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"( ) If the Secretary of State holds any appointments functions in respect of which he has not made a direction under subsection (2), he shall make an annual report to each House of Parliament setting out the appointments functions concerned and the reasons for the retention of exercise of those functions."

The noble Baroness said: Having dealt with the welfare food schemes, I believe that we have turned the final corner on this Bill. In speaking to Amendment No. 469 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 470. We have already debated the thrust behind Clause 183 on several occasions. It concerns the various appointments that are made in the NHS being delegated to the NHS Appointments Commission. We discussed that when we talked of the regulator, CHAI and CSCI.

Amendment No. 469 simply provides for parliamentary scrutiny of those appointments that are retained by the Secretary of State. It is all very well

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setting up a power to transfer the requirements if some appointments functions are retained—I do not think that this is the time to debate which will be retained—but this amendment concerns the transparency of the appointments that are kept, stating the reasons for them being kept.

Perhaps the Minister would mention the directions given by the Secretary of State. Subsection (2) talks of making a direction and of giving a power of appointment to the commission. Will the Minister say whether, having made a direction, the Secretary of State can take that power of appointment back again? I am working on the assumption that that is the case and, therefore, that it would be right, over time, to retain the visibility of what is or is not being delegated. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that.

Amendment No. 470 is a probing amendment. Paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 12, which the amendment deletes, transfers the appointment powers of Her Majesty the Queen to the Privy Council, with the intention that the Privy Council delegates to the Appointments Commission. That relates to the General Medical Council. My question is simple: have the Government consulted Her Majesty before attempting to remove her powers? I beg to move.

12.45 p.m.

Lord Warner: On taking the direction back, the answer is yes, the Secretary of State can.

I put on the record that it is expected that most of these appointments will be delegated to the Appointments Commission but there is a need to retain some appointments. That is particularly so in the area of highly specialised advisory bodies, where the relevant specialist skills and knowledge are likely to be within the department. That puts the matter into context.

As the Committee is aware, the Appointments Commission is a relatively new innovation, but it is an innovation particular to the Department of Health. Most other public appointments outside the health area are still currently handled and made by the other departments and the Ministers concerned. Details of those appointments are published via press releases as well as being set out on an annual basis in the Cabinet Office publication, Public Bodies.

That will still be the case in relation to appointments for which the Secretary of State in the Department of Health continues to be responsible, including both the appointments made by the commission and those made directly by Ministers. Any appointments made by Ministers will be subject to audit by the Commissioner for Public Appointments and she will also consider any complaints made about the appointments process in exactly the same way as she does for appointments made by other government departments.

Therefore, I can see no reason why there is a need for Department of Health appointments to be singled out and treated differently from public appointments made by Ministers of other government departments. It implies that the occupants of Richmond House are

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rather more disreputable—that is an offensive remark—than other public appointments made by other Ministers. We are singling out the Department of Health, and if that is what the noble Baroness is saying perhaps we should get it on the record.

Amendment No. 470 changes the context. On the question of whether Her Majesty was consulted, where there is change in legislation that affects Her Majesty the normal practice is that consultation takes place with the Palace. I shall check that and let the noble Baroness know.

Baroness Noakes: I thank the Minister for his reply. I did not suggest that the Department of Health was disreputable. That is too strong a term. But the Department of Health has been criticised by the Appointments Commissioner for the over-politicisation of its appointments, which is why the NHS Appointments Commission came into being in the first place. My amendment is a logical end point of that process. The reason is that the Department of Health was perhaps thought, in some quarters, to have had a case to answer. I shall consider carefully what the Minister has said.

Lord Warner: I believe that the department has answered the question and the concerns by setting up the NHS Appointments Commission.

Baroness Noakes: That is quite so. That is why, if the department hangs on to anything, we have tabled this amendment which is about transparency. I shall not pursue that point today. I look forward to hearing the Minister's confirmation or otherwise in relation to my probing Amendment No. 470. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 183 agreed to.

Schedule 12 [Privy Council appointments]:

[Amendment No. 470 not moved.]

Schedule 12 agreed to.

Clause 184 agreed to.

Clause 185 [Validity of clearance for employment in certain NHS posts]:

Baroness Noakes moved Amendment No. 471:

    Page 103, line 28, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Baroness said: I shall be extremely brief in moving Amendment No. 471, which amends Clause 185. It is a probing amendment. We support the protection of vulnerable adults scheme introduced by the Care Standards Act 2000. We have no problem with the basic thrust of Clause 185. My question to the

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Minister is: what has happened to the scheme? When will it actually start to protect the vulnerable adults whom it is supposed to protect? I beg to move.

Lord Warner: Consultation is still taking place on the scheme. We would hope to introduce it as quickly as possible. That is why provision is being made in the Bill.

Baroness Noakes: Will the Minister elaborate on "as quickly as possible"? It is a little like "shortly"; it is one of those elastic terms that we come across a great deal in Committee.

Lord Warner: I do not have a date in my notes, but outside the Committee I shall be happy to give the noble Baroness our best estimate of when the scheme will come into operation.

Baroness Noakes: I thank the noble Lord and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 471A:

    Page 104, line 9, at end insert—

"( ) The effect of subsections (1) to (3) is to be disregarded in determining for the purposes of section 1 of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 (c. 6) (power by order to make provision reforming law which imposes burdens) whether any provision of either of the following Acts falls within subsection (4)(a) of that section (provision amended by an Act within previous two years)—
(a) the Protection of Children Act 1999 (c. 14);
(b) the Care Standards Act 2000 (c. 14)."

The noble Lord said: The Department of Health, as I said in a previous amendment, plans shortly to begin a public consultation exercise on the commencement of the protection of vulnerable adults (POVA) list provisions contained within the Care Standards Act 2000. There will be a public consultation exercise on that.

The POVA list will be a list of people judged unsuitable to work with vulnerable adults. As part of that consultation we shall be asking for views on certain easements; for example, should a check against the POVA list for work with one agency remain valid for work with another agency? At the moment, a person would need to apply for a fresh POVA check each time he or she signed up to a different agency. Once the POVA scheme is commenced, this requirement may cause an unnecessary financial burden on employers and employees, in certain circumstances.

Should the response to this consultation proposal be positive, the Government would consider seeking a legislative vehicle—possibly a regulatory reform order—to provide easements in the Care Standards Act. An RRO cannot be used in relation to legislation that is less than two years old on the date that an RRO is made. Given that Clause 185 of the Bill makes amendments to the POVA provisions in the Care Standards Act 2000 and to the Protection of Children Act 1999, it is doubtful that we would be able to use an

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RRO to make further amendments within a two-year period. It is for that reason that we seek this technical amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale: Section 1 of the Regulatory Reform Act talks about order-making powers. What is the point of having such a power if primary legislation, such as this, extends the time limit for putting in the order? I do not understand the position.

Lord Warner: The noble Baroness supports the bringing of this scheme into operation as quickly as possible in order to reduce the risk to vulnerable adults. We are taking a precautionary measure so that we will not be delayed by the need for primary legislation in this area. The provision is very specific to this scheme. It merely deals with a public safety issue.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 185, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 472 and 473 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 186 agreed to.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clauses 187 to 190 agreed to.

Clause 191 [Orders and regulations]:

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