Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 343:



"( ) The Secretary of State may, after consulting the CSCI, by regulations make provision as to the procedure to be followed in respect of the making of representations to the CSCI before the publication of a report under this section."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 79 [Failings]:

[Amendments Nos. 344 and 345 not moved.]

Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 346:


    Page 33, line 29, at end insert—


"( ) The Secretary of State may, after consulting the CSCI, by regulations make provision as to the procedure to be followed in respect of the making of representations to the CSCI before the publication of a report under this section."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 80 [Studies as to economy, efficiency etc]:

Lord Warner moved Amendments Nos. 347 and 348:


    Page 33, line 32, leave out "may promote or undertake" and insert "has the function of promoting or undertaking"


    Page 34, line 5, at end insert—


"( ) The Secretary of State may, after consulting the CSCI, by regulations make provision as to the procedure to be followed in respect of the making of representations to the CSCI before the publication of any recommendations or the result of any studies under this section."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 83 [Criteria]:

[Amendment No. 349 not moved.]

Clause 88 [Power to require information etc]:

[Amendments Nos. 350 and 351 not moved.]

Clause 93 [Studies as to economy, efficiency etc]:

Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 352:


    Page 38, line 35, leave out "may promote or undertake" and insert "has the function of promoting or undertaking"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 95 [General considerations]:

Lord Warner moved Amendment No. 353:


    Page 39, line 25, at end insert—


"( ) the availability and quality of information provided to the public about the services;"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 100 [Transfer of functions to CHAI and CSCI]:

[Amendments Nos. 354 to 356 not moved.]

10 Nov 2003 : Column 1179

Clause 101 [General functions of CHAI]:

[Amendments Nos. 357 to 360 not moved.]

Clause 102 [General functions of CSCI]:

[Amendment No. 361 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 362 not moved.]

Clause 108 [Boarding schools and colleges]:

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 363:


    Page 46, line 6, at end insert—


"( ) In exercise of its functions by virtue of this section, the CSCI shall—
(a) prepare a report on the discharge by the school or college of relevant functions;
(b) without delay send a copy of the report to the school or college; and
(c) make copies of the report available for inspection at its offices by any person at any reasonable time;
and may take any other steps for publicising a report which it considered appropriate.
( ) Any person who asks the CSCI for a copy of the report shall be entitled to have one on payment of a reasonable fee determined by the CSCI; but nothing in this subsection prevents the CSCI from providing a copy free of charge when it considers it appropriate to do so."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the course of a long Committee stage one of my favourite quotations was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, when addressing the precursor to the amendment. She said:


    "I must confess that the amendment has taken a slightly different direction from the one I anticipated".—[Official Report, 20/10/03; col. 1391.]

With my noble friend Lord Addington sitting behind me, her comments have a kind of analogy with the Welsh rugby team, the centres taking a rather different line from the one anticipated by the English team yesterday. My noble friend Lord Thomas has already alluded to that game, and yet I was supporting the English team at the time.

The noble Earl, Lord Howe, used an elegant phrase and referred to, I believe, "the superior set of amendments that follow". I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness has to say in regard to the remaining amendments. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, there is no doubt that at this time of night the Chamber assumes the proportions of a confessional in so many ways. It may be that one of these days the noble Lord will be supporting the things made in heaven.

I hope to be able to give the noble Lord all the good news that he seeks. I have tabled Amendments Nos. 364 and 365 in direct response to the concerns he raised in Committee. I hope that they will enable him to withdraw his amendment as they seek to achieve the same effect.

If I understood correctly what the noble Lord said in Committee—and he had undertaken some superb detective work—he was concerned that the power under Clause 109 is not sufficiently broad to require the CSCI to report on all aspects of how a particular

10 Nov 2003 : Column 1180

school or college has discharged its functions. In particular, he was concerned that the clause required the NCSC—and, in future, the CSCI—to report only on the fact that it had exercised its powers of entry under Section 87(5) of the Children Act and not on what it had found in the course of exercising these powers.

Parliamentary counsel has confirmed that under the existing drafting the clause achieves the effect that the noble Lord is seeking. However, we are anxious to avoid future misunderstanding and, to ensure that the effect of the clause is absolutely clear on the face of the Bill, we have tabled Amendments Nos. 364 and 365 as clarifying amendments. I hope that meets the noble Lord's concerns.

As I promised in Committee, I have also tabled Amendment No. 366 to make it clear that CSCI is required to send a copy of any report to schools and colleges and make copies available at its offices for inspection by any person. As I said in Committee, we would expect it to do so in any case, but this amendment places it on a statutory basis. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I welcome the amendment. There have been considerable difficulties in relation to some boarding schools where it has been difficult to have reports in the public domain. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for raising this issue and to the Government for clarifying it.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, with the form of words that the Minister has used, both in correspondence and tonight, she is effectively saying that the Government believe that the clause means what we thought it meant, but, to put it beyond peradventure, they will amend it accordingly. I am very happy with that as a compromise and very happy that the Government have put down further amendments. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 109 [Boarding schools and colleges: reports]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 364 to 366:


    Page 46, line 10, after "subsection (5)" insert "in relation to a child"


    Page 46, line 10, at end insert "on whether the child's welfare is adequately safeguarded and promoted while he is accommodated by the school or college"


    Page 46, leave out lines 11 to 13 and insert—


"(9B) Where the Commission or the National Assembly for Wales publishes a report under this section, it must—
(a) send a copy of the report to the school or college concerned; and
(b) make copies of the report available for inspection at its offices by any person at any reasonable time."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

10 Nov 2003 : Column 1181

Baroness Barker moved Amendment No. 367:


    Before Clause 111, insert the following new clause—


"COMPLAINTS
(1) Complaints under this Act may be made by an individual or a body of persons, whether incorporated or not.
(2) A complaint may be submitted in respect of—
(a) the exercise by an NHS body of any of its functions;
(b) the provision by any person of health care for which the body is responsible;
(c) the provision of an NHS service by a health professional supplied under private contract; and
(d) the provision of services by the body or any other person in pursuance of arrangements made by the body under section 31 of the Health Act 1999 (c. 8) (arrangements between NHS bodies and local authorities) in relation to the exercise of the health-related functions of a local authority.
(3) A complaint may be initiated by—
(a) the person aggrieved;
(b) his personal representative;
(c) a member of his family;
(d) an independent advocate, or
(e) some body or individual suitable to represent him"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am rather sorry that we cannot continue these discussions in a similar vein. I think the form of words that my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones was searching for was that the Government agree with what he proposed at an earlier stage. Had that been the Minister's response this time, we could have settled this issue very quickly.

We considered in Committee the key area of complaints. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, gave a characteristically full and detailed response at that stage, for which we were very grateful. Therefore, it is somewhat disappointing to see the limited nature of the amendments which the Government have tabled as a result. The noble Baroness understood the points we were making about the need to have clarity about the process under which people can bring complaints.

We on these Benches start from a standpoint of wishing to see complaints, and, in particular, resort to litigation for complaints within the NHS, minimised. Litigation is a plague within the NHS, and we are seeking ways in which we can prevent matters escalating.

In Amendment No. 367, we have set out what we think is a clear, coherent format for a complaints procedure which would satisfy the large majority of people who bring complaints against the NHS. We also welcome government Amendment No. 370 which states that there must be clarity about those to whom complaints may be made. That is very necessary, given the plethora of bodies involved in assisting people with complaints. However, we on these Benches find Amendment No. 373 somewhat inadequate. It does not go into detail about the way in which complaints will be effectively handled.

Amendment No. 372 is a proposal that we discussed last time, whereby small ex gratia payments to an upper value set in regulations could be made in respect of lesser injuries that have occurred to people and could avoid more complex complaints and

10 Nov 2003 : Column 1182

investigations. As I said earlier, it would often obviate the necessity of taking legal action. We believe that is important, because a lot of people are currently being taken in by adverts for no-win, no-fee claims; when the process is completed, the claimant ends up with very little indeed. It would be preferable for those in the NHS who deal with such matters, and for those bringing complaints, to have a mechanism for that, as it would keep them out of long and costly legal proceedings.

An expert group convened by the Scottish Executive has recommended introducing ex gratia payments into the Scottish NHS complaints procedure. While one need not always follow nations that are proud, often right but hopeless at rugby, it is from time to time to be commended. In England, the Clinical Disputes Forum has recommended compensation should be available through the NHS complaints procedure. We believe that is a wise way forward. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 368 and 369, which would require the first regulations under Clauses 111 and 112, setting up the new complaints procedures, to be subject to the affirmative procedure. I am afraid that it is confession time: I must apologise to the House for failing to heed the Minister's strictures in Committee about forgetting Wales. I confess that the amendments are defective in that respect. However, with that acknowledged defect, I hope that they may be treated as probing amendments.

We had a useful debate about complaints procedures in Committee, where the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, gave comprehensive responses. She reminded us not only of the significant issues that will be dealt with under the regulations setting up the new complaints systems but also that it will be the first time that complaints procedures will be the subject of regulations, direction-making powers having been used in the past.

In Committee, we tabled amendments requiring all orders to be subject to the affirmative procedure. In the light of our discussions in Committee I have modified that to relate only to the first regulations. Many detailed issues need to be worked out and many sensitive areas, such as confidentiality of data, need to be got right in the regulations. The Minister was not, of course, able to give us chapter and verse in response to various detailed questions in Committee because the draft regulations are not available. We believe that the importance of the first regulations is such that Parliament should have an opportunity to scrutinise them under the affirmative procedure. I concede that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee did not recommend that but, equally, the Government's memorandum to the committee did not fully reveal the extent of the changes that the new regime would bring about.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page