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Earl Howe: My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister for speaking so fully to these amendments. There is nothing in them that I would regard as contentious; indeed, a number, such as those which relate to boarding schools, are decidedly welcome.

The Minister was kind enough to write to me last Friday with a comprehensive explanation of all the government amendments that we are considering today. I take this opportunity to thank him for the trouble that he took in doing so. It assisted me enormously in preparing for today's debates but, perhaps more to the point, it will have saved us a good deal of detailed and perhaps unnecessary discussion across the House--something which I am sure we are all keen to minimise.

Having said that, I am unlikely to be alone in the dismay that I felt when confronted with today's list of amendments. No fewer than 289 government amendments to this Bill have been passed in another place, including 20 new clauses and one new schedule. The Bill is now approximately 20 per cent longer than when it left us in the spring. I am the first to recognise that a good number of the amendments represent the Government's response to concerns raised in both Houses during the passage of the Bill. We shall all be grateful for that and, to that extent, I do not wish to sound in the least churlish. However, by any standards, 289 amendments in a Bill of this length is a large mouthful to swallow at one go. Of course, that figure excludes the 185 government amendments inserted during the Lords stages, if I have counted them correctly.

There was a respectable case to be made for having the Bill re-committed. I have no doubt that the Minister will repeat often as we progress through the groupings that a substantial proportion of the amendments are technical in nature. Of course, there will always be amendments of that kind. However, I

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am sure that some of us long for the day when the majority of technical anomalies are ironed out before Bills are laid before Parliament in the first place. We seem to be moving into a rut in which wholesale amendments to Bills during their passage through Parliament is becoming more and more the norm. On an exceptional basis, it may be unavoidable and possibly even desirable. However, on a routine basis I suggest that it is neither of those things.

I am sure that we shall all pay close attention to the Minister's words today and, at the end, come to our own view as to how strongly the Government are to be congratulated on their overall handling of the Bill.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, even at this late hour it is good to be back at another meeting of the "balance club" which has been through this Bill several times before. After much of the high-flown oratory, it is good to be back doing work which really will make a difference to people who need protection in institutional settings.

I greatly welcome what the Minister said with regard to the work that has been done on the Bill since it left this House. I welcome in particular the work done on the definition of community homes and the work done in the light of many comments made in this House about the position of independent boarding schools. I too regret the list of bingo numbers in front of us this evening. However, I understand that they reflect what has happened throughout the Bill's passage in this House; namely, that the Government are prepared to listen to what many of us had to say based on our own practical experience in these fields. I welcome that very much.

I have one particular point on this group of amendments and that relates to Amendment No. 6. Your Lordships will recall the point which was well made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, during our discussions about the fact that some boarding schools, particularly those which raise income by letting their premises during school holidays for the purposes of holding activity holidays for children, may be caught under that definition. I understand that Amendment No. 6 is an attempt to clarify that. My point is: people who are teachers in independent boarding schools may well themselves either adopt or foster children, and they may well live on the premises. In that case, it is entirely possible that a fostered or adopted child may live in such premises for more than 295 days a year. I seek clarification from the Minister that a school in that position would not be caught. I know that that is not the intention of this amendment. The last thing that any of us want is for an independent school to be caught for that one single reason. That is the only point of substance I raise on this group of amendments.

Lord Laming: My Lords, I too do not want to raise any objections to any of these amendments, although like the noble Earl, Lord Howe, I suspect that with better parliamentary drafting many of these amendments could have been avoided.

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On Amendments Nos. 2 to 7, I noticed that when the noble Lord the Minister spoke to these items he referred to "foster carers" and not to "foster parents". I believe that he was correct to do so. Why do these amendments refer to "foster parents" rather than to "foster carers" which is the correct term nowadays?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I certainly recognise that 289 amendments comprise a somewhat daunting agenda for your Lordships at this rather late hour. I recognise that we are having to focus our minds on many different matters of detail.

In relation to the nature of the debates we have had, it is worth recalling that it was in mid-December, which seems a long time ago, that this Bill had its Second Reading. It has had rather slow progress through your Lordships' House and then into another place. I believe there has been one benefit from that: we have been able to take account of many of the comments and concerns that have been raised. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, in a sense anticipated my response to his strictures about the question of whether the drafting could have been better to start with. No doubt some things could have been done better. But the record indicates that the Government have listened very carefully to the many comments made in your Lordships' House and, indeed, during the passage of the Bill in another place.

Although later we shall come to debate a matter on which there has been disagreement in your Lordships' House right from the start, overall there has been a consensus approach to the main provisions of the Bill because we are all concerned about improving regulation in the care arrangements and in relation to the establishment of a general social council. Therefore, while the challenge for us this evening is to reflect on a considerable number of amendments, the final outcome is a better Bill which has emerged as a result of extremely informed debate in your Lordships' House.

The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked whether the 295 day rule applies to a child who is a student at the school but who lives at the school during the holidays. I am happy to give her the assurance that the provision would not apply in those circumstances.

As regards the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, I am advised that while it is right to refer to foster carers, the term "foster parent" is used in this legislation because that is the term used in the Children Act.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


2Clause 1, page 1, line 13, at end insert ("or by a foster parent")
3Page 2, line 4, leave out from beginning to ("or") in line 6

9.30 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

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Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


4Clause 1, page 2, line 8, after ("is") insert ("of a description")

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the house do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4. This is another large group of amendments. They are on the whole changes that were made in order to clarify what was already intended and make no changes of substance. They all deal with the provisions under Part II that set out the detailed processes, systems and requirements operated by the national care standards commission.

Amendments Nos. 4, 12 and 14 respond to concerns raised by Philip Hammond in Committee in another place and seek to clarify the intention that powers to exempt from regulation will not be used to exempt individual establishments or agencies from registration requirements. The amendments use the term "of a description", which is already present in Clause 2(8).

Amendment No. 25 relates to reports following inquiries established by the Secretary of State under Clause 9. We debated this point at some length in the House. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and in moving an amendment I said that the onus will be on the Government to publish inquiry reports and the clear expectation is that they would normally publish those reports except in exceptional circumstances. However, in response to concerns expressed during Commons Committee stage we made a further amendment to make the position even clearer on the face of the Bill that in all but exceptional circumstances the report would be published.

Amendment No. 26 makes clear that a registered manager of an establishment or agency must be a person. The person carrying on an establishment or agency--essentially the owner--can be an organisation or company, but we wanted to make clear that the role of manager, which is so important to the day-to-day running of the care service, is one that must be undertaken by a named person, although this amendment does not preclude job-sharing arrangements.

Linked to that is Amendment No. 35 which clarifies that regulations can be made requiring managers of specified establishments or agencies to be registered with the general social care council. That will enable the national care standards commission and the general social care council, with their separate but related responsibilities, to be brought together for the greater enhancement of quality to service users.

Amendments Nos. 27 and 29 to 34 all make a minor clarifying change to ensure that conditions on an establishment or agency can be removed as well as varied. That change was made in response to concern expressed by in Committee in another place by Philip Hammond.

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Amendments Nos. 28 and 46 respond to a problem with the Registered Homes Act 1984 and the Children Act 1989 that has recently come to light as a result of a number of cases before the courts or Registered Homes Tribunal. Essentially, the wording of the legislation allows home owners to avoid the consequences of cancellation if they closed the home before a formal cancellation decision was taken, because in such a case there was no home in respect of which to cancel, and cancellation was invalid.

The effect of that would be that such a person could open another home elsewhere without having the cancellation on their record. Amendment No. 28 ensures that the wording of the Bill avoids that loophole. Amendment No. 46 makes the appropriate change to the Children Act so that in the period before the establishment of the national care standards commission, the loophole is fixed in respect of children's homes.

Amendments Nos. 36, 43, 44, 50 and 51 are also technical clarifying changes that simply make sure that "documents" as well as records can be inspected by inspectors.

Amendment No. 37 is specifically in response to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in our discussions at Report stage. Clause 21(6)(k) of the Bill allows regulations to be made to ensure that arrangements are in place in independent hospitals and clinics to ensure that any medical or psychiatric treatment they provide is of appropriate quality and meets appropriate standards. The noble Lord's concern was that this power really ought to extend to the nursing provided by care homes. We considered that issue carefully and tabled this amendment in Commons Committee to take account of that point.

Amendments Nos. 38, 52 and 179 are all about consultation. Amendment No. 38 places a requirement on the Secretary of State to consult before making or significantly amending regulations under Clause 21 of the Bill. That was in response to concerns raised during Committee stage in another place.

Amendment No. 52 is an amendment tabled in Committee which the Government were happy to accept in another place. The effect of the amendment is to require consultation on the national minimum standards to apply under Part III to local authority services to match the consultation requirement set out in Clause 22 applying to Part II services. Amendment No. 179 has the same effect in respect of standards for welfare inspections of boarding schools.

Amendments Nos. 39 to 42 relate to offences under Part II of the Bill. Amendment No. 39 ensures that the "holding out" offence properly covers all eventualities. The drafting of the original clause was not sophisticated enough to catch people who, for example, advertise their home as being a nursing home if it is not registered to provide nursing care.

Amendment No. 40 introduces a new offence of knowingly making a false or misleading statement in any application to the national care standards commission. That plugs an important gap in the provisions to ensure that there is no incentive for

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applicants to falsify details. Amendment No. 41 allows for proceedings for an offence to be brought more than six months after they are committed. For summary offences such as those under Part II, the six-month time limit applies automatically unless otherwise specified. But in many cases, offences only come to light when problems are uncovered following inspection or whistle blowing. The amendment provides for a six-month time limit from when the offence comes to light with an overall time limit of three years from the commission of the offence.

Amendment No. 42 simply places local authorities in the same position as other bodies registered under Part II such as companies or voluntary organisations. It allows for local authority members, as well as officers, to be prosecuted if the offence is proved to have been committed with their consent or connivance, or if it is attributable to neglect on their part.

Finally, Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 extend the provisions of Clause 39, which is the clause under which regulations may be made to extend the provisions of Part II to other services. That would mean the introduction of regulation under the national care standards commission for services not covered on the face of the Bill. The original drafting of the clause did not allow for extension to agencies, only to local authority social services or NHS services. Amendment No. 47 therefore extends it to cover agencies supplying people who provide such services. Amendment No. 48 ensures that local authority services themselves are properly within the scope of the power. We felt that the original wording left that in some doubt.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

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