Constitution Committee welcome government agreement to their changes to the Health and Social Care Bill

02 February 2012

The House of Lords Constitution Committee has today welcomed the Government’s decision to back their amendment to Clause 1 of the Health and Social Care Bill and ensure the Secretary of State for Health continues to have ministerial responsibility for the NHS.

Lords Health Minister Earl Howe has indicated he will back a Lords Amendment tabled by Constitution Committee Chair Baroness Jay that states that: The Secretary of State retains ministerial responsibility to Parliament for the provision of health services in England.

Baroness Jay tabled the amendment following the publication of a Lords Constitution Committee report on the Health and Social Care Bill which raised concerns about the loss of NHS accountability to Parliament under the Government’s original proposals.

The Government have also tabled amendments to the Bill related to Clause 4 where the Committee recommended that the proposals that the Secretary of State should promote the autonomy of health care providers should be amended to ensure that the existing duty to provide a comprehensive health service takes precedence over the desirability of securing autonomy.

Commenting following the tabling of the Government’s amendments Baroness Jay, Chairman of the Lords Constitution Committee said:

 “I am pleased the Government has listened to and acted on the Committee’s concerns about the original proposals which risked undermining ministerial responsibility for the NHS.

“For Parliament to be able to scrutinise the NHS properly it is vital that when it comes to healthcare provision the buck stops with the Secretary of State for Health. It is he who is answerable to Parliament and we are pleased the Government have now made the changes to acknowledge that.

“Our Committee reports on the constitutional implications of all public bills and raises concerns where we have them. This is an important process and the Government’s change of heart on Clause 1 of the Health and Social Care Bill shows it is a process that can have a real impact in improving legislation.”

Notes to Editors

1. The Constitution Committee’s report on the Health and Social Care Bill was published on 20 December 2011 it is available on the Committee's website. 

2. The Government’s new amendments signed by can be found on the Health and Social Care Bill's page on the parliamentary website.

3. Lord Howe’s backing of the Constitution Committee’s amendment to Clause 1 of the Bill will be published in the Marshalled List of amendments due for publication ahead of Report Stage of the Health and Social Care Bill on Wednesday 8 February. This will be available at the link above.

4. The House of Lords Constitution Committee investigates constitutional issues. It is one of the five permanent investigative committees in the House of Lords. It also examines all public bills for constitutional implications. The Committee assesses the impact of public bills and, where appropriate, publishes a report on a bill to inform the House.

5. The Constitution Committee is chaired by Baroness Jay. For interviews please contact Owen Williams on +44(0) 207 219 8659.