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Lord Carter: I am pleased to support these two amendments. Before I do so, perhaps I may comment on the words of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in moving the amendment about the useful and informed meeting we hadwhich I am not going to quotewith the Minister and officials after Second Reading and before Committee stage. I believe that the Minister will be the first to agree that if these meetings are to be useful, we should receive a note of them a little more quickly than we received the note of this particular meeting. I received mine at half-past two this afternoon and I have not yet had a chance to read it. I believe that the draft was circulated at the end of last week. Then there is the weekend post and all the rest of it. We are anxious for this experiment to succeed. If it is to be helpful, then the note of the meeting, which I agree is informed, but it is not a transcript, should help us with the Committee stage. I have the note and I am here to deal with amendments; but I have not had a chance to read it because I received it only today. At the moment the reaction of this side of the Committee to the experiment is one of modified rapture. I am sure that we shall learn from it. The most important thing is that a note of the meeting should be circulated as quickly as possible after the meeting.
I believe that the noble Earl has made all the points that need to be made about the arguments for delay, including the possible changes in local authorities and health authorities. We can learn from the hospital part of the reforms of the National Health Service and from the way they were rushed in. The community care implementation was delayed because of the effect on the poll tax.
There are resource implications, as I read the financial memorandum to the Bill, and with more effective use of existing resources, presumably, that means that the patients affected by this Bill will, as it were, be moved up the queue, but the queue will stay the same length. They will simply get a different place in that queue if there are no more resources to be made available.
There is the point that if the community and mental health nurses become supervisors in the care package, they will need training and that cannot be done without cost. I ask the Minister to deal with the point about the Government's optimism that there will be no implications about costs. There is the additional training and all the costs associated with change. If we are to have the care packages and the help and supervision which we all agree are neededand we support the ideas in the Billthey will need time and careful resource planning. If these amendments were accepted by the Government, I believe they would improve the Bill.
Lord Mottistone: I cannot disagree more with what the noble Lord has just said. If Amendment No. 135 is accepted by the Government, the delay would be impossible. We require something on the lines of this Bill a great deal sooner than we would get the agreement of everyone before we have the legislation. I very much hope that my noble friend will not be carried away by the otherwise splendid remarks of both the noble Earl and the noble Lord opposite.
I offer my thanks for the meeting beforehand. I have just had time to read the note which I received at ten past two. The note does not reflect what I remember of the meeting at all. The note might just as well have not been written. I hope that next time we have a note produced by someone other than a person trying to produce something which is totally anodyne. That might be a little more helpful for the future, but let that be. In the meantime, I hope that neither of these amendments is accepted.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I support my noble friend's amendments. I believe that the timing proposed by the Minister is inappropriate for Scotland for this reason. The House will be well aware that local authorities in Scotland are reorganising at this very moment. Indeed, we have elections to the shadow councils this coming Thursday. In Scotland we shall be moving from 13 to 32 social work authorities and from 55 to 32 housing authorities. Both these local authority departments are going to be much involved in the provisions of community care orders.
I suggest that by the autumn of this year senior local authority staff, and most local authority staff, will be preoccupied with moving jobs and also wondering whether they will be in jobs and with whom. They will be moving jobs to the new shadow authorities. I suggest that it is unlikely that they will be able to concentrate on the provision of new services. On these grounds, I certainly suggest a delay in Scotland until at least 1st July 1996 by which time the new local authorities will have been running for three months.
An increase in funding must be provided under Section 8 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984, especially if there are to be any more community care orders made other than for the 100 or so patients currently on their second or subsequent year of leave of absence who form the preferred target group. Even for
Baroness Cumberlege: I thank the noble Earl, Lord Russell, for his very kind words in general about the Bill. The noble Earl has raised some general principles which were comprehensively debated at Second Reading. I listened with interest as he described some of his Liberal colleagues being in sheer, rocketing hysteria. That may be because it is the first time some of them now have power with responsibility and are beginning to realise that it is easy to act as a Greek chorus when one is a member of a local authority, but that it is much more difficult when one actually has responsibility and has to make budgets balance.
Perhaps I may refer very briefly to the meeting which took place. I am glad that noble Lords found it useful. As regards the note of the meeting, after the meeting took place it was agreed with the Opposition Benches that we should have an agreed minute so that there was no wrangling about its wording. It was delivered by hand on Thursday to the Whips' Office. It was very much my hope that it would have been agreed and dispatched by us on Friday.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: It will be pointless to discuss with the Minister the vagaries of the internal and external post, but I agree with her understanding that a joint minute or note had been agreed upon. I believe that I was one of the first to see it. I saw it at about eight o'clock yesterday evening, at which point there was no chance to make further comment on it. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said, which is that I thought it a rather anodyne account of the proceedings. It is difficult for me to understand where there was a hiccup in the proceedings, but I was in our Whips' Office on Friday and I am surprised that I did not receive it by hand then.
Perhaps I may deal with the amendments. The most significant effect of the amendments would be to make the commencement date of the Bill the subject of negotiation between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the local authority associations. That would be a most unusual arrangement and we can see no justification for it. The proposals embodied in the Bill have already been the subject of wide consultation. The Bill places no new duties on local authorities or others. It underpins and may give some direction to their existing obligations under Section 117 of the 1983 Act for providing aftercare services for patients who have been discharged.
The Committee will be aware that the increase in resources provided by the Government is £10 million in mental illness support grant for this year alone. Apart from the delay which was highlighted by my noble friend Lord Mottistone, we believe that when Parliament passes legislation which has been subject to the proper processes of consultation, it is for Parliament itself to
Earl Russell: In that case, the Minister must have a very short memory because that mood about local authority finances is common to all three parties. I suggest that if the noble Baroness talks to her party's councillors in Warwickshire and to her honourable friend Mr. Howarth, she might find that that mood extends rather wider than she supposes. At the moment, Conservative councillors are an endangered species, and because I believe wholeheartedly in political pluralism I think that they deserve a little bit of help before they are extinguished. Paying some attention to the amendment might provide that.
I agree with what the Minister said about the mental illness support grant. I must apologise for not having made the point myself, but I caught sight of the time. We are grateful for that increase. It is welcome. The difficulty arises from the need for local authorities to make a 30 per cent. matching grant in order for that support grant to come into effect. I should be grateful if the Minister could undertake to consult her right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment about how those difficulties in making the matching grant arise because, if the matching grant cannot be made, the increase in the mental illness support grant will be useless because the money will not be received.
My noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie made an extremely important point about Scotland. We all know that reorganisation leads to disorganisationand two reorganisations at once might be a bit much for anybody.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is both a pessimist and an optimist at the same time. He said that the provisions would lead to impossible delays. So they would, if nothing were done, but what needs to be done could be done extremely quickly if the political will were there. Therefore, if there were to be a response from the Government Front Bench, the delay could be nugatory. In that way, the noble Lord is a pessimist. He is an optimist in that he thinks that, if the Bill goes ahead without any additional funding behind it, the improvement, which I agree with him is urgent, would follow. It will not follow unless the bricks and mortar are there, and you cannot make bricks without straw. This is a vital issue for the success of the whole Bill and I should like to ask the opinion of the Committee.
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