To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will add to their priorities for the United Kingdom chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe the securing of restitution or compensation from the Government of Poland for British citizens whose property in Poland was seized by the Nazi and Communist regimes.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government's priorities for the UK chairmanship of the Council of Europe were announced by my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe on 26 October. Our main priority is for the reform of the Court of Human Rights. The Government have no plans to augment these. The Government take the issue of property restitution very seriously, as the noble Baroness will be well aware from her participation in conferences on this subject. We will continue to remind Poland of its stated intention to reinstate a restitution Bill, currently stalled, when its economic situation allows.
Baroness Deech: I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that Poland is the only post-Communist European nation without legislation to help the victims of Communist and Nazi property seizures, whereas other relatively poorer countries have such legislation? Is he aware that Poland is not engaging with the formal process that he mentioned and is unlikely to attend the conference on this next year, so will he take steps to help the claimants by, for example, pressing for a European representative on reparation and asking for a quid pro quo for the £2 million UK contribution to Poland which was recently made for the preservation of Auschwitz?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there are several complex issues in that supplementary question. Legislation has indeed been passed in all the other post-Communist countries although I am advised that its implementation has been patchy. Poland has suspended its legislation on the grounds that the €5 billion which it estimates would be the cost would take it above its current budgetary limit. We all understand that in current circumstances national Governments find these things difficult. I am very conscious that restitution in Poland is an unusually difficult issue after 80 years in which first Nazi and then Russian troops have rolled over
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Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I also declare a sort of interest in that one of my late grandmothers was Polish and did not come out of Poland at the end of the war. However, I will not be one of those seeking compensation. Further to what the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, has said, when and if Her Majesty's Government press the Polish Government, will they ask them to ease the evidential requirements needed to make claims, which are very complicated, and assist people to access the records, as that assistance is not always given? My noble friend the Minister spoke of the financial difficulties that Poland is experiencing, but will the Government ask it in very strong terms to set up a central fund to at least meet a small percentage of the claims rather than blocking any claims whatever?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have said on a number of occasions to the Polish Government that we regret the slow progress on this issue. We supported the 2010 Terezin declaration. We will be an active participant in the review conference next year and are actively engaged with other like-minded Governments on this issue. We do not have a formal position at present on the question of an EU representative for Holocaust restitution.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, will the Government be more ambitious in, at any rate, the field of cultural property? Will they take this opportunity to put forward proposals for a treaty, possibly a convention-perhaps under the auspices of UNESCO-to establish internationally agreed legal principles for the determination of claims for compensation for, or restitution of, cultural property that was wrongfully taken in circumstances of war or occupation?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am not sure how far back the noble Lord wishes to take that. I remember being taken around Prague Castle in 1993 and shown the empty spaces on the walls where the pictures that the Swedish army had taken away in 1643 had been. As we know, the issue of cultural property, particularly that of the 20th century, is actively being pursued. A number of museums are extremely hesitant about this, and there was an interesting article in one of last weekend's supplements about this. We are engaged in the whole issue of cultural property and restitution but, as the noble Lord knows from a number of current cases in New York, this can sometimes raise immensely complicated questions.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Is the Minister aware that at least one case on this very issue is already pending before the European Court of Human Rights, and it would therefore be completely inappropriate for the United Kingdom, during its presidency, to take up this issue? Is it right that British Government received £5.4 million under the indemnity agreement made after the Second World War to cover the international
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am aware that the issues of restitution of communal property are in some ways rather different from restitution of individual property. I stand to be informed by the noble Lord on the case before the European Court of Human Rights, and he is of course correct to say that we are, in a sense, in the second round on the issue of restitution. There was a first round in the years immediately after the Second World War. The second round began with the end of the Cold War and the whole set of issues that then opened up regarding restitution from post-Communist Governments.
Lord Wills: My Lords, when do Her Majesty's Government expect full implementation of the Terezin declaration by all countries, including Poland? What measures are Her Majesty's Government taking to ensure that this might happen before the 70th anniversary in 2015 of the end of World War 2?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, on 9 November the Foreign Secretary announced in a Statement to the House of Commons that the United Kingdom will abstain on any Security Council resolution on Palestinian UN membership. We will not vote against the application because of the progress that the Palestinian leadership has made towards meeting the criteria for UN membership, including statehood, but we cannot vote for the application while our primary objective remains a return to negotiations and the success of those negotiations.
Lord Dykes: My Lords, I understand that point but, none the less, in the general background, how long can this basic madness go on after 44 years? Indeed, over the weekend, Defense Secretary Panetta issued a very serious warning to Israel about it being isolated in the Middle East. Surely Palestine cannot be the only country in the world denied statehood at the almost exclusive request of the USA and one other country. What next step in ethical British foreign policy will be taken to promote this matter?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we certainly recognise that the case for progress on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict has become
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am not entirely briefed as to which states recognise Israel and which do not, let alone what the implications of changes in regime might mean for that, but I promise to write to the noble Lord.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, in my Question to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on 13 September, I asked whether he accepted that granting statehood to the Palestinians would not of itself preclude future negotiations. Does the Minister accept that acquiring statehood, rather than inviting punishment from Israel and the United States, would put the Palestinians on a more equal footing with their Israeli negotiators and thus improve the chances of achieving the credible and substantial negotiations that are, as I understand it, the Government's objective?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I repeat that the Government's primary objective is to press for the resumption of negotiations between the two parties, based on the principle of a two-state solution around boundaries to be agreed but based on the 1967 boundaries. We are conscious that we are slipping away from that possibility for a range of reasons. We are also conscious that if neither side were to believe any longer in the possibility of a negotiated solution, the threat of a return to violence would be real.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the case for Palestinian statehood would be much improved if Fatah and Hamas-in other words, the two different jurisdictions within former Palestinian lands-were able to meet in accordance with the reconciliation agreement of May 2011, the Cairo agreement, and speak with one voice on a Palestinian state rather than with two?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government would be extremely happy to see a successful reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas based on the acceptance of the state of Israel within a two-state solution and the provision of a viable shared Administration for both Gaza and the West Bank.
Lord Turnberg: My Lords, while we are all very anxious for a two-state solution to emerge from all this, to follow the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, does the Minister agree that it is rather unhelpful for a Palestinian Government who include Hamas to seek membership of the United Nations at the same time as they deny the existence of another state that belongs to the United Nations, namely Israel?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, a great deal of unhelpful statements are being made on both sides. It was brought to my attention that one British national newspaper the other week published an advertisement by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism that showed the state of Israel as including Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. That is not entirely helpful for an agency of the state of Israel, either. There are real problems, and both sides recognise that. If we concentrate on the problems on both sides, we will not get back to negotiations, which is, above all, what we need to do.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, if the matter were to come before the United Nations General Assembly and the proposition was that Palestine should be given a status higher than its existing one, and one that has been used in the past by sovereign independent states such as Switzerland, would we in that circumstance be able to vote for it?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there is not yet a proposition before the General Assembly. When that emerges, we will take our decision in the light of our commitment to make sure that everything that is done promotes negotiation between the two parties.
Lord McAvoy: My Lords, as the state of Israel steadily pursues its policy of appropriating land, evicting Palestinians from their own land and steadily encroaching on the territory that Palestinians hope to include in their part of a two-state solution, was abstention really good enough?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I appreciate that passions run very high on both sides of this argument and that passions also rise high on the ground. Low levels of violence are being experienced on both sides at present. The worst thing would be for negotiations not to resume and for the current level of intermittent violence on both sides to blow up again into a more general conflict. The alternative to peace is conflict, which is why negotiations for peace are very important.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to prevent prisoner escort vans delivering young offenders to Her Majesty's Young Offender Institution Feltham after the contracted time of 7.30 pm.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, the safe delivery of vulnerable young people is a priority, and we scrutinise contract reasons for any late arrivals. We monitor the contractors' performance continuously and are working closely with them to address any concerns regarding late arrivals to Her Majesty's Prison Feltham.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. This is not a new problem, although this present contractor started work only at the end of August. Over 10 years ago, when I went into the same problem, I discovered the reason was that, in order to save money, the contractor was using the drivers as court orderlies, and therefore they could not start delivering prisoners until after the courts had closed. This is actually a foul and was leading to considerable trouble. Can the Minister tell the House whether this practice is still going on and, if so, whether steps will be taken to stop it?
Lord McNally: My Lords, I am not aware that that practice is still going on. However, I shall investigate the matter and write to the noble Lord. It is true that some late arrivals are due to the fact that courts can sit until eight o'clock and travel time often depends on the traffic. Between the end of a case and departure from the court, post-court reports have to be prepared at the sentencing court by the YOT concerned and this can also cause some delay. However, with regard to the point that the noble Lord raises, I shall simply have to investigate.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the criminal justice system treats young offenders differently from adult offenders, yet the latest available figures show that there have been just over 2,800 cases where young offenders have had to share transport with adult offenders. Will the Minister ensure that this practice is stopped now that the new contracts are being awarded, and should that not form part of the contractual obligation with the firms being awarded these contracts?
Lord McNally: My Lords, we have to accept the certain realism that occasionally there will be dual use of vehicles. However, that is not something that we want and, indeed, as part of the new contract the contractors are bringing in specially designed hybrid
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Lord Boswell of Aynho: Given my own experience as a constituency MP for a different young offenders institution, will the noble Lord accept that this is by no means a local problem? It seems to have been going on for a very long time. Will he look in particular at the human side of this, because often these are young people, many of whom have just been sentenced for the first time? Will he recognise that if they arrive late, the hour is bound to be late; they are probably extremely tired; they might not have been fed and they might even be frightened? Is it not important that we address this?
Lord McNally: Most certainly, and one policy in place is that if a young offender arrives late and there is no opportunity to complete the full assessment that evening, the young offender is classified as a vulnerable prisoner and is treated with suitable support. In the circumstances, that underlines the duty of care with which we approach this matter.
Lord Bach: My Lords, this is a Question about youth justice and I broaden it slightly. The Minister will know that the Government's own impact assessment for the legal aid Bill, which is before this House at the moment, states that the proposals in Part 1 of the Bill-that is, the cutting of legal laid for social welfare law-generate a risk of increased criminality. It states:
What is the Government's estimate of the number of young people likely to be affected by these changes-specifically the likely number of young offenders-and how does that fit in with the Government's policy of reducing youth crime?
Lord McNally: My Lords, we will have a very thorough opportunity to discuss the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Impact assessments are what they are-assessments. It may be that some of the concerns do not arise; other factors may come into play. Therefore, I do not think it is realistic for me to give an answer to that speculative question.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the Government have continuous and wide-ranging dialogue with the aerospace industry. The Secretary of State for BIS chairs the aerospace business leaders group-involving some of the sector's leading businessmen as well as the national
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Lord Soley: I am grateful for that Answer. Does the Minister accept that this is a crucially important part of our manufacturing base, as well as our science and technology base, which is under threat at the moment both from some of the defence cuts and from the lack of a coherent civil aviation policy? Will he undertake to make sure that the Government stay in very close contact with the industry lest we lose our leading position in this premier international industry?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, yes, I share the noble Lord's concern. Focusing specifically on defence, I think that it is true that defence spending is declining worldwide, so we have developed the talent retention system to retain skills that may be released as some companies in the sector lay people off. There is, after all, a shortage of skilled engineers nationally. Some defence suppliers have diversified and the growth in other areas will offset the downturn in this sector. It is also worth saying that aerospace companies have been successful in both rounds of the regional growth fund.
Baroness Kramer: My Lords, as my noble friend the Minister will know, this is an industry that operates almost exclusively in dollars. Can he give us an assurance that last week's arrangements between key central banks will ensure access to a steady supply of dollars for British aerospace industry and its global partners? As he knows, this has been a question mark hanging over the industry in the last few weeks.
Lord Craig of Radley:Can the Minister confirm that the purchase of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force is essential for the future viability of British and other aerospace systems, essential to the security of the skilled workforce and essential to the Treasury for the tax take that will come from worldwide sale of this aircraft?
Lord De Mauley:My Lords, I cannot give the noble and gallant Lord the assurance he is seeking, but I can say that we are absolutely aware that the first responsibility when procuring equipment is to provide our Armed Forces with the capabilities they require at a cost that is affordable and represents best value for money for the taxpayer.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, would the Minister agree that defence spending is perhaps going down around the world in countries that might see the world and the future world order rather in the way we do, but in the countries that do not see it in that way defence spending is actually going up-in some of them quite
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Lord De Mauley: The noble Lord makes a fair point, and the Government have their eye very firmly on other regions of the world. It is also worth saying that defence exports are a key issue for this country, so long as they are legitimate.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister welcomed the UK-France defence treaty as much as I did. As part of that, there are a number of weapons programmes. Will the Government make sure that they defend the interests of the British defence industry as strongly as, I am sure, the French Government will ensure the strength of the defence industry of France within the context of that treaty?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, when we talk about the aerospace industry, we tend to think of large companies such as BAE Systems, but the supply chain and SMEs are extremely important. Can the Minister give me an assurance that, when the Government are looking at things like defence cuts and cuts in the aviation industry, they will also consider what jobs may be lost in the supply chain?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, that is a very important point and is a key focus of the aerospace growth partnership which I referred to in my initial Answer. The work that it is undertaking is addressing how we can make the UK aerospace supply chain more competitive, for example through improving our manufacturing processes and capabilities, ensuring that companies can access finance, increasing their ability to share risk with higher-tier suppliers and improving supply chain relationship management.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister say what are the consequences of the sale of the Harriers to the United States? Will we have any work remaining in the maintenance and upkeep of the Harriers now that they have all gone to the US?
Lord Haskel:Thinking about the supply chain, the Minister said nothing about skills. Is he aware that many component suppliers are not able to supply parts because of the shortage of skills? Aerospace manufacturers are having to buy their components abroad. The logical conclusion of that is that they will put the manufacture of the planes themselves overseas.
Lord De Mauley: That is also an extremely important point. We have invested £1.3 billion in apprenticeships this year and another £180 million in funding adult apprenticeships to deliver 250,000 more apprenticeships over the spending review period than was previously planned, and £250 million has been allocated to
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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Minister was somewhat ambivalent earlier on in answering the question about whether the Government would take on the Joint Strike Fighter. Will he assure the House that in making any decision on this point, the Government will fully take into account the enormous amount of money that has already been spent by the Government, and indeed the previous Government, in investing in the future of the Joint Strike Fighter?
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, given the Statement last week by the Chancellor committing not to build any more runways at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and expressing interest in building a fourth airport for London in the Thames estuary as a way of increasing the capacity of London airports as a whole, will the Minister explain to the House how the Government are going to take forward studying this new project?
Lord De Mauley: Yes, my Lords. The coalition Government have made clear that they do not support the construction of a third runway at Heathrow because of the unacceptable impacts on local communities and on climate change. In advance of the Developing a Sustainable Framework for UK Aviation consultation next spring, the Government are therefore considering a number of alternative measures, including taking on board the recommendations of the South East Airports Task Force.
Lord Hamilton of Epsom: When my noble friend hears the appeal of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, that he should not be ambivalent over the Joint Strike Fighter, should he not be quite clear in his own mind, and should the Government not be quite clear, how much it is going to cost before we commit ourselves to buying it?
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: Since the question of runway building has been raised-I was not sure that it would be under the heading of this Question-can the noble Lord assure us that, when the taskforce comes to deliver its conclusions, built into those there will be a proper assessment of the kind of long-term impact on communities, which have been waiting years to know whether a runway would or would not be built in their area?
Clauses 1 to 30, Schedule 1, Clause 31, Schedule 2, Clauses 32 and 33, Schedule 3, Clause 34, Schedule 4, Clause 35, Schedule 5, Clause 36, Schedule 6, Clauses 37 to 48, Schedule 7, Clauses 49 to 69, Schedule 8, Clauses 70 to 89, Schedule 9, Clauses 90 and 91, Schedule 10, Clauses 92 to 100, Schedule 11, Clause 101, Schedule 12, Clauses 102 to 140, Schedule 13, Clause 141, Schedule 14, Clauses 142 to 145.
The amendments in this group relate mostly to issues concerning public health. It is to be commended that the Bill places a duty on the Secretary of State to take steps to protect the public from diseases and other dangers to health, putting public health at a
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I will speak to Amendments 225, 226, 229 to 232, 233A, 234, 259 and 339. Amendment 225 deals with the appointment of directors of public health. Amendments 226, 229 and 231 allude to their training and qualifications. Amendment 228 applies to their accountability within the local authority and Amendment 230 concerns registration criteria. Amendment 234 applies to duties regarding the termination of employment of directors of public health and Amendment 259 concerns employment conditions. Amendment 339 deals with the regulation and registration of public health specialists.
As regards Amendments 228, 229, 230 and 231, the director of public health will be the strategic leader for public health in his or her local authority, providing expert public health advice and guidance across health protection, health improvement and health services. In order to provide effective strategic leadership, the director of public health must be able to influence all aspects of the work of the local authority in the wider determinants of health, such as housing, employment, access to services and education. He or she will also work with other organisations, including local health and well-being boards, HealthWatch England and clinical commissioning groups.
The director of public health must be an appropriately qualified and registered public health specialist. He or she must report directly to the accountable officer of the local authority, the chief executive. That is important because if the director of public health is not directly accountable to the chief executive but to some other person and, therefore, is subordinate, their authority will be diluted. The majority of directors of public health are now appointed jointly by the primary care trusts which employ them and local authorities to which they are seconded. Under the new system, all directors of public health will by law be jointly appointed by local authorities and the Secretary of State. That function will be undertaken by Public Health England and they will be located within and employed by local authorities.
As it currently stands, the Bill simply states that a local authority should "appoint an individual" without any specification of the required skills, expertise or stipulation of how these appointments should be carried out. A local authority could, for instance-indeed, there is some evidence that some are actively seeking to do so-tack the public health responsibilities onto,
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Perhaps I may allude to some of the core competences that will be required of directors of public health, although this is not an exhaustive list. They will need to ensure the proper design, development, implementation and utilisation of the major information systems to underpin public health improvement and action for the population across disciplines and organisations. They will need to interpret and advise on highly complex epidemiological and statistical information about the health of populations to the local authority, the NHS and voluntary organisations, and to develop a strategy for reducing health inequalities. As executive directors, they will need to take a leadership role in specified areas with local communities and vulnerable hard-to-reach populations. They will have responsibility for dealing with infectious diseases and threats, including food and water-borne diseases. They will also have responsibility for preparing for emergencies, including pandemic influenza, and for safeguarding the health of the population in relation to communicable diseases, infection control and environmental health, including delivery of immunisation targets.
There are a lot of tasks and they are much more exhaustive than the list I have given the House. Therefore the person appointed as director of public health must have the appropriate qualifications and experience to carry out those tasks. The statutory requirement to have an appointments advisory committee that appoints directors of public health is therefore necessary. When appointing public health specialists, it provides a system which exists in the NHS now for all consultant appointments of monitoring applications for specialist public health posts. Through this system, candidates' qualifications, training and experience are scrutinised by experts in the field of public health, usually the UK Faculty of Public Health advisers, to ensure that only appropriately qualified and trained people are appointed. Therefore it is important that all directors of public health and consultants in public health are appointed through a statutory appointments committee.
I turn to Amendment 234. Directors of public health will not only have many tasks, but they will have other accountabilities apart from the local authority. While their primary accountability is to the local authority, they will also be accountable to the director of Public Health England and have regional or national responsibilities in the wider public health service and for health protection. Yet while any authority that wishes to dismiss a director of public health will be obliged under statute to consult the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State will not have a veto over any dismissal, although he will be approving the appointment of a director of public health. I believe therefore that it is essential that any local authority wishing to terminate the appointment of its director of public health must be required in statute to have the Secretary of State's approval and not merely to consult him or her.
In my view, the director of public health's ability to report independently on the health needs of their community and population is important and critically on how well or not these needs are being met. He or
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Amendment 259 will ensure that as public health specialists move out of existing NHS structures into Public Health England and local authorities, they will be guaranteed equivalent national terms and conditions of service to those in the NHS. That is important to ensure continued workforce capacity in public health, cohesiveness and skills and that public health remains an attractive career path. Clarity over the terms and conditions of employment for public health specialists would provide some measure of assurance that the profession will continue to be developed as an attractive one on a par with other medical specialties. The move of public health away from the NHS could potentially make it a less attractive career choice, particularly for young clinicians. That is an important factor. There is a real risk that without national terms and conditions, at parity with existing NHS terms, the public health workforce will become fragmented. As we saw in a report published last week, morale at the moment among the public health workforce is very low because of uncertainties about their role and the employment situation in the future.
Amendment 339 deals with regulation and registration of public health specialists and directors of public health. As Professor Scally concluded in his Review of the Regulation of Public Health Professionals, a review commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer of England and which investigated whether statutory regulation was needed for individuals operating at consultant level in public health,
Currently, we have a system whereby all medically qualified public health specialists working as consultants or directors of public health must by law be registered either with the General Medical Council or the General Dental Council if they are public health dentists. Specialists with a nursing or midwifery background are regulated through the Nursing and Midwifery Council. However, that is not the case with public health specialists from non-medical backgrounds, even though they will often carry identical responsibilities to their medically trained colleagues. A voluntary system of regulation, operated by the UK Public Health Register, is currently in place for those from backgrounds other than medicine. At the present time, in order to work at consultant or specialist level in public health in the NHS, a person must be on a specialist register such as that held by the GMC or the GDC. Non-medical specialists must be registered on the UK Public Health Register. With the move to local
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Doctors trained as public health specialists have to undergo five years of training as specialist registrars and obtain a certificate of specialist training to be on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. Subsequently, they have to provide evidence of involvement in continuous professional development and be re-evaluated every five years. Similar mechanisms exist for dentists. The role of director of public health in a local authority carries a level of responsibility in relation to the health and well-being of the local population. It requires public confidence and credibility from other organisations. The person who holds such a post should be properly trained and qualified and be on a register. That would be appropriate.
The amendment would establish that all public health specialists not on medical or dental registers should be registered and that the Health Professions Council should establish such a register. I beg to move.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I warmly support this clutch of amendments relating to the future of the public health service in the UK, so ably proposed by my noble friend Lord Patel. No doubt the Government have taken full account of the House of Commons Health Committee's detailed report on public health, 12th Report of Session 2010-12, which raises a number of crucially important issues.
There are three principal domains of public health: health protection, which addresses environmental threats to population health; health improvement, tackling health inequalities and lifestyle issues impacting on health and well-being; and healthcare public health, which applies public health expertise to the provision of healthcare services. It is a significant omission in the Bill that it does not include any statutory duty on local authorities to address health inequalities in discharging their public health functions. That is a serious omission in the Government's plans.
As my noble friend said, all directors of public health will by law be jointly appointed by local authorities and the Secretary of State, with the latter function being exercised through Public Health England, but they would be located within and employed by local authorities. Does this mean that directors of public health who hold medical and dental qualifications will, as at present, hold honorary consultant appointments, with all that that implies, as indeed my noble friend raised in his proposals? I agree entirely with his proposal that the appointment of such individuals should involve an advisory appointments committee accredited by the Faculty of Public Health, as is currently the case in respect of directors of public health within the NHS. Can the Minister confirm that that will be the case?
As my noble friend Lord Patel said, young doctors and dentists training for a career in public health undertake a programme of training for five years as specialist registrars. Who is going to employ them in the future? Will it be Public Health England? Local authorities do not understand what a registrar is, and for that reason it seems extremely difficult to consider
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Another important issue is to recognise the fact that healthcare public health, the third domain, is a core part of the public health service. Its role is to bring public health skills and knowledge to bear on the commissioning of health services, helping to ensure their quality, safety, efficacy, effectiveness, value for money and accessibility. The Government's initial proposals were seen as downgrading the role of public health in the commissioning of healthcare services, but, happily, it has been clarified. The directors of public health and their teams will provide public health expertise, advice and analysis to commissioning groups, health and well-being boards, and the NHS Commissioning Board. This will be one of the mandated public health services that local authorities must commission or provide. However, this is not enough. Can the noble Earl give us an assurance that the local director of public health will be a member of the board of each clinical commissioning group? There should be a qualified public health professional on the NHS Commissioning Board; and the board should routinely take advice from qualified public health professionals when commissioning decisions are taken. We seek assurances from the Minister on that particular point.
Finally, I support very strongly the comments made by my noble friend Lord Patel about the regulation of public health specialists, including directors of public health who do not hold a medical or dental qualification. Those who are in possession of medical and dental qualifications are of course regulated by the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council. What about the specialists in public health who are not so qualified? Is it the Government's intention, as Professor Gabriel Scally has indicated, that these individuals should come under the Health Professions Council for their registration? In my opinion and that of many professionals, some form of formal registration rather than voluntary registration is very important and, in fact, absolutely essential. I support these amendments.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, I would like to support these amendments generally from the point of view of the tremendous focus that comes on the local public health official when there is an outbreak of ill health-for example, E.coli-which gives people tremendous anxiety. They look for leadership to deal with it; they look to the local official, the local member of the public health team, to do that. The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, have an important part to play in assuring that the people who are put in that position are adequate to deal with such a situation if it comes along. Fortunately, from time to time there is a quiet spell. Then, all of a sudden,
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Baroness Cumberlege: I support a number of these amendments. Indeed, my name is harnessed to them. When the Minister wrote to us after Second Reading, he answered the noble Baronesses, Lady Eccles and Lady Gould, on the subject of the importance of the directors of public health and their status. He said that the Government would expect them,
I agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. These people have to be extremely brave and courageous and should be confident enough to open any door. They need to poke their nose into all sorts of areas and issues on which the local authorities will not want them to do so. Their annual report should be challenging. But they must have a proper status and be supported so that they cannot be fired just because they are awkward, uncomfortable and difficult people. That is why I very much support the idea that the Secretary of State should be involved in this, because I think that these people are exceptional, or should be-and I am sure that many of them are at the moment. They are moving into a very different type of culture.
I have served in local government and I just know that in local government what is really most important is the idea of place. It is knowing your communities very well, the streets and the houses where people live-all sorts of intimate details about your voters. What really matters is that you get re-elected at the next election, so you are grounded in place. Directors of public health will be much more evidence-based, and they have to be analytical. So this is really a very different discipline that they will use to expose some of the difficulties in communities' health in that area. They need the confidence and some sort of security so that they can be very uncomfortable-so that they can be difficult and say things that nobody wants to hear. Their annual report should be free from pressures from local authorities and those who employ them.
These are very important amendments, and I hope that my noble friend will consider them seriously and see how in this very important area he can enhance the status, security and confidence of directors of public health.
Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I rise to underpin much of what has already been said, so I will say it very briefly. The appointment of a DPH to a local authority
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I have attached my name to Amendments 228 and 229. The person described in the amendments really should be seen as a person of standing, so they should have director status and be responsible to the chief executive of the authority. I was a bit alarmed when talking to my own MP this weekend. He was saying that he had learnt from his conversations with the chief executive of the local authority that the authority was not at all minded to do this with the appointment. That would completely undermine any sort of position that the director might have. They have the key role and need to be a person of standing. Without them having such a position within the council, many of the plans will be totally undermined.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I support the thrust of most of the amendments in this group and have added my name to Amendments 226, 259 and 339. As others have said, it is essential to have in the Bill a clear commitment from the Government, and indeed from Parliament, that three things are very clear when it comes to directors of public health. First, we have to make sure that they should be registered public health specialists, with appropriate qualifications and expertise. That seems to me a given if these people are to have standing in the local communities and, perhaps, even in a wider area. Secondly, the director should be accountable to the local authority's head of paid service and be able to report directly to the local authority itself, particularly when there is an area of great concern in that local community. One does not want people intervening between the director and local authorities' main committees when a serious incident is taking place locally.
Thirdly, for the reasons that everybody else has mentioned, we have to ensure that a director of public health cannot simply be fired on a whim because they are doing something which is uncomfortable or unpopular, or has brassed off a local interest of one kind or another. That is particularly critical when we see the difference of approach that the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, put very well: between the evidence-based approach of a director of public health and the commitments that local authority members, quite
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Directors of public health need to be seen to be capable of doing the job and to be able to deliver bad news-as well they may have to. They should be able to expect to be supported and protected locally when they have to deliver uncomfortable news. Amendment 226 is part of that package of armour that we need to wrap around directors of public health. There may be better ways to do that in these amendments than in Amendment 226, but its purpose certainly ought to be in the Bill.
Amendment 259 is an important part of the protective armour that I have mentioned for directors of public health, in that it aims to ensure that they simply do not lose ground financially over time in their pay and conditions of service with NHS medical equivalents. I am not a supporter of creating situations where there are bidding wars between local authorities and the NHS. We have seen that with occupational therapists over the years, where one side decides that it can secure some advantage by upping the ante a bit for a specialist group when there is a degree of local competition for a sometimes scarce resource, so I am not in favour of doing that.
However, my experience-and I have worked six years in local government-is that where there are these bidding wars, usually the NHS specialist is further up the greasy pole in terms of pay and conditions of service, and the specialist at the local level is trying to catch up with what has happened. That is why Amendment 259 is important, in that it ensures that there is a catching-up process. Much more importantly, it tries to ensure that it is not necessary to have a catching-up process, because there is an agreed alignment between the pay of those specialists who are employed by the NHS and those who are employed by local authorities.
In speaking to Amendment 339, to which I have put my name, I should declare an interest, in that my daughter is a non-medical public health specialist, although I hasten to add that I have in no way discussed this with her, so she should not be held responsible for the views I am about to express. It is vital that public health specialists are brought within the purview of the Health Professions Council and that there is a separate register for non-medical public health specialists which comes under the purview of that council.
Increasingly, the behavioural aspects of successful public health policies and their implementation are absolutely critical. This is not an area where we should be relying only on personnel with medical or dental qualifications. If we are to have successful public health policies, it is vital that we have people with the kind of background where they can communicate, understand, and do research on the emerging areas of the behavioural sciences. I hope, therefore, that we can have a register which has public standing and is supervised by the Health Professions Council.
Before I sit down I would like to start this session with a mild chastisement of the Minister. I said at Second Reading that I had a benchmark for the Minister's flexibility in accepting amendments to this Bill. However, he has been uncharacteristically inflexible in responding to many of the noble Lords' concerns in their amendments. Of course, he has always been very polite; but we have not seen much evidence of the Government being willing to take away some of these issues and come back with amendments at a later stage. I would say to him that this set of amendments gives him a good chance to turn over a new leaf. They do not affect the Government's policies in this Bill. However, they strengthen the ability of the Government to deliver those policies in the way that they have strengthened the arrangements around the appointment, the pay and the safeguarding of the independence of the directors of public health. I do hope, therefore, that we will see a different type of Earl Howe appearing in relation to these particular amendments.
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: I, too, support this suite of amendments. I shall speak only briefly, not in favour of a reinvigorated Earl Howe but in support of Amendments 234 and 234A, which are to the same effect and concern the termination of the appointment of directors of public health.
The Bill provides for joint appointment of the directors of public health, by the local authority and the Secretary of State, and it is right that it does so. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patel, that it is therefore essential that the Secretary of State should also have a crucial vetoing part to play in the termination of such an appointment. It is not only that it is logical and sensible that he should do so. It is also that it is more important upon termination that the Secretary of State has that power of intervention. It is important because the director of public health has to have a sense of independence and security. As my noble friend Lady Cumberlege and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, have pointed out, there is considerable potential for disagreement between the local authority and the director of public health. It is therefore crucial that, in the event of friction, the director of public health can act with confidence to disagree.
This is exactly the kind of decision in which it is the Secretary of State, having ultimate responsibility for the health service, who should have that role. The Secretary of State's role is therefore the best guarantee of the independence and the freedom of action that directors of public health ought to have.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, my name is to Amendment 339. The other amendments have been spoken to most eloquently, having been introduced fully by my noble friend Lord Patel. One additional point, and the reason for having these directors of public health on a register, is that the person appointed may be fit to do the job today but they need to be fit to do the job tomorrow as well. By having them on a register, issues of revalidation, continuing professional development and so on would be maintained, and a level playing field would be maintained in an upward direction.
We have heard today about infection, but the greatest threat to public health may well come not from infection but from issues such as cyberterrorism around our major utilities and the havoc that that could cause. These directors of public health will have an enormous amount on their shoulders, and they need to be linked into the national and international disaster planning groups. Some of those aspects of their work will be ill understood by those in local authorities, who may feel that such things are remote and unlikely to happen. In the event of a disaster, those skills will have to be drawn on immediately, and the directors of public health have to be prepared and able to take the leadership role.
I urge the Government to consider carefully any good reason why not to register directors of public health. I cannot see any reason not to register these people who are trained specialists. You have to have a really good reason not to, in the face of all the evidence that they should be registered.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, there is clearly a broad and deep consensus in the House that the general direction of the Government's proposals for public health is on the right lines. We welcome in particular the restoration to local government of many public health functions.
There are still some areas of potential difficulty, though, which may well account for the recently published survey of the Faculty of Public Health, which showed great concern among 1,000 members of the profession who responded to a survey. Some 71 per cent of them disagreed that the new system would create a safer and more effective response to emergencies, and we will be looking at the situation regarding emergencies in a subsequent group. Eighty-one per cent disagreed with the proposition that the proposals would reduce inequalities in access to health; 83 per cent disagreed that the new structures would reduce bureaucracy; and 79 per cent feared that they would lead to fragmentation. I do not necessarily concur with those views-I think they are too pessimistic-but they disclose a degree of concern that some of the amendments that we are now discussing would allay.
Underpinning some of those concerns is the issue that is not part of the Bill: funding. We cannot ignore the real concerns about that-they have been voiced before and no doubt they will be again as we continue to debate the Bill-but in particular there is concern that, whereas the department apparently estimates the cost of public health services at £4 billion, which presumably is to be used as the basis for ring-fencing the grant that would go to local government, the BMA's estimate is £5 billion. If that is right, it is a significant difference that would impact on local authorities. Of course, we are awaiting next year's revenue support grant settlement. In addition, there are concerns about how the health premium would operate and how it might disadvantage areas that suffer from significant social and economic disadvantage. They would find it harder to improve the health of their communities than other, better placed authorities and might, therefore, lose out. In looking at the Bill, particularly the provisions that relate to public health, these concerns must be borne in mind.
Having said that, it is clear that many of the amendments that have been spoken to this afternoon address very serious issues. While I do not necessarily accept the entire burden of the criticisms made by the members of the Faculty of Public Health, I am sure Ministers in this House would not describe those with such concerns in the terms that Simon Burns used in another place when he described critics of the Bill as "zombies". They are not zombies; they are dedicated public health professionals whose concerns have to be addressed. I am sure that the noble Earl and the noble Baroness would not descend to language of that kind.
The amendments that have been moved and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and supported by Members across the Committee, deal in particular with the position of directors within local government. They begin with the question of how they should be appointed in the first place. On appointments, Clause 27 refers to an authority,
This is a slightly curious formulation. I suppose it should not be detached from the later provisions about Public Health England. In the words of Mr Burstow, the Minister of State for Health, Public Health England is deemed to be the Secretary of State. For the purposes of this clause, it may be that that is what is envisaged: Public Health England, as the Secretary of State, would be involved jointly in the appointment.
I am not convinced that it is necessary for an appointment to be made jointly but I concur with the view of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, that a procedure is needed for the approval of the Secretary of State of such appointments, and for the approval of any dismissal. I may be risking my status as an honorary vice- president of the Local Government Association when I dissent from its views on these matters. It takes the view that a director of public health should be treated in exactly the same way as any other chief officer of an authority. Respectfully, I disagree profoundly with that; they are not in an analogous position. Their position is much more analogous to that of a head of paid service, the chief finance officer or the monitoring officer, who have separate roles because they are not simply departmental officers; they have a wider responsibility, which impinges on the roles of other officers and other departments. A director of adult services or a planning officer does not have the same relationship with his colleagues. He is on level terms, as it were, and would not necessarily be expected to take the kind of stance that a director of public health might have to take in relation to failures of other parts of the authority. It is therefore essential that the position and independence of the director are protected. Therefore, I strongly support amendments to that effect.
What I am not clear about is how the appointment should be couched in terms of responsibility. Certainly, I agree with Amendment 229, which suggests that the director should be able to report directly to the local authority. However, to say that the director should be responsible to the chief executive is too narrow a definition. Not all authorities may choose to have chief executives. Fortunately, under the Localism Act, we have been spared the notion that the position of chief executive could be combined with that of the
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The Opposition endorse entirely the proposals for a statutory registration system along the lines to which noble Lords have referred, not a voluntary system which I think is envisaged by the Bill. The statutory system should have external quality control, particularly of non-medical public health professionals. This would certainly strengthen the position and maintain the quality of the service. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, referred to comparable status with NHS professionals and made a significant point in that respect. This could, of course, place directors on a higher salary level than other officers within a local authority. That might create some difficulties and might also be something of a new burden. I think that that is the phrase we use in local government. Therefore, it perhaps ought to be reflected in the way that grant is distributed. Perhaps the Minister will undertake to have a look at this. Perhaps some portion of the salary should be specifically contributed to by the department in making its allocations. This would facilitate an acceptance of a differential within local government. However, Amendment 259 talks about making terms and conditions,
I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, referred to what might be described as public health emergency situations. One of the difficulties to which we will have to return in the next group of amendments is the absence of a fully fledged regional structure under the new system. As I say, we will no doubt return to this. However, there is concern about resilience and about how matters that transcend local authority boundaries-and public health problems do transcend local authority boundaries in many instances-will be managed and how these can be addressed, in particular under the proposals around the Health Protection Agency and the current local pattern of provision. I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Walton, about the desirability of the director of public health being a member of the commissioning groups and, indeed, of the national Commissioning Board. We have discussed this before. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, indicated that the boards should be relatively small. However, there seemed to be a possibility of ensuring that if a director was not a member of the board, one could at least be appointed as an adviser to the board and, presumably, if it is the national Commissioning Board, also to the clinical commissioning group at local level. That would certainly be helpful.
However, there remains the issue of the position of directors in relation to district councils. As other noble
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It is clear that there is considerable consensus around the House on the direction of government policy and the need to make improvements along the lines of these amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, invited the Minister to turn over a new leaf and asked for a different type of Earl Howe. For my part, I would be quite happy to settle for the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that we know and love from previous incarnations. I just hope that he is given scope by the Secretary of State to respond positively to this positive debate and to the positive suggestions that have emerged.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I think that, one way or another, I am going to disappoint: I am going to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, that the response is not coming from my noble friend Lord Howe, whom he is so fond of, or-
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, it may be that the version of my noble friend Lord Howe that he is seeing now is slightly different from the one that he usually sees, but I am surprised at his comment about my noble friend having made little movement. The noble Lord will know-
Baroness Northover: As a former Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, will be familiar with how-much more familiar than I was when I came into this position-change is discussed and then moves forward. I can assure him that the Government are very much listening and discussing the issues that have come up in your Lordships' House. As he will know well, it is usually in Committee that noble Lords probe issues and flag up concerns, and usually on Report that shifts occur. I hope that the noble Lord understands that we are indeed listening. Perhaps noble Lords will bear in mind the fact that there has already been much discussion
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As noble Lords will know, we previously discussed the high-level provisions relating to the public health powers and duties of local authorities and those of the Secretary of State. We are now focusing on the process of local engagement whereby health improvement responsibilities will return to local authorities. When discussing Clauses 8 and 9 I briefly referred to the role of the director of public health, but I should like to take this opportunity to highlight the importance that the Government attach to the role of director of public health and local government within the new system.
The director of public health will be ideally placed to embed public health across the work of the local authority, acting corporately but exercising the appropriate professional autonomy where necessary, to advocate for the health of the local population. As the noble Lord, Lord Patel, put it, he or she indeed needs to be the strategic leader on public health in the local authority. Other noble Lords echoed that view. We understand that there are a number of concerns about the status of the director of public health but I hope that I can reassure noble Lords on the points they have raised. We are indeed seeking the kind of status that they referred to.
Amendments 228, 229, 232, 233 and 233A relate to the status of the director of public health. As my noble friend Lady Cumberlege noted, given the importance of their leadership position, we would expect a director of public health to be of chief officer status with direct accountability to the chief executive. We hear what noble Lords say about the importance of that.
We have progressed this important issue-the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, wanted an update-and we expect to make a formal announcement in the new year about how we will ensure the senior status of the directors of public health. We are committed to addressing that further. I hope that noble Lords will be reassured by what I have said.
Amendments 229, 231, 233 and 233A relate in particular to the qualifications and experience of the director of public health. The director of public health will be jointly appointed by the Secretary of State, who will be able to ensure that only appropriately qualified individuals are appointed. The fact that the Secretary of State, in the shape of Public Health England, will play an active part in directors' appointments will help to bind the system together and help to ensure consistency of approach to the role without infringing unduly on local authorities' independence.
In the National Health Service, some standardisation is imposed by the NHS (Appointment of Consultants) Regulations. The joint appointments process for directors of public health would allow the Secretary of State and local authorities to agree similar standards for local government.
Amendment 225 would require the Secretary of State to agree the appointment. I can reassure the Lord, Lord Patel, that the joint appointment process would already involve the agreement and active participation of the Secretary of State. The local authority and the Secretary of State could not properly imply with their duties and conduct a fair appointment process unless the individual chosen was suitably qualified with appropriate professional expertise. The joint appointment gives the Secretary of State more involvement in the Bill as it stands than under the amendment, which would limit his role to approval.
Amendments 234 and 234A would require the local authority to obtain the agreement of the Secretary of State before dismissing a director of public health. Under new Section 27(2) of the 2006 Act, the director of public health is an employee of the local authority, although any local authority wishing to dismiss its director of public health would have to consult the Secretary of State. Directors of public health will also have the full protection of employment law. Given that their employment relationship is with the local authority, we believe that this provides an appropriate level of protection.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for Amendment 236. The amendment would allow the Secretary of State to issue guidance to which local authorities must have regard in relation to the appointment and termination of the director of public health. My noble friend Lord Howe and I will commit to considering this further.
Amendment 339 inserts a new clause which would require the Health Professions Council to establish a register for currently unregulated public health specialists. This links to Amendments 229 and 230, which would require that all directors of public health are on a register. I share the desire to assure the quality of all public health specialists in a way that is robust and effective.
The consultation on Healthy Lives, Healthy People and the NHS Future Forum identified a number of options for assuring the decision-making of public health specialists, including assured voluntary registration and compulsory statutory regulation, and we have sought further evidence from the public health profession to demonstrate whether compulsory statutory regulation is needed. We want to assess this evidence carefully before making final proposals. I assure noble Lords that we are listening.
I also reassure noble Lords that if compulsory statutory regulation of all public health specialists is introduced, we would seek to ensure that the bodies responsible for regulation would be subject to oversight by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which is renamed the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care in the Bill.
Amendment 259 would place in the Bill requirements in relation to the terms and conditions of public health staff working in Public Health England and local authorities. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Patel, that employees who are compulsorily transferring with their current work function from the NHS to a local authority or Public Health England will-by virtue of either the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection
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The Government are currently working with stakeholders to develop a public health workforce strategy, and a formal consultation will be published in due course. We are now beginning the detailed work of developing a new set of terms and conditions for Public Health England and we have started work with trade union colleagues to negotiate a package on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Walton, asked about health inequalities. This is an issue that we covered when we talked previously about public health. I reiterate that we intend to encourage local authorities, through the conditions that we attach to their new funding, to consider the need to reduce inequalities when they discharge their public health functions. The noble Lord also asked whether the CCGs and the board will have duties to obtain appropriate advice. Again, this is an issue that has come up before. They will explicitly need to do that. He also asked whether they should be on these boards. We intend to require local authorities to have a core offer of public health advice to the NHS and we will publish more information about that shortly.
Coming back to the question of local authority terms and conditions of transfer, work is currently under way on a concordat, which will provide principles and standards relating to the transfer, selection and appointment processes affecting public health staff moving to local authorities. This is expected to be published shortly.
Various noble Lords made reference to emergencies. As the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said, we will be talking about that when we come to a later group of amendments, so perhaps we can postpone consideration of that subject until then, when I can answer any questions that have come up.
In conclusion, I commend noble Lords for their great expertise in this area-expertise in public health and right across the domain, and also, as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, showed, in local government. It is very important that this is put together effectively. Many have welcomed the move of public health to local authorities, and this should, as noble Lords have previously noted, present many very useful opportunities to put public health centre stage. We hear the concerns that noble Lords have flagged up as these changes take effect but I hope that they will note that we are taking back many of the issues for consideration. I see scepticism on the face of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, but I hope that noble Lords will have listened to what I have said in the key areas that they have flagged up. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw his amendment and that noble Lords will continue their constructive engagement with the department in this area.
Lord Warner: Can the noble Baroness write to us about central government approval of people who are employees of the local authority? There are three areas where I should certainly like to be a lot clearer.
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Lord Beecham: Perhaps the Minister, if not today then subsequently, could address her mind to the significant issue that I raised about the positions of directors of public health and district councils. Her assumption, which is fair enough at the present stage of the Bill, is that to all intents and purposes Public Health England and the Secretary of State are one. It is a political version of the theological concept of consubstantiation. I understand that, but that assumes that Amendment 260, which calls for Public Health England to be a special health authority, will not be approved. If it were approved, what would the Government's position be on the question of joint appointments and consents that under the Bill at the moment would lie in the hands of the Secretary of State? At that point, Public Health England would not be the special health authority. I am not asking for an immediate answer, but if the amendment were to be approved-and I certainly hope it will be approved in due course-would it be Public Health England in those circumstances or would it be the separate Secretary of State's role to adjudicate on those matters?
Baroness Northover: I thank noble Lords for being so willing to receive letters about the areas that they are concerned about. I found myself retrieving what I learnt in my history degree, and I suppose this then becomes the Reformation. I will ensure that we write to noble Lords about these areas.
Lord Patel: I thank the Minister for her detailed answer. I know that this is a complicated group of amendments, each one referring to different aspects of public health. As I said in my opening remarks, it is extremely important that we realise that if we want a strong, reliable, effective, qualified, properly trained and accountable public health workforce, we need to address their accountability, employment status, registration and regulation. I did not put these amendments down lightly. They in no way seek to change the policy or structures of the Bill; they merely seek to strengthen the role of public health directors and public health consultants.
I do not know whether the noble Baroness passed the Warner test, but I listened carefully and I know she said a couple of times that the Government were looking at it and will produce a plan in early January. We will look at that carefully and carefully read what she said. I am very willing to engage with her because the public health faculty out there has great concerns. It is not concerned because it wants to be difficult; it is concerned that it will be asked to deliver something while its hands are tied behind its back. It would much rather come out into the open, to be told its status and to have that status put into the Bill so that it can begin to do the work that it is being asked to do. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"( ) the exercise of the authority's functions in relation to the control of any outbreak of disease or other public health emergency"
Lord Patel: In this group of amendments, Amendments 227 and 235 are particularly concerned with accountability in handling emergencies. It is essential that there is clarity about who, within the radius of local agencies involved, has the lead responsibility for managing the response in an emergency or an outbreak. I do not think the Bill makes that quite clear. There is a lot of ambiguity about it in the Bill, and my amendments merely seek clarification and to require it to be put into the Bill so that everybody is clear about who leads on it.
It is important to establish that at the local level this responsibility lies with the local authority and, on its behalf, with the director of public health. The director must have the experience, expertise and qualifications to make decisions about outbreaks and other health emergencies affecting the area. As we know, wrong decisions in the early stages of an outbreak-for example, failing to appreciate the seriousness of the situation, taking inadequate control measures or offering inappropriate advice-can quickly lead to a public health catastrophe. I will not go into the details of the E. coli outbreak, but it would be quite interesting to follow it. The Chinese pretty rapidly finally sequenced the E. coli that was affecting countries in Europe this summer, and that is a good case in point as to who takes the lead.
The Bill is unclear about the lines of responsibility or accountability for ensuring co-ordinated action. This lack of clarity about who is operationally responsible at the local level for ensuring that an effective response is put into place will result in delay and confusion. As the Bill currently stands, there is a great risk that emergencies, outbreaks and epidemic situations-for instance, the flu epidemic or recent outbreaks of E. coli-
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The amendment makes it clear that the local authority will be required through regulations to ensure not only that plans are in place for responding to outbreaks or emergency situations but that an appropriate and effective response is made. Of course the local authority will not normally deliver the response itself; it will normally be provided by Public Health England, supported by the NHS and others in the local community, but the local authority will be responsible for ensuring that an effective, appropriate, integrated response is delivered. It will also then be able to hold Public Health England to account for the local services that it provides.
I inquired whether there had been any discussions between public health directors and Public Heath England about this, and I am encouraged that they met recently and that the relationship between the directors of public health and public health units-because Public Health England will have regional units-will be built on the fundamental assumption that the two arms of the public health system, the local authority through the director of public health and Public Health England, must work together and support each other to deliver an integrated service and to ensure that the population is effectively protected using all appropriate resources locally and nationally. Neither of them will duplicate the other's functions.
There are four complementary principles that will define the working relationships. The local authority and the director on its behalf must be, and must be seen to be, responsible for the health of the local population. This will ensure that all aspects of public health are delivered in a locally coherent way. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State has a duty to protect the health of the population, which he or she will discharge through Public Health England. This will ensure a clear line of sight to the front line and the integration and consistency of health protection services across the country from national to local.
A principle of subsidiarity needs to be put in place, which is that the responsibility for health protection will be kept as close to local communities as possible. Public Health England will employ in local units the specialist expertise that it would not be cost-effective to replicate in every local authority. For instance, the Health Protection Agency currently has 25 units across England and national centres. The local authority through the director of public health will provide leadership for the public health system locally and must be responsible for ensuring that the system is prepared and delivers an effective health protection service.
I understand that more detailed work will define the range and scope of the core services that Public Health England will provide to the local authority. I know that we will come to a discussion about public health, and I do not wish to engage in discussion about Public Health England or my Amendment 260 at this stage. I merely refer to this in relation to the local authority's responsibility for dealing with emergencies. I beg to move.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I have a number of amendments in this group as well, in particular Amendments 238, 237B, 237C and 237D. It is, as always, a pleasure for me to follow the elegant moving by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, who speaks from the Cross Benches. He spoke in a very restrained way about the need to try to create a co-ordinated response to any emergency. I would like to pursue this a little further in my own amendments.
On thinking about that, I assumed that any responsible clinical commissioning group certainly would have regard to a document from the Secretary of State. I thought that, in the event of an emergency, especially where a co-ordinated response among the CCGs was required in the way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, we would need a little more than simply to have regard to a document produced by the Department of Health. So, along with my colleague the noble Lord, Lord Marks, I put down Amendment 238, which requires rather more, as it requires consultation with the Secretary of State.
On further consideration, looking very closely at Clause 43, we were not sure that even that was quite enough. Clause 43 deals not just with local emergencies but with emergencies wherever they may come from. I must say to noble Lords that I am inclined to agree with the noble Lords, Lord Newton of Braintree and Lord Mawhinney, who in a debate last week specifically said that they felt that, in the event of an emergency, it would be very difficult indeed for the Secretary of State not to be brought into the response, notably if a co-ordinated response was required perhaps at regional or even at national level. When we thought about recent emergencies of this kind-for example, the danger of swine flu in the United States some 10 years ago and, more recently, the danger of avian flu, which was moving very rapidly through Asia, with outbreaks of avian flu being established within days in areas which had not at first been affected by it-it seemed more and more clear that it was impossible for the Secretary of State to divorce himself from responsibility for emergencies. As the noble Lord, Lord Newton of Braintree, put it, the public will expect nothing less.
So we found ourselves back with our old friend in this Bill, namely the relationship of the Secretary of State with what are, in the NHS Acts of 2006 and 2009, direct responsibilities that rest eventually in Westminster and Whitehall, and specifically with the man or woman who is the Cabinet Secretary responsible for health. With the best will in the world, I cannot see how the Secretary of State can effectively remove himself from those responsibilities. I am therefore very worried about the early parts of Clause 43. In this Bill, there is a specific reference removing the Secretary of State from the title of new Section 252A of the NHS Act 2006 inserted by Clause 43. The new cross-heading refers directly to him, but the section heading immediately following removes him, leaving reference to the board and the CCGs. Noble Lords who look at Clause 43 will see exactly what I mean: the preliminary lines are
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Constitutionally I consider this to be very unhelpful. It is quite central, above all in an emergency where that emergency is not a minor one but a major or national one, for the Secretary of State not to be able to step away from responsibility. I do not mean ultimate responsibility when there is a failure by the Clinical Commissioning Board or, for that matter, by Monitor, but at the point at which the emergency breaks out.
I plead with my noble friend Lord Howe, and beyond him to the Secretary of State, to reconsider whether it is wise to remove the Secretary of State from what one might call the front line of response to emergency. This really is an area where I think that the public will not expect to see that and would believe that the Minister with responsibility to the Cabinet and to Parliament would want to speak on behalf of the public concern on issues of serious emergencies. This group of amendments of course would once again put the Secretary of State not in micromanagement but in ultimate responsibility for dealing with a co-ordinated response to an emergency. I ask the noble Earl, Lord Howe, to consider whether this is not also something that should be looked at in the light of our broad discussions on what are and what are not the responsibility of the Secretary of State, and once again remind the Committee that we cannot escape from this major thread that runs through the entire Bill. Here is yet another example.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, again I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. It seems to me that there is the potential for confusion over the differing roles that arise in situations such as an outbreak of disease or other public emergencies. The Bill variously imposes duties on the director of public health, although not specifically on the local authority, to act in such cases, bearing in mind that the documents are to be issued by the Secretary of State. Quite what documents would be issued in an emergency is not clear.
Amendments 227 and 235 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, accord better with the situation which might arise. They clearly make the point of local authority involvement and do not simply rely on the provisions of Clauses 43 and 44, which confer duties on the board and clinical commissioning groups. Incidentally, the fact that such duties are imposed on clinical commissioning groups surely enhances the need for the director of public health to be a member of, or to be represented on, such groups. But that is a matter to which we will no doubt return when we come to the governance arrangements for clinical commissioning groups.
Clause 43 makes it the responsibility of the board to ensure that all providers designate an individual to be responsible for the relevant emergency. Again, it is not quite clear what is meant by providers in that
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It is essential in these cases also to recognise the important role that the voluntary sector plays in a public emergency. The Red Cross and other organisations of course are very often the first on the scene. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, will address this issue when she speaks to her amendment. In advance of her doing so, I want to indicate support for the involvement of that sector as a consultee in the question of appointing directors of public health but, more widely, for the contribution of that sector to be recognised.
This issue of fragmentation of responsibility and the lack of a regional structure, which will follow if the Bill is passed in its present form, is a matter that attracted the attention of the Health Select Committee. That committee's report indicated that there is a lack of confidence in the structures that would replace the regional structures under the provisions of the Bill:
"We are concerned at the lack of clear plans for Public Health England to be established at the regional level. The idea of "sub-national hubs", in some-as yet undefined-alignment with the sub-national structures of the NHS Commissioning Board and the Department for Communities and Local Government does not seem to us adequate".
Public Health England needs clear strategic and regional accountability, and although we are not yet debating Public Health England, nevertheless there is clearly in the mind of that committee-and I share that view-considerable doubt about whether the structure, with perhaps four sub-national hubs and a number of groupings around the Health Protection Agency when it is now combined with and taken into Public Health England, will in fact be sufficient. Although Clause 44 gives the Secretary of State powers of direction, the absence of regional arrangements clearly could, in the minds of that committee, create considerable difficulties. So there are issues which are partly reflected in the concerns of members of the Faculty of Public Health to which I referred in the debate on the previous amendments, and the role of the Health Protection Agency in the new structure will bear materially upon that issue.
I think the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, actually take us in the right direction. We need a stronger structure to cope with problems of disease, immunisation and particularly emergencies, and again I draw attention to the fact that local authorities that would be involved in emergencies are not necessarily the principal authorities with which a director of public health would be involved. Again I raise the issue of how district councils in shire county
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Baroness Emerton: I apologise to the Minister; I was waiting to speak to my Amendment 236ZA. The issue of voluntary sector involvement is important because the changes proposed in the Bill have significant relevance to it and in particular to the voluntary aid societies. The British Red Cross and St John Ambulance provide emergency response and are recognised respondents under the regulations of the Civil Contingencies Act. I declare an interest as a member of St John Ambulance for 66 years.
The history of the status of these two organisations goes back to the Geneva Convention. Because they have a specific responsibility for providing emergency services, there needs to be clarity about the lines of accountability within local authorities. Both organisations are recognised in the humanitarian field and for first aid and for looking after civil or military emergency situations. That is their responsibility. The auxiliary status is enshrined both in the royal charter for the Red Cross and in the Geneva Convention. The Women's Royal Voluntary Service used to be included, but it has withdrawn from voluntary aid society status. Nevertheless, all voluntary organisations are important in that they are present and they will need to know how to be organised under these new arrangements. They want to be assured that they will be commissioned, as they are now under the Civil Contingencies Act. Prior to this Bill, they were commissioned by the PCTs through local authorities and these changes have significance for them in how they will be managed and how the chains of communication will work.
The community-based presence of both organisations means that they are involved in vital emergency responses. They are first-responders and deal with civil emergencies. They hold, for example, a large number of ambulances with four-wheel drive. Indeed, the London Ambulance Service says that it cannot possibly cope in an emergency without the backup of the volunteer ambulances, particularly in bad weather. I speak to this amendment
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Lord Ribeiro: My Lords, I seek clarification because the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, has just referred to a whole series of different emergencies. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred earlier to Clause 43 and the question of emergencies. I am confused about what we mean by emergencies and, under the emergency powers, the relevant types of emergency that we are dealing with.
We then talk about the emergencies that might occur when there is a national disaster. I take noble Lords' minds back to the bombings on 7/7 in 2005. That was a major national emergency that was managed by COBRA-an organisation that involves the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the Chief Medical Officer. All of them would be involved in that situation. We also referred to the E. coli epidemic earlier on and I take noble Lords back to the Asian flu and swine flu epidemics. The person who fronted that was not the Secretary of State but the Chief Medical Officer. He was the face of that particular epidemic. I think we need some clarification of what we mean by emergencies, because I, for one, am somewhat confused.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, these amendments address the response to emergencies. We agree entirely that dealing quickly, decisively and in a co-ordinated way with sudden threats to public health must be a priority for the new system. We believe that the establishment of the position of director of public health within local authorities will strengthen considerably their capacity to respond to emergencies. However, the overall response will depend on the precise nature of the threat, as my noble friend Lord Ribeiro has indicated, and it is very likely to involve the NHS and other agencies, such as Public Health England, as well as local authorities. Therefore we want to allow for local flexibility in deciding who is best qualified to lead the response to a particular incident. Nevertheless, we must also ensure, when incidents occur, that all the responders are prepared and fully understand the parts that they play. We agree that the duty for local authorities, which we intend to prescribe in regulations, must be strong enough to ensure that the right arrangements are in place, not just a document that describes those arrangements.
We believe that the Bill already provides for the kind of coverage that is required. Clause 27 sets out a number of responsibilities for directors of public health and is already clear that these include the local authorities' functions in planning for and dealing with public health emergencies. This, we think, fully matches the intention behind Amendment 227.
We agree with the spirit of the noble Lord's Amendment 235. Clause 15 gives the Secretary of State the power to specify in regulations certain steps
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Amendment 236ZA, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, and other noble Lords, recognises the invaluable role that the voluntary aid societies, such as St John Ambulance, can play in dealing with emergencies. We certainly have no difference with the noble Lords on that, and hope-and expect-that local authorities will involve St John Ambulance and other agencies, such as the British Red Cross, when they ensure that plans are in place for tackling threats to health. We will consider how to address this issue in the regulations that we intend to make. On that basis, I hope the noble Baroness will be willing to withdraw her amendment.
I come now to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby. My noble friend Earl Howe said that at this point I should simply concede because they were in the Bill anyway, but I will address the substance of her amendments. She seeks to enhance the readiness for emergencies by conferring additional duties on the Secretary of State. I assure noble Lords that the Secretary of State already has the clear duty to protect health not only by virtue of Clauses 8 and 44 but under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Both the NHS Commissioning Board and the Secretary of State will be category 1 responders. As such, they will have a duty to assess, plan and respond before and during an emergency. This is made clear in Schedule 7 of the Bill. There might have been a slight misunderstanding over this.
New Section 252A then deals with the role of the board and CCGs, and Section 253 deals with the Secretary of State. We are not removing the Secretary of State's role. The Secretary of State retains his role, exercising his powers as indicated in Section 2 of the 2006 Act and under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, as well as his duties under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. I hope that my noble friend will be reassured in this regard.
Amendment 238, tabled by my noble friend Lord Marks, would require the NHS Commissioning Board to consult a Secretary of State before it takes steps to facilitate a response to an emergency that requires co-operation between different parts of the health system. These are operational decisions that are often taken at a local level where speed is very important. For example, hospital operations in one part of the country may need to be suspended because blood supplies are needed elsewhere. The amendment could inadvertently introduce additional delays into the decision-making process in a response to emergencies.
The clauses as currently written allow the health service to respond to emergencies directly and effectively
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The noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, asked for a definition of emergency. I am assured that emergency has its ordinary meaning. I will write to him with the full definition rather than take noble Lords' time. On the basis of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will be willing not to press his amendment.
Lord Patel: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who took part in this debate. As I said in my opening remarks, the amendment seeks to clarify the responsibilities of the local authority in situations that arise as an emergency, either locally or nationally, and within that the role of the public health director. I realise that the Bill says that the Secretary of State, through Public Health England, will be involved, but there is still a lack of clarity in the Bill. Apart from saying that local authorities will produce documents about their preparedness to deal with an emergency, it does not say who will take charge. Further clarification may be required, and the Minister might undertake to look at the amendments again to see whether there is some need to clarify this in the Bill.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: I thank the Minister. I will spend many happy hours working my way through every possible legal complexity and a number of different Bills. I am grateful for her explanation.
Lord Walton of Detchant: Before the Minister writes to the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, with a definition of emergency, could she clarify whether we are talking in this Bill about medical emergencies, such as serious epidemics, or whether we are also talking about terrorist attacks, floods and natural disasters, all of which may require the deployment of medical resources? It is important that that should be clarified.
As a brief response to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, I can say that much of this will be in regulations. I know that the previous Government had problems when they said that they would put something in regulations. The House would say that it wanted to know while it passed a Bill exactly what it would be, but a distinction needs to be drawn between the kind of things that you want in the Bill, where there needs to be an architecture and structure that gives flexibility, and the kind of precision and more detailed explanation that you have in regulations. The noble Lord will be familiar with that. If we can take anything further and outline what sort of things might be in the regulations, as the previous Government also sought to do, I am sure that we will.
(4) The time specified in subsection (3) must be after such time as the Secretary of State is satisfied that all duties and functions of Strategic Health Authorities are being fulfilled by another body."
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, these amendments are grouped around the structure of the National Health Service and certainly serve to illustrate the turbulence that the Government have brought to the service. Essentially, the Government have torn up the current structure by its roots and are now piecing together a much more complex and potentially bureaucratic edifice. It still remains a complete mystery why the Government did not build on what was there. On day one, they could have ordered primary care trusts to divest themselves of any service provision responsibility, and could certainly have given them a kick up the backside to get a move on with GP commissioning. The noble Earl reminded me last week that the previous Government was keen to encourage GPs to have more involvement there. Instead of that incremental, organic approach, we have seen primary care trusts dismembered, with many experts on commissioning-good people-thrown out of the system at a time when the NHS should be solely focused on the financial and quality challenge it undoubtedly faces.
In its place, listening to the Government's original proposals, one might have expected a rather more streamlined system. Instead, we see a convoluted and rather Heath Robinson-type system, where the capacity for delay and obfuscation seems endless. Of course, the Government's building blocks are clinical commissioning groups. At first, I believe that the intention was for GPs to sit round in small groups commissioning healthcare for their patients. However, reality has dawned; the GPs are being corralled into much larger clinical commissioning groups, where the necessary demands of corporate governance mean that individual GPs are likely to be very far removed from the actual decisions made on commissioning. Because decisions are to be made in GPs' names, however, they will be expected to defend those commissioning decisions-at some potential cost, I suggest, to the doctor-patient relationship. It would be interesting to know how many clinical commissioning groups the noble Earl considers are now likely to be created. I do not know whether he is
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The new structure does not stop there, as we have health and well-being boards. This side of the Committee has no problem at all with the involvement of local authorities in health service matters and I particularly welcome the leadership role that they are to be given in public health, albeit with the caveats that we have heard during the previous two debates-and, I am sure, will hear in future debates as well. Yet no one should be in any doubt that health and well-being boards bring the potential for delays and lack of clarity, particularly over commissioning decisions.
The Government are also establishing clinical senates. I welcome clinical oversight at a regional level, but there can be no denying that this is another layer in what is emerging as a pretty complex picture. It is also unclear what levers clinical senates will have over clinical commissioning decisions. What happens if they consider that the combined impact of clinical commissioning group decisions might damage the integrity of a regional health system? For instance, there might not be sufficient cover in terms of comprehensive provision, or care networks could be undermined. What can these senates do in such cases?
The health service has lost a lot of its commissioning expertise. It looks as though commissioning groups will have to buy in commissioning support, mainly from the private sector. The Minister will be aware of the BMA's concerns on that matter. I understand that at the moment PCT clusters are forming commissioning support units and that from 2016 CCGs will be encouraged to commission from those units, which are in turn being encouraged to form social enterprises and partnerships with the private sector. The concern of the BMA is that this undermines the key aim of entrusting GPs to lead on commissioning. It looks increasingly likely that these clinical commissioning groups will have a small core of people concerned with clinical aspects of commissioning and a very large hinterland which deals with transactional and large-scale commissioning decisions.
Of course, there is to be another layer as well. It has become known in our debates that the NHS Commissioning Board is to establish local field offices, as I think they are being called. I am not surprised at that. We know that clinical commissioning groups are not to hold the contracts of GPs, presumably because of the potential for conflict of interest. That means that the national body, the NHS Commissioning Board, will have to get involved in the nitty-gritty of dealing with thousands of GPs, because it will hold the contracts of every GP in England. It will also involve the NHS Commissioning Board in the allocation of patients; where patients cannot find a GP, the current rules ensure that patients are allocated to GPs. That will have to go on in the future. As far as I can see, that too falls to the NHS Commissioning Board.
There is then the performance management of primary medical services, which will not fall to clinical commissioning groups because, again, of potential conflict of interest; that will fall to the NHS Commissioning Board. Sitting in its headquarters in
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Given the financial challenge which I think all of us in your Lordships' House accept as being huge, and given the need for a pretty radical reconfiguration of acute services-this came from our debate two weeks ago-there will need to be some kind of strategic leadership at the local level. I suspect that it will be the local field offices of the NHS Commissioning Board which will have to provide that leadership.
However, if that is to be the case, surely those local field offices ought to be accountable in some way to the local community? I have no doubt that the Minister will say that the field offices will be accountable; they will be accountable to the NHS Commissioning Board. I do not want to reopen this, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was putting yet more into the pot of our debates on Clause 1. We have argued for many weeks now about the accountability of the NHS Commissioning Board. However, I am sure that most noble Lords would agree that the Minister has made it clear that the Secretary of State is going to be pretty hands-off as far as the NHS Commissioning Board is concerned. The mandate will reflect the key objectives which the Secretary of State wishes to have delivered by the board. However, my argument is that these field offices are actually going to be hugely influential at local level, rather as the SHAs have been over a number of years. If that is the case, why should they not be proper public statutory bodies, properly accountable for what they do? My Amendment 236A has to be seen alongside Amendment 236AA, where I set out in fairly brief form how a local NHS commissioning board could be established as a statutory body.
If one thinks of the original proposition for the governance and looks at the current architecture, we see a very complex picture in which public accountability is likely to be lessened. We have seen that clinical commissioning groups are already being corralled into large units that may well be very remote from individual GPs and their practices. They are being forced to use the private sector support organisations, which will also be supporting other clinical commissioning groups. Their room for manoeuvre will be hedged in by the health and well-being boards and the clinical senates, and they will be overseen closely by the local branches of the NHS Commissioning Board. To me, that is a pretty incoherent picture. How relevant does the Minister really think that is to the real issues facing the NHS-safety, quality, efficiency and the effective reorganisation and reconfiguration of acute services? No wonder that in a recent briefing the NHS Confederation said:
Lord Rea: My Lords, I oppose Clause 31 which concerns the abolition of primary care trusts. My noble friend has talked about the strategic health authorities and, although not in detail, about the problem of getting rid of PCTs. This is intended to give the Minister an opportunity to give us some information about the implementation of this rather stark clause. For example, what about the actual handover of responsibility from PCTs to CCGs? Will all staff of PCTs be made redundant, thus giving rise to considerable redundancy costs? How many and which staff will be retained and transferred? Will those transferred continue their employment without interruption or will they have to reapply for their new post, which in fact is likely to involve the same or very similar work because the provider trusts providing the healthcare will be the same under the CCGs as they are now? Perhaps my noble friend Lord Hunt will amplify this. He has already said a considerable amount about the abolition of the strategic health authorities. Although the work of PCTs has been criticised, it has been improving all the time over the past nine years and much valuable experience in commissioning has been gained. It would seem logical to transfer as much of it as possible to avoid the expense of bringing in outside advisers and consultants or to make sure that such expense is minimised as far as possible.
Very relevant to the commissioning role of PCTs is a document that was published by the Department of Health just last month, Developing Commissioning Support. It includes former PCT staff among those who will be given a role in providing this support. There are many people in PCTs who have considerable expertise. The report's emphasis is on a business model in which outside organisations, including the independent sector, play a major role. Can the noble Earl tell us how this will be monitored and how transparent the contracting and subsequent work of these outside organisations will be? On the whole, how long will their contracts be for, and will it be possible to terminate them when necessary?
"I want to sound a note of warning. I am worried that if that really is the way that we are going, it could represent a very serious wrong turning, not least in the context of the future development of effective practice-based commissioning".
"One has to question whether the ethos and values of a private sector organisation will make it fit for purpose as a commissioner. PCTs have public service values and they are accountable. Private commissioners are differently motivated and they are not in the same sense accountable to the public. The way in which private companies operate is too often hidden by considerations of commercial confidentiality, and it is questionable whether they will be susceptible to judicial review. If the Government want to go down the road of private sector commissioning, we need, at the very least, an open debate about it and about what it will mean for the NHS and for patients".-[Official Report, 3/11/06; col. 581.]
That exactly expresses my views. It will be interesting to know what the noble Earl thinks of it because they are his very own words, spoken when he was winding
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Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, last Wednesday we spent some considerable time talking about the merits of clustering. I start by making it clear that Amendment 256A, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree, is not about the merits of clustering. It does not reopen the debate that we had last Wednesday. It is about the instigation and management of clusters.
I make one further preliminary point: I have learnt from my 30-plus years in this building that Governments are always happier when they are talking about issues in the abstract. When they are confronted by issues in the specific, life gets more difficult. I see former Ministers smiling and nodding in agreement. I wish to talk about the specific. I want to talk about Cambridgeshire and, in particular, Peterborough. If that seems strange, I am Lord Mawhinney of Peterborough and I have the signal honour, as a former Member of Parliament, of being a freeman of the city. I think that my commitment to the area is well established.
"My noble friend Lord Newton spoke about the clustering of PCTs. Clusters bring together PCTs to prepare for and support the transition to clinical commissioning. Until PCT abolition in April 2013, they continue to exercise their functions and remain statutorily responsible for their functions until abolition".-[Official Report, 30/11/11; col. 302.]
Although clusters do not appear in the Bill at all, it seems to me perfectly legitimate to speak about them and table amendments on them given what my noble friend has said. The House officials tell me that an amendment at this stage is the only legitimate way to introduce a debate about clusters. PCTs are statutory, no debate; clusters are not, no debate, yet in practice PCTs have been removed, abolished, taken down, or whatever phraseology noble Lords wish to use, to be replaced by clustering. This is made easier by the fact that non-executive directors of PCTs are not employees.
When I learnt that the Peterborough PCT was to be abolished-as it was put to me-I took the advice of my noble friend Lord Howe and went to that bit of the statutory system which determines what happens in Peterborough, and I had an hour-and-a-half coffee break with Sir Neil McKay, the chief executive of the East of England SHA. I very much appreciate the information that he gave me although I could have done without the patronising tone. I put to him that it would be helpful if he could explain to me how the SHA had allowed the PCT to run up debts of £20 million. He said that he had no idea about that, he was not much minded to find out and nobody would take any responsibility. I asked Sir Neil whether he could explain to me how the hospital-it is a PFI hospital-had debts in too many tens of millions of pounds, over half of which were structural to the PFI. He said that they were not very enthusiastic about the PFI but they did not do anything to stop it. I inquired why the SHA, through the PCT, was trying to reduce funding to the hospital given its dire circumstances, but he
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I therefore hope that my noble friend will understand that when we are encouraged to talk to the administrative and technocratic arm of the NHS, I for one am underwhelmed. None of this comes as a surprise to my noble friend because he very generously-I say that with deep sincerity-gave me and my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree an hour of his time to discuss these very issues. I put to him again the fact that the Peterborough PCT and the Cambridge PCT have disappeared and there is a cluster. The facade is that the PCTs are still the legal entities and they exist. I will not comment about Cambridge, but I will comment about Peterborough. The chairman and all the non-executives have gone because they received letters asking, "Would you like to apply to be on the cluster? By the way, there are six of you but only three slots, so three of you will go-one of the two chairmen, and three from Cambridge. If you would like to apply, here is an application form. Please complete it and send it in together with a letter of resignation from the PCT". I do not know how that went down in other parts of the country but I can tell my noble friend that it did not go down well in Peterborough.
We have a situation where a cluster allegedly makes decisions but does not have any legal authority to do so. In Peterborough's case, the cluster refers such decisions to a PCT that statutorily exists but in practice does not. I have to say to my noble friend that I took careful note of his chastisement last week of our mutual and noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree for using extravagant language. I have pulled back, because I was going to tell your Lordships what I thought about this arrangement but I am unwilling to be chastised for extravagant language.
What has happened is that public servants who worked for primary care trusts were intimidated and bullied into getting out of the way so that a system which does not have a legal basis could proceed. In case noble Lords think that I am exaggerating, perhaps I may read to them a Parliamentary Question that I tabled a little time ago. I asked,
"Strategic health authority (SHA) directors have no powers to prevent a serving primary care trust (PCT) non-executive director from being offered any further public appointments during the next two years. However, the Secretary of State has powers under the PCT (Membership, Procedure and Administrative Arrangements) Regulations 2000, which he has delegated to the Appointments Commission, to remove a non-executive from a PCT if the commission is of the opinion that the non-executive's continued appointment"-
It is no wonder that good upstanding community people feel intimidated and bullied into giving up the service that they have been making, because they are being threatened with two years' exclusion by the NHS, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State.
I have been in public service for more than 30 years and the only people I have ever refused to talk to have been the IRA, who were killing people; otherwise, I will talk to anybody. I will write back to Sir David telling him that I saw the letter only on Friday and that I am happy to meet him, although I am not sure exactly what will be achieved. However, I have been to the Minister and am now being offered the opportunity to talk to the chief technocrat. There are other democracies where the democratic practitioners are so weak that technocrats have to come in to do the job, but this is not one of those countries. I see my noble friend laughing but I say very gently that this ought not to be one of those countries.
This issue goes to the heart of the concerns that a number of us have relayed on a few occasions. I apologise to the Committee for taking so long but I needed to set the scene because this is the only debate that there has been on the setting up and management of clusters. I very much hope that my noble friend will take away these thoughts and continue to give them further consideration. In front of all the Members of this Committee I pay tribute to him by saying that when earlier he said to me and to my noble friend that he would give these matters consideration, I believed him. This is but an encouragement to him to take the issues at hand seriously and to produce a better and more defensible system, and one that is less liable to judicial review than the one that we have at the moment.
So far as concerns the rest of this group, I hope that the opposition Front Bench will not press to a Division their opposition to clauses, because I think that there is still a lot to be resolved in this area before we start casting votes. They know my views on Clause 31. I fear that Clause 30 may be heading in a similar direction. However, now is not the time to divide the Committee; now is the time for the Committee to encourage the Minister to take seriously the concerns being expressed.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I have one amendment in this group and have added my name in opposition to Clause 31 standing part of the Bill. At face value, these are very different but they are grouped because of the radical changes that are occurring.
In relation to Clause 31, I want to address where clinical commissioning groups are different from PCTs and what might be lost in the process, and that is why I have put my name to opposing the clause. These organisations appear to be emerging with a hybrid responsibility. On 2 November, in response to a question about whether clinical commissioning groups are just like PCTs and asked for a yes or no answer, the Minister replied:
"In terms of population responsibility, the responsibilities are very similar. CCGs are responsible for patients on the registered lists of their constituent practices as well as having specific area-based responsibilities ... linked to their unique geographic coverage".
Of course, the difficulty here is that clinical commissioning group areas are indeterminate and their responsibilities are not comprehensive, whereas at the moment PCTs, however much they appear to be failing, as they are in some areas, have in statute a range of clear responsibilities.
We have debated the problem for people with difficult conditions. I know that the clinical commissioning groups' responsibilities will be for emergency care for people within their area; that seems to be one of their limits, but they do not go much further than that. David Nicholson confirmed the Government's position when he spoke on the "Today" programme on 31 October. He said:
"We will publish information about general practices so you will be able to see what your general practice provides, as compared with other GPs in the area and nationally... If you've got a long-term condition, you might want to think in future about different GPs and whether they are providing a full range of services for particular people with long-term conditions".
Of course it would be fantastic if patients could move between one general practitioner and another, but I fear that the financial restraints on all of the system will mean that that ideal will just not be met.
In the document Developing Commissioning Support: Towards Service Excellence, it is clear that the commissioning support is viewed to come from a commercial source. In the summary document to that, the running cost estimated for the arrangements will be £25 to £35 per head of population, which will be there to optimise arrangements to suit the scale of the problem facing the group. The commissioning support will come from commercial providers. However, as we have already heard, many of those are actually ex-PCT employees who have gone across into other organisations. From 2013 to 2016, the Commissioning Board will host some of the commissioning support via an arm's-length senior accountable individual. That commissioning
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"It is clear from discussions with Pathfinder clinical commissioning groups that the principles and rationale for delivering some services at significant scale is well understood and accepted: it will allow them to influence and concentrate on the aspects of commissioning where they can add most value ... However, there is also a clear message that the focus should be delivering customer focused services and maintaining responsiveness, even where services are delivered at scale".
The clusters are, of course, providing a degree of scale, but there seems to be a hybrid spectrum between the very small going right up to the larger cluster, and items which need to be commissioned at what used to be almost SHA level. I therefore question the rationale for this whole process and that is why I added my name to the amendment.
I now turn to Amendment 236AA, concerning medical and dental postgraduate deans. I have discussed this with the General Medical Council and with postgraduate deans, with the lead dean from COPMeD. The reason they want to be funded by HEE is quite specifically so that they can maintain their independence and have the leverage to bring about change. The postgraduate deans' budget overall is somewhere in the region of £2 billion: it is not insignificant; 90 per cent of the training posts across the UK are funded through them. Many posts, such as first-year foundation posts and most specialty training posts are 100 per cent core-funded through the deans' budgets. The remainder of the posts are mostly 50 per cent core funded. Their ring-fencing allows money to be moved to change the distribution of posts. At the moment, for example, they are driving down surgical training posts and increasing general practice training posts.
There is always a pressure from within the service to maintain the status quo because services are often trainee-dependent. The postgraduate deans themselves have rationalised their costs greatly, so their on costs are only 4 per cent, compared to universities which run at about 15 per cent. Previously they had been placed in universities, but that did not work well because of conflicting research assessment pressures. They are concerned that if they are part of the service, service pressures will dominate.
Their independence allows them two key functions: one to maintain quality assurance and the second to drive up and improve quality. They are handling public
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At the moment, there is only one workforce director who has any education training at all; so without this high level of educational literacy, the local education and training boards are going to be severely disadvantaged. The NHS itself has to provide care today and high-quality care into the future. It is easy to focus on the present, but however good a medical school is, when its graduates move out, being employed is different. Training is dramatically different from 10 years ago. The postgraduate deans have really proven how they have driven up-despite the constraints of the European Working Time Directive-the ability of the juniors to be trained well and to cope with the changing pressures in the NHS.
For example, the medical take now in many centres averages 120 to 140 admissions a day. That is dramatically different from how it was 10 years ago. The trainees are better supervised; they are trained to avoid mistakes, not repeat ones they or those who have gone before them have made. The curricula are better focused across all the needs of the service, not only the technical needs. The postgraduate deans weed out about 3 to 6 per cent of all trainees: they are either moved sideways, have to repeat some training time or-in the case of a few-are weeded out completely. So they are exercising their independence and discretion to train for the future.
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