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Earl Howe: I wish to ask a brief question. Do I understand that the Minister has excluded the possibility of amendments such as these being incorporated into the Bill during its passage through your Lordships' House? Is she suggesting that we should revert to the issue at a later stage, perhaps when the Bill is in another place, or is she saying that the Bill is not the right place to do it? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that it would be a lost opportunity if the Bill were not used in some way to incorporate the kinds of provisions that we are seeking.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: If such a provision were to come forward, would it be self-financing by charging the private sector? It would be hugely expensive to introduce quality control for everything outside the National Health Service.
Lord Skelmersdale: Before the noble Baroness answers that question, it occurs to me that if the Government are unsure but are minded to go along with the way the Select Committee in another place is currently thinking, they could add this provision very easily to subsection (3) of Clause 13. In other words, it
Baroness Hayman: I certainly take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that this should not be a burden on NHS expenditure. There are arrangements with the commission for charging and I think that any regulatory system should be self-financing, whatever way forward we choose to take.
In terms of the legislative opportunity, I was trying to make the point that, while one might be able to amend this Bill in a narrow respect, one would not be able to take a cohesive view about regulation, registration, quality standards and the complaints procedures within the whole of the private sector in the way that we have been able to take within the Bill a comprehensive view of quality within the NHS. If one took this legislative opportunity, one would by necessity be tackling the issue on a piecemeal basis. It is impossible for me to predict the future legislative programme after we have the results of the consultation which the Government are undertaking and the Select Committee report. But clearly we will have to follow through the implications of the social services White Paper about amending the regulatory process. We should not be consulting about the regulation of the independent sector unless we
Lord Clement-Jones: I thank the Minister for that further, helpful elucidation. Having spoken earlier about the need to integrate social services with healthcare, I should be the last to deny that there is an issue that needs addressing. Given what is in a sense an assurance that this is at the top of the Government's thinking and of significance, we may return to the matter in terms of receiving further assurances at a later stage, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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