have discussed tonight provide for a fairer system of enforcement, whereby a planning application that is introduced retrospectively does not stay the enforcement action, which has sometimes been the case.

Mr Ellwood: Bournemouth borough council received legal advice encouraging it to continue with the legal process of going to consultation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) suggested. However, I hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Mr Burley) that the legal advice given to his council was that it did not need to pursue that process because the intent of the Government was that the regional spatial strategy would be removed and that therefore the core strategies did not need to include Gypsy and Traveller sites. One council is being told one thing and another is being told something else.

Greg Clark: That is often the case with legal advice. This is a matter for the courts. The Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) pointed out that the weight given to emerging policy is a matter for decision makers. It is not possible, however tempting, for Ministers to direct decision

7 Nov 2011 : Column 129

makers on that point. Regional strategies have set out guidance to date, but it is for decision makers to decide how much weight they want to give to the Government’s intentions in revoking regional strategies.

I shall conclude by saying a little about the definition of sustainable development. I think it is obvious to every Member who has participated in these debates that our intention is to reflect, through guidance, a stronger and more expansive definition. I have made it quite clear that the 2005 strategy offers a basis that has been commended to us by many respondents to the consultation. It is extant, and I have no difficulty with it. We may be able to go further in some respects, but it is clear and reflects the considered views of both Houses.

The colleague of the hon. Member for City of Durham in the other place thought it was right to withdraw the Opposition amendment there on the basis of the same assurances. Given that, and given that the consultation has closed and it will not be much longer before she can see the outcome of our deliberations, I hope she will not press her amendment on the subject. I commend all the Lords amendments in this group to the House.

Lords amendment 151 agreed to .

Lords amendments 152 and 153 agreed to .

Amendment (a) proposed to Lords amendment 154 .—(Roberta Blackman- Woods .)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided:

Ayes 205, Noes 305.

Division No. 392]

[9.52 pm

AYES

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Mr Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kendall, Liz

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Yvonne Fovargue and

Susan Elan Jones

NOES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.

(Monmouth)

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Freeman, George

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Tomlinson, Justin

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Greg Hands and

Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

7 Nov 2011 : Column 130

7 Nov 2011 : Column 131

7 Nov 2011 : Column 132

7 Nov 2011 : Column 133

10.7 pm

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83F)

Lords amendment 154 agreed to .

Lords amendments 155 to 441 agreed to , with Commons financial privileges waived in respect of Lords amendments 157 to 165, 225, 226, 250 to 254, 257, 260, 294, 295, 302, 312, 334, 335, 337 to 344, 349, 371, 376, 377, 387, 389, 395, 399 to 402.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Coast Protection

That the draft Incidental Flooding and Coastal Erosion (England) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 5 September, be approved.—(James Duddridge.)

Question agreed to.

REGULATORY REFORM

Motion made, and Question put forthwith ( Standing Order No. 18(1) ),

That the draft Legislative Reform (Industrial and Provident Societies and Credit Unions) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 19 July, be approved.—(James Duddridge.)

Question agreed to.

STANDARDS AND PRIVILEGES

Ordered,

That Tom Blenkinsop be discharged from the Committee on Standards and Privileges and Julie Hilling be added.—(James Duddridge.)

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Committees

Mr Speaker: With the leave of the House, we will take motions 7 and 8 together.

Ordered,

Communities and Local Government

That Steve Rotheram be discharged from the Communities and Local Government Committee and Bill Esterson be added.

Education

That Nic Dakin be discharged from the Education Committee and Alex Cunningham be added.—( Geoffrey Clifton-Brown on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

Petition

Teachers’ Pension Scheme

10.8 pm

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): A couple of weeks ago, Andy Yeadon of John Leggott college and Stephen Buck and John Outhwaite of Frederick Gough school brought a petition to me that I should like to place before the House on their behalf and that of the other petitioners from John Leggott college and Frederick Gough school who have signed it.

The petition states:

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to withdraw its proposals on reform of teachers’ pensions, and conduct a valuation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of staff at John Leggott College, Scunthorpe, and Frederick Gough School, Scunthorpe,

Declares that the Pet itioners note that the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, along with other schemes, was reformed in 2007 to ensure sustainability and viability for the long term, declares that the Pe titioners reject the Government’ s claim that such schemes are unaffordable and a drain on taxpayers, further declares that the Petitioners believe that proposed changes to public sector pensions, including those of teachers, lecturers, principles and head teachers working in maintained schools, academics, independent schools and teaching colleges are unjustified and declares that the Petitioners believe that continuing government changes to these pensions will be deeply damaging to staff recruitment, retention, mobility, morale and motivation and will jeopardise the education of all children and young people.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to withdraw its proposals on reform of teachers’ pensions, and conduct a valuation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. ]

[P000974]

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Patient Security (Mental Health System)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(James Duddridge.)

10.9 pm

Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con): I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to raise this important topic in the Chamber tonight. I should declare at the outset my position as a vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on mental health.

The Government’s recent mental health strategy stated that mental ill health represented up to 23% of the total burden of ill health in the UK, and that it was the largest single cause of disability. At least one in four adults will, at some point in their life, experience a period of mental ill health. For some, it may be a relatively mild, one-off episode. For others, the first episode will herald the start of a long-term relationship with the mental health services in all their guises. Such episodes, whether short term or long term, have a profound effect not only on the person suffering with a mental health condition but on their families and friends, many of whom will never have come into contact with these conditions or this part of the NHS before.

In the most serious cases, a patient might spend a period of time in an acute care setting, either voluntarily or while being detained under the Mental Health Act for their own welfare and the welfare of those around them. At such times, the patient and their families and loved ones will expect the patient to be kept safe and secure while they are given the appropriate therapy and treatment to enable them to resume their place in our communities. That expectation, and the fact that it is sometimes not fulfilled, are the focus of this short debate tonight.

In June 2010, shortly after I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Loughborough, I was approached by a constituent, Glyn Brookes, who told me about the tragic death of his daughter, Kirsty. I appreciate that the Minister is unlikely to be able to respond to this particular case, although I have sent his office a copy of the coroner’s report into Kirsty’s death. However, it is because of this case that I have ended up leading this debate tonight.

Kirsty was a patient at the Bradgate unit at University Hospitals of Leicester. She was able to escape from the unit using the frame of an external door to help her. Her escape was not dealt with as it should have been, and she was able to commit suicide before either the hospital authorities or the police found her. This has clearly been devastating for the Brookes family, and I would like to pay tribute to them, and particularly to Mr Brookes who contacted me to tell me their story. I would also like to pay tribute to the excellent coroner whose report helped, I think, to answer the Brookes family’s questions about the tragedy. I should say that I have spoken to the former and current chairmen of Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, which administers the unit, and I understand that work is ongoing to learn and act on the lessons of this case.

As a result of the case being raised with me, I began to wonder how many other patients absconded each year from units run by our mental health trusts. I submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to all 58 of the mental health trusts in England, 57 of which

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have replied. The figures make grim reading. Before I go into them, however, I should say that this exercise has shown me that there is a real variety in the quality of record keeping at the trusts. There also seems to be a real difference in the way in which the term “abscond” is used by the trusts as a basis for recording the relevant information. I hope that the Minister and the Department will be able to help with this matter.

The Mental Health Act 1983 defines “abscond” as when a patient who is liable to be detained under the Act

(a) absents himself from the hospital without leave granted under section 17 above; or

(b) fails to return to the hospital on any occasion on which, or at the expiration of any period for which, leave of absence was granted to him…; or

(c) absents himself without permission from any place where he is required to reside in accordance with conditions imposed on the grant of leave of absence”.

In responding to my request for information, some trusts used this definition, while others made the distinction between a patient who was “absent without leave”, “absent without explanation”, “missing” or escaped. In addition, some trusts use the terms “AWOL” and “abscond” interchangeably without definition or explanation. Other trusts used only “abscond”, but did not define what they meant by the term. Finally, some trusts provided the number of “incidents” of absconding, rather than the number of patients. Others did not make that distinction. For simplicity, however, the figures that I will now mention refer to the total number given for the five-year period that I asked about, and therefore do not differentiate the different types of absconding incident.

My research showed that in the past five years about 40,500 incidents of absconding occurred, ranging from a total of three reported incidents for Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Partnership Trust to 3,891 for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust. There is significant variation across the country, so clearly some trusts are doing things very differently from others. In the case of Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, the total figure for the past five years is 386. I must stress caution in comparing those numbers. We could, in many cases, be comparing different things—although the overall effect of patients absconding is the same—simply because the trusts use their own definitions, despite the fact that the Department of Health has published its definitions of absconding and escaping.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I do not know where on my hon. Friend's list the Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust figures, but did she find any correlation between the quality of the infrastructure of the units and the numbers of people absconding? Did she find, for example, that a brand-new unit, such as Woodhaven in my constituency, tended to have a lower rate of such problems? This is of particular interest to me, as that eight-year-old hospital is threatened with closure, and I have a debate on it later this week.

Nicky Morgan: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have seen the subject of his Adjournment debate later this week. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to go into that level of detail, but I shall come to the quality of care and to demonstrate that it has a huge impact on the absconding rate for patients. As I shall

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come on to mention, this is an issue on which the Department of Health and the trusts could work together. Interested Members or other interested parties should see the link between absconding and the quality of care given. There is no doubt that there are innovative ways of ensuring that patients do not feel the need to abscond, and that if they are outside the environment, of ensuring that they will come back because they know that they will receive therapeutic treatment.

As I was saying, despite all the caveats, the numbers are simply too high for organisations that owe their patients a duty of care. The fifth agreed objective in the Government’s mental health strategy launched earlier this year stated:

“Fewer people will suffer avoidable harm—people receiving care and support should have confidence that the services they use are of the highest quality and at least as safe as any other public service.”

This is, of course, an objective that anyone who has an interest in any health service, but particularly mental health services, would want to see met. The fact is that guidance is already in place for mental health trusts and for those working within them to follow, although it would be fair to say that a lot of that guidance deals with how to react to an incident of absconding rather than offering concrete guidance on prevention. In the case of my constituent, the coroner expressly found that

“it would appear that the hospital had a system and policies in place to protect and supervise Kirsty from harm but at all material times those caring for her did not follow those policies.”

That is just not acceptable.

The Minister will remember the long sessions earlier this year discussing the Health and Social Care Bill in Committee Room 10 upstairs—how could we forget them? One of the recurring themes was not just that we all want to see high-quality services but how we ensure our health and social care services are of high quality and that everyone is focused on the primary objectives of the health system. Do we do so through inspections? Do we hope that everyone working within the health system works to their own high standards, as many thousands of employees surely do? Do we ensure that guidance is not only available but followed? And do we ensure that when things go wrong, as in the case of my constituent, thorough investigations follow and lessons are learned? Surely it must be a combination of all those things.

As I mentioned, hospital wards are meant to be places of therapy, but too often, especially in the case of mental health wards, they are anything but. In a recent report, the Centre for Social Justice said:

“Hospitals tend to be untherapeutic and dangerous places”.

In helping me to prepare for this debate, Mind sent me a note saying:

“The quality of care quite clearly has an impact on a patient’s decision to abscond. Unfortunately, as Mind’s forthcoming acute and crisis care campaign will show, people in inpatient settings often experience substandard quality, with no meaningful activities, little or no interaction with staff or each other, and at worst, lack of safety, abuse and coercive treatment.”

Dr Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that one problem—she has done well in bringing this debate before us this evening—is the fact that people often become labelled when they are in a mental health care setting, whereas

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what we need to do if we are to deal with the issue properly is to break down and challenge those labels, so that the patient is not seen just as a mental health patient but as a person? All the therapies and preventive measures she is talking about relate to that issue. If we can get that right, we will be able to look at people and treat them in the way that they deserve—with respect, which will help to prevent the episodes of absconding or escape that my hon. Friend mentions.

Nicky Morgan: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who is a qualified NHS practitioner and knows far more about these matters than I do. Everything that he has said confirms the fact that we must not forget that people are at the heart of all cases of this kind—not just patients, but their families. The sooner patients receive good therapeutic treatments and can resume their place in society, the better. My hon. Friend made another important point: for too long a stigma has been attached to mental ill-health conditions, and people do not talk about them. I hope that tonight’s debate will mark the beginning of more open discussion of such conditions, in the House and beyond.

Kirsty's father told me that he believed that there was nothing to do at the unit where she was being treated. He said that there were no constructive therapies.

Rethink Mental Illness and the Royal College of Psychiatrists drew my attention to a 2010 report that had been prepared as part of the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness. According to the report, between 1997 and 2006 absconders accounted for 25% of all in-patient suicides and 38% of suicides that occurred off the wards. Absconding patients were also significantly more likely to have been under high levels of observation, but clinicians reported more problems in the observation of those who had absconded owing to ward design or other patients in the ward. The report made three recommendations for improvement: that staff need to pay better attention, not just to patients but to ward exits; that observation methods should improve, as there was little evidence regarding the protective effect of close observation, and high levels of observation may be ineffective for people who are intent on leaving the ward; and that there should be an increased focus on engagement and support by staff when patients are admitted.

However, as Mind pointed out to me, there is evidence that when wards take a more innovative approach to in-patient care, there are fewer incidences of both aggression and absconding. There is already an incentive for our mental health trusts to do better in terms of the treatment and care that they offer to in-patients.

Let me end by drawing all those thoughts together. First, we need more research in order to understand the scale of the problem. The information that I have obtained is, I hope, a good start, but I think that the Department could insist that trusts use one set of definitions so that numbers can be properly compared, and that trusts with low incidences of absconding could share their experiences with those whose absconding rate is very much higher. The Department could also insist on publication of the information that I had to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act.

Secondly, trusts should not only follow existing guidance, but work out how they do their best to prevent patients, when they are at their most vulnerable, from absconding

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and causing harm to themselves. My office did not have to look very far to find seven newspaper reports about patients who had absconded this year. Six of those cases tragically ended with the patients taking their own lives, and in one case the patient killed someone else. I believe that only by encouraging trusts to take those steps will the Department stand a chance of fulfilling the fifth objective in its laudable mental health strategy.

Finally, I should like us all to remember that at the heart of this are usually very ill people and their families. Mr Brookes said to me in July this year, “We trusted the system. We paid our taxes, and we expected the best care for those who are at their most vulnerable.”

We talk a lot in the House of Commons about physical health outcomes, but the time has come for mental health to get a proper look in. As someone speaking at one of the all-party meetings on mental health said, “We all have mental health; it is just that some people’s is better than that of others.”

We are talking about people, so there are no absolutes, and there will always be those who are determined to take their own lives, but I hope that tonight, by focusing on one part of the mental health system—the security of patients being treated in hospital settings—the House can begin to make clear its desire to see real parity between physical and mental health conditions in the context of funding and treatment. I believe that if we do not do that, we will be storing up huge trouble for the country, and there will be more tragic deaths of patients like Kirsty which could perhaps be prevented.

10.23 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) on securing the debate, and on the thoughtful way in which she set out her case. Let me begin my speech where she ended hers. The coalition Government are totally committed to securing parity of esteem between mental and physical health. Quite simply, that is the right thing to do, and it is long overdue. We are determined for it to happen as part of the strategy that we are currently delivering and the changes currently taking place.

I am well aware of the tragic incident to which the hon. Lady referred, and which was undoubtedly the spur for the debate. I also thank her for sharing the coroner’s report with me. I am keenly aware of the fact that the trust involved in this sad case fully accepts the coroner’s verdict and has undertaken an overhaul of its patient security arrangements. It is important for public confidence in the system that lessons are learned and actions are taken to improve patient safety and service quality.

The coalition Government are committed to patient safety. It is a high priority in our strategies and in the outcomes on which we are judging the NHS. Our cross-Government mental health strategy, “No health without mental health”, includes two core objectives to which I wish to draw attention: ensuring that people who are acutely ill receive safe, high-quality care in an appropriate environment, and thereby ensuring that fewer people suffer avoidable harm. The NHS outcomes framework also prioritises patient safety and emphasises treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm.

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My hon. Friend rightly referred to the invaluable work done by the national confidential inquiry into suicide and homicide by people with mental illness. Although the suicides rates in England have been at a historical low and are much lower than those of most of our European neighbours, the most recent figures, dating back to 2009, show that there are still about 4,400 suicides in England; that is one suicide every two hours.

Over the past decade, good progress has been made in reducing the suicide rate in England. However, there has been a slight rise in the last couple of years. It is therefore important that we maintain vigilance. We know from experience that suicide rates can be volatile as new risks emerge. That is why we recently completed a national consultation on our suicide prevention strategy. We are considering the responses received, and intend to publish the final strategy next year.

The draft strategy aimed to set out a broad and coherent approach to suicide prevention and to helping us sustain, and reduce further, the relatively low rates of suicide in England. In particular, it sets out to reduce the suicide rate in the general population and to provide better support and information to those bereaved or otherwise affected by a suicide.

Substantial improvements have already been made in in-patient services. The most recent national confidential inquiry into suicide and homicide was published in July 2011. It shows that the long-term downward trend in in-patient suicides continues. In 1997 there were 214 in-patient suicides, falling to 94 by 2008. That is still 94 too many, so there is still more to be done.

I applaud my hon. Friend on her initiative in gathering the statistics she has presented to the House. However, she is right to sound a note of caution about how the figures might be interpreted, and what they reveal to us. For example, information about the length of time for which patients are missing or the level of risk that they pose either to themselves or to other people is relevant to gauging the true scale of the problem on which she seeks to persuade the Government to take action.

There are a wide variety of reasons for recorded unauthorised absences. These include situations that pose minimum risk to the patient or the public, such as a delay in return to hospital from authorised leave because of a missed or delayed bus. We could be talking about a delay of no more than a couple of hours before some patients return safely to their unit. However, that return has to be recorded, even if it is for just a matter of a couple of hours.

Recent statistics from the confidential inquiry show that between 2004 and 2008 the number of suicides per year by patients who have absconded from mental health services has dropped by more than 50%, from 50 cases to 21 cases per year. That is a substantial improvement, but it is still 21 cases too many.

That is why we are not complacent. We know that a significant number of suicides still occur during a period of in-patient care in spite of the improvements. Managing risk effectively is therefore essential, and the confidential inquiry collects and analyses the detailed clinical information on all suicides and homicides committed by someone with mental illness, and more latterly also on sudden and unexplained deaths of psychiatric in-patients. It also makes recommendations for improvements, which goes to the heart of my hon. Friend’s representations

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tonight. Its December 2006 report sets out some compelling statistics—for example, that 27% of in-patient suicides occurred after the patient left the ward without permission. Those deaths were clustered in the first seven days after an admission.

In mental health services, respect for the patient’s wishes must at all times be balanced with the concern for the individual’s safety and well-being. There is no doubt that that balancing act can, and does at times, present significant challenges for services. However, the solution to the problem does not have to be heavy-handed or coercive in its approach. A significant body of research, guidance and best practice has demonstrated practical strategies that can be implemented and can help to reduce significantly the number of people going missing. Such strategies include: early assessment; ensuring that staff begin to form a meaningful, therapeutic and collaborative relationship with patients straight away; understanding the factors that trigger a decision to leave the ward, such as a disturbed environment or an incident affecting the patient; recognising that patients will have social responsibilities such as paying bills or ensuring that their property is secure—staff need to identify these issues early to prevent anxiety and stress that may lead to the patient choosing to leave—and making greater use of technology, such as CCTV or swipe cards, to observe and control ward entry and exit.

Key to the successful delivery of those approaches will be the ongoing development of an acute specialist work force with the right skills and attitudes, and a culture of inquiry and service improvement based on evidence and regular service user and carer feedback. The law is clear in the obligations it places on services. The Mental Health Act 1983, to which my hon. Friend referred, sets out the legal provisions relating to keeping patients in legal custody and bringing them back if they abscond. The Mental Health Act code of practice is equally explicit in the guidance it gives to services about the systems and processes that should be in place to safeguard detained patients. Hospital managers should ensure that there is a clear written policy about the action to be taken when a detained patient, or a patient on a supervised community treatment order, goes missing. These policies should, in turn, be agreed with other agencies, such as the police and ambulance services, which have significant roles to play in safeguarding patients who are absent without leave.

Just last year, it was confirmed for the first time that the detaining authorities would be required by statutory regulation to notify the Care Quality Commission, without delay, of any absence without leave of any person detained or liable to be detained under the Mental Health Act. A failure to take adequate measures to keep a detained patient safe from fatal harm is potentially a breach of article 2 of the European convention on human rights. The CQC asks services that are designated as low, medium or high security, and psychiatric intensive care units, to notify it of all incidences of absence without leave. There are different reporting requirements depending on the security level of the service. I can tell my hon. Friend and others who are listening to this evening’s debate that the CQC will be reporting its first round of these statistics next month. The CQC monitors trends in absence without leave and has followed up with the particular providers in relation to specific

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incidents or patterns of absences. The CQC recommends that providers monitor and review absences without leave to understand why patients go absent and to help develop strategies to address these identified issues.

My hon. Friend identified concerns about what she described as the variation that she encountered in the definitions that appeared to be being used by different trusts when she undertook her freedom of information requests. I can, however, assure her that the definitions of “escape”, “attempted escape”, “abscond”, “failure to return” and “absent without leave” are applied consistently in mental health services. Indeed, most of those definitions relate to the three-part description that she listed. I suspect that the differences in the returns she received are due to the mixture in the type and size of mental health services within one trust, and therefore the mixture of type and number of absences reported. For instance, a trust may include a high-secure hospital, two medium-secure units and also low-secure and non-secure mental health services. The numbers from that trust may give us no understanding of the type of risk of the absences recorded. That is why my hon. Friend is right to say that we need good data collection in this area, and that is why we have asked the CQC to collect those data in such a way that we can meaningfully segment them to understand what is going on. I shall write to her about the statistics that she has collected.

The Government believe that people with acute mental health needs have a right to receive the care and support they need in a safe and comfortable environment in which they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. As my hon. Friend has said, there is a cross-Government mental health programme in place to drive whole system and cultural change in mental health services. However, this cannot and should not be seen as solely the Government’s responsibility. The essential building blocks are in place but, as always, the responsibility for the quality and safety of front-line care crucially depends on three things. First, providers have a duty of care to each individual for whom they are responsible—ensuring that services meet individual needs and that there are systems in place to make sure that services are effective, efficient and deliver high-quality care. Secondly, the regulator is responsible for assuring the quality of the system itself. Thirdly, the commissioners are responsible for securing the care that meets people’s needs.

My hon. Friend was absolutely right to bring this important debate before the House, and she was also right to point out that we often debate issues of physical health in the House but rarely debate mental health issues except in extremis. I assure her that the Government are determined to invest in mental health services to ensure that more therapies and therapeutic services are available. Indeed, that is why we are investing in talking therapy services. It is important that with mental health we look at the whole-life course, intervene earlier to provide more preventive services, and invest in services that deliver dignified outcomes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for securing the debate and allowing us to shed some light on those important issues.

Question put and agreed to.

10.36 pm

House adjourned.