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Lord Alderdice moved Amendment No. 4:

("( ) One of the persons appointed by the Privy Council under sub-paragraph (1)(b) above shall be a trained counsellor in good standing.").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendment No. 5. At this late hour of the evening, perhaps we can group the two amendments together, particularly since Amendment No. 5 is relatively technical. At Second Reading, the issue of whether psychotherapy should best be regulated by itself or in conjunction with other professions was raised. The Minister has directed himself to that issue today.

On Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, seemed to suggest that bunching psychotherapy in with the new health professions council might be the best way to address the problem. I have read and re-read the noble Lord's comments. He referred to effectiveness of treatment, which is a separate issue

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that has nothing to do with regulation. He also referred to the practice of psychotherapy by a range of other professionals. Again, that is not a matter to which the Bill refers. He also expressed the view that at certain levels there is no difference between counselling and psychotherapy, which will attract the bristles of psychotherapists and counsellors at various levels. As a professional, I felt some confusion about that response. I have listened with some interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has said.

After Second Reading, I was contacted by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, who understandably were not wholly taken with my reference to their work. They entirely agreed that a one-size-fits-all health professions council was not a practical proposition. I wonder whether one reason that we still do not have regulation after 30 years is that we have tried to put too many things together. I have been accused of that this evening, so I recognise that the Government face a difficult dilemma.

I accept that there are shared borderlines and professional interests. Amendment No. 4 would ensure that counselling was represented on the general psychotherapy council. It is not a solution to the problem, but a demonstration of my recognition that the borderline between counselling and psychotherapy is difficult to define and that there is a real need to take into consideration the range of professions, as the Minister said. I do not turn aside from that.

On Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, made much of the range of those involved in talking therapies and the relationship between them. I accept that. Amendment No. 5 is a tidying-up amendment consequential on the reference in paragraph 11(1)(a) of the schedule only to the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners. That shows that the aim of the Bill is to bring people in, not to exclude them.

I accept that a number of bodies outside those specific to psychotherapy have an interest in the issue. As the Minister has said, it may be that the need for regulation of psychotherapy can be addressed along with the need for regulation of psychology and ultimately of counselling, although I do not believe that counselling is yet ready for the regulation that psychotherapy and psychology now need. I hope that the Government will recognise that not all of that needs to be done at the same time. We may be able to capitalise on some progress, bank that and then build on it.

I do not doubt the commitment of the Minister and the Government to regulation in psychotherapy, if for no other reason than that this Government have as great a leaning as any in recent times towards the regulation of most things. However, that does not mean that they will be successful or that they will do it in the best way possible. I am encouraged by the Minister's comments about consultation and commitment and by the fact that he envisages early movement, not a dilatory approach. I beg to move.

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6 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. I confess to him that I am responsible for better regulation in the Department of Health, which is a process designed to see what regulations we can drop to reduce the burdens on industry. I await with great interest his comments on our record on regulation.

I firmly believe that we should build on the noble Lord's valuable work. The regulation of psychotherapists is important and should be pursued. We also need to assess progress in relation to the other professions that the noble Lord mentioned. Discussions are needed about where and how it is best to regulate the professions, whether they should be brought together in one body and, if so, how. That is the next matter that needs to be discussed with the professions.

We need to address the concern, which is common in the NHS, that the majority of effective psychotherapy may be provided by professionals who do not call themselves psychotherapists. The noble Lord rightly said that whatever mechanism is chosen, one has to accept that not every profession will march to the same timetable. Flexibility is needed to pick up professions when they are ready for regulation.

My interpretation of the Bill and the composition of the general council is that six lay members will be appointed by the Privy Council, although one of those members will be a medical practitioner. The amendment would mean that a second professional, a counsellor, would be appointed. I understand and support the noble Lord's reasons for saying that it would be useful if a person such as a counsellor served at the general council. However, with regard to regulation more generally, we are seeking to have an overall majority of one among the lay membership. That approach has been adopted in relation to the

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Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and the health professions council. We shall need to deal with that matter in our more detailed discussions in the coming months.

Lord Alderdice: I welcome the Minister's response, and in particular his comments on everyone not having to move at the same speed and his commitment to the process of regulation. I fully accept his comments on the relative lack of lay representation in this regard. That point was made on Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and correctly so. I sought to address the problem but realised how many consequential amendments would have been required to fill out all of the numbers. Members of the Committee would not have thanked me at this hour on a Wednesday evening if I had brought forward all of the necessary consequential amendments. I accept the Minister's comments and I do not doubt that they will be an important component in forthcoming discussions.

I welcome the Government's response. I promise that my colleagues and I will hold the Minister and the Government to the relevant commitments. If there is a small way in which I can continue to assist in the regulation of the profession, which is in many ways a governmental rather than a parliamentary responsibility, I look forward to our continuing to work together. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Alderdice moved Amendment No. 5:

    Page 31, line 15, leave out first ("the") and insert ("a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

        House adjourned at five minutes past six o'clock until Monday, 26th February.

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