HC Deb 05 November 1986 vol 103 cc1005-7

Lords amendment: No. 6, in page 8, line 10, at end insert— (4A) Each of the following provisions of this Act—

  1. (a) section 2 above; and
  2. (b) to the extent that it inserts section 13B of the 1978 Act into that Act, section (Co-operation and advice in relation to disabled persons, the elderly and others) above,
shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint in relation to it.".

Mrs. Currie

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Dr. Marek

There is a little more to say about this amendment. Unfortunately, no date has been given for its implementation. The Minister can decide when to implement it. He could have said that it is to be implemented within three months. If no financial expenditure is involved, it would have been very nice if the Minister could have said that it would be implemented within three months.

A headline in The Independent caught my eye today. It Says: Patients 'suffering' in community care scheme. The first two paragraphs of that article say: Psychiatric patients are becoming homeless and suicidal through the Government's care in the community programme which is subsidising private residential and nursing homes through benefit payments of £200 million a year, according to the housing charity, Shelter. Shelter says the patients become victims of unscrupulous landlords because both the National Health Service and voluntary bodies do not have the funds to support them after they are discharged from hospital under the programme. It claims one landlord is receiving about £1 million a year through social security benefits. The article then says: Shelter says a draft of an Audit Commission report, to be released in December, supports its view that the process is merely subsidising private landlords. The article says that former patients had been found living in mixed-sex, multi-occupied rooms, some with dangerous, illegally connected electricity supplies. In one case, CoHSE reported that a confused, sixty-year-old woman who had not eaten for two days had retreated into a tiny room at the top of a dilapidated staircase. Her two electric fires were running from an adaptor which was illegally connected to a Sp slot meter. This is an important matter. We should not leave it just at that, by being asked to agree this amendment formally and then leaving the Minister either to implement or not to implement these powers. They should be implemented quickly. The speedy implementation of this amendment would benefit the elderly and the mentally ill.

I realise that the Conservative party believes in the rich and that it believes in the poor. It believes in one standard of health service for the rich and in a lower standard of health service for the poor. Therefore, I do not have very much hope that the Government will accede to my request, but I should be grateful for the Minister's comments.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security sought to move this amendment formally in the hope of accelerating the business before the House. I am bound to say that I think that the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) has stretched the boundaries of the debate— I would not say beyond order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but very near to the edges of order.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland made it very clear that the Government's aim is to secure arrangements over joint planning in Scotland through co-operation between health boards, local authorities and other organisations without the need for statutory intervention. However, to affirm the Government's commitment, my hon. Friend has introduced these proposals by which, subject to a commencement order, the Government can provide for the statutory regulation of joint planning, if it has been clearly shown that the present voluntary arrangements have failed.

It follows from that proposition, which I understand underlies that part of the Bill, that one would need to know what the circumstances were before specifying the date for a commencement order. In that sense, the hon. Member for Wrexham is asking for something that Ministers cannot give to him at this stage, because the circumstances under which a commencement order would be used have not arisen.

I make those comments on a matter that might be thought primarily to be for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. It became clear during his remarks that the hon. Member for Wrexham had that clause in mind. In fact, the commencement order provisions that were moved by my hon. Friend relate to other parts of the Bill as well. I shall happily make some observations about our thinking on the other clauses, but I sense that the House is not particularly interested in hearing a further ministerial speech on the subject.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 7 agreed to. [Special Entry.]

Lords amendment No. 8 agreed to.

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