HL Deb 08 April 1987 vol 486 cc1083-90

6.42 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill, unlike the Bill with which your Lordships have just dealt, began in another place where it was taken through its stages in the capable and experienced hands of my honourable friend the Member for Banff and Buchan, Mr. Albert McQuarrie. It has government support and the Scottish Office gave my honourable friend assistance with drafting and with consultations.

The Bill, which has been welcomed by all sides in another place, will make arrangements in Scotland on similar lines to those already in existence in England and Wales under the Registered Homes Act 1984. It is concerned mainly with social work care establishments which require to be registered with local authorities under Section 61 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. Its principal purpose is to give local authorities powers to charge fees for the work that they do in registering independent residential care establishments for adults under the 1968 Act. It also increases to a limited extent the powers available to local authorities to exercise a measure of control over establishments once they are registered.

Clause 1 clarifies the criteria for registration of establishments under the Act. It amends the level of social work care which necessitates registration and it expands the definitions to take account of the changing forms of accommodation which have developed since 1968. It is not the intention here to exclude establishments already registered but to provide clear criteria to assist local authorities in dealing with new cases.

Clause 2 allows voluntary registration of certain residential establishments for children which provide both education and social work care under Section 61 of the 1968 Act. In this it removes an anomaly. At present such establishments, if they are currently registered as schools, cannot register for social work purposes even though child care is a significant part of their work. These establishments include List D schools since direct funding ceased in 1986 (they have a new status), certain grant-aided schools and certain independent schools. This clause should make it possible for schools which commonly take a mixture of referrals based on social work and education needs to be properly assessed by local authorities, which will be able to develop their arrangements through the combined operation of both their social work and their education departments.

Clause 3 extends in a number of small but important ways the control that local authorities have over establishments registered with them. First, it requires that local authorities be notified of the name of the manager if he is not the proprietor. Formal registration of a manager is not required, but the unsuitability of an individual is already grounds for cancellation of registration. This new provision gives local authorities, for the first time, an interest in who is appointed as manager. Secondly, the clause requires the registered person to give 28 days' notice of his intention to withdraw. This is simply to assist the orderly transfer of registration. Thirdly, there are set out the grounds for cancellation of registration. The Bill restates the existing grounds in the present Section 62(4) and adds to them failure to notify the name of the manager and failure to pay the annual fee for continuation of registration.

Fourthly, Clause 3 extends the present limited powers of local authorities to attach conditions to registration. It gives them discretion to make any reasonable conditions relating to the proper operation of an establishment, and it gives them power to vary or extend conditions already introduced. These powers are always subject to the right of appeal by the registered person to the tribunal which is established under Section 64. The remit of the tribunal is extended for the purpose. Fifthly, the clause specifies certain information which must appear on the certificate of registration, while leaving the possibility of including other information at the discretion of the local authority.

Lastly, when existing registration lapses or is cancelled, local authorities are given powers to allow an establishment to carry on for up to 60 days without formal registration. This is to minimise the disruption for residents of the change of the person in charge. I suggest that these provisions should assist local authorities without posing undue problems for those running establishments. Many of the measures have already proved useful in England and Wales.

Clause 4 requires independent establishments providing both nursing and residential care to be registered with both the health board and the local authority. At present health and social work legislation in Scotland neither requires nor prevents such legislation. Similar provision already exists in England and Wales. As your Lordships will know, there is a growing tendency among the more innovative establishments in Scotland, particularly in the private sector, to make this kind of combined provision. At present there is no certainty that such providers are able to secure joint recognition and there is scope for different interpretations of the law by different local authorities. This clause clarifies and resolves that problem.

Clause 5 contains the main element in the Bill. It enables local authorities to charge fees for their registration and inspection functions under the 1968 Act on a similar basis to that already operating in England and Wales. It does not seem right that local authorities should continue to be denied the opportunity to recoup their costs, as do their counterparts south of the Border.

Charges will be payable on application for registration, on applications to vary the conditions, for issuing a new certificate of registration following a change to certain elements in the certificate and for annual continuation of registration. Local authorities will have discretion as to the level of charges, subject to a maximum for each type of fee to be prescribed by the Secretary of State. These provisions differ slightly from those of England and Wales. In England and Wales uniform fees are set out in regulations.

Perhaps I may elaborate briefly on the fees provisions. They do not extend to establishments providing day care or those providing for children. The registration fee will not be retrospective. Establishments which are already registered or which have already applied would not be charged but they would be liable for fees relating to variations and continuing registration in the future.

The Secretary of State will have powers to prescribe the times at which fees are paid. Consultation on this matter and on maximum levels of fees will be necessary. Should my right honourable friend decide on the order of fee levels now existing in England and Wales—namely, £550 for registration and £15 per place annual fee—this would equate to no more than a matter of pence on the weekly maintenance for each resident. CoSLA is, of course, anxious to be able to charge fees and not to be at a disadvantage longer than it has to be over its colleagues in England and Wales.

Finally, Clause 6 makes it an offence to re-occupy premises for the purpose of the 1968 Act where local authorities have used their powers to remove residents from an establishment which is not registered or where an offence against the 1968 Act is believed to have been committed.

Standards of care in registered establishments for the elderly and other vulnerable people are of very great concern to us all. The greater flexibility afforded by the Bill and the ability to charge arc designed to enable local authorities to devote more professional and other resources to their registration and inspection responsibilities and so give establishments and the public the highest possible quality of service.

The Bill has been discussed with representatives of local authorities, professional interests and the voluntary sector which have all welcomed its provisions. My honourable friend has received a considerable number of letters in support. Its passage in another place was accomplished with only one minor technical amendment and without a Division. I commend the Bill to your Lordships and I hope you will give it a fair wind.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Carnegy of Lour.)

6.52 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, I think that the House should be grateful for the detailed information we have received from the noble Baroness in respect of this Bill. She said that she had had some help from the Scottish Office. I reckon that Mr. McQuarrie obtained the Bill from the Scottish Office. For some reason the Scottish Office is anxious to proceed with this Bill—almost as anxious as it is to proceed with another Bill that is before the House, which has been my main preoccupation over the past weeks and which is not nearly finished yet.

The Bill before us is an interesting one. I read the purposes of this Bill, which are stated as: An Act to make further provision as to the registration of establishments under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and the Nursing Homes Registration (Scotland) Act 1938". I then read Clause 2, which states: Any grant-aided schools or independent school within the meaning of section 135(1) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (which defines terms used in that Act)". I immediately went to the Library to find out what this meant. I discovered that, according to the definition under the 1980 Act, a residential establishment is not a school at all. A residential institution is one conducted under a scheme as defined under the Acts of 1928 to 1935, Part VI of the 1946 Act, Part VI of the 1962 Act, and Part VI of the 1980 Act. This information was not very enlightening, and this is really an example of legislation by reference. It is the worst kind of thing to understand and I am not going to ask the noble Earl to go through the whole matter to tell me what it all means and follow the changes which we have.

One of the matters which troubled me was that the new Section 61A(1) says: Any grant-aided school or independent school … which performs functions such as are described in section 61(1)". They are very limited and I can only think of approved schools—List D schools. We used to call such schools Approved Schools and they then became List D schools. They were run directly from the Scottish Office, and for years now the Scottish Office has been trying to hand them over to local authorities. Local authorities, in their straitened circumstances, have not been too willing to take on additional expenditure for which they are to receive only half of the cost.

I should like to know exactly how this matter is tied up with the transfer of List D schools. Some of the List D schools are run by churches. A long time ago I was a member of an estimates committee in another place and one of the tasks we undertook was to go around and make a report on List D schools in Scotland. The report was not very much in their favour as compared with the List D approved schools in England as we visited them. We were very far behind. There was one very well known school which gave the impression of walking into a school in Dickens' time. These schools were run directly by the Secretary of State, although I am talking about a fair time ago. On the other hand, there was one such school run by the Catholic Church in Tranent where the situation was very different indeed. If this Bill is to apply there I am very interested and I should like much more information. I shall probably get that in the Committee stage when eventually we come to that.

I make this appeal. The day after we return from the Easter Recess we are to deal with another Scottish Bill. I am sorry the Leader of the House is not in his place but I know that my remarks will be conveyed to him. The burden is going to be placed on the Scottish Members. The rest of the House may be having a holiday as from tomorrow—that is, if we finish that Bill tomorrow—but the Scottish Members who are interested in the Bill on abolition of rating will not see that as it leaves the Committee stage until next Wednesday. By the time it reaches them in various parts of Scotland it will be Friday. After that we shall have to spend our time, not here where it is easy to meet together, but in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and in Ayr (where I live), thus forgoing our holiday in order to get amendments down for the Report stage. There will not be much time for that because the amendments will have to be posted in order for them to arrive in time for the day after we return to the House.

I hope that the Committee stage of this Bill will not place us in the same position—and certainly it should not. Already we have business on two days in the week that we come back, and I hope that we shall not also have the Committee stage of this Bill because the Bill will not be given the scrutiny that it demands.

To turn now to Clause 2 of the Bill before us, that contains the provision about: Any grant-aided school or independent school within the meaning … of the … Act … which performs functions such as are described in section 6(1) above may, but shall not be required to apply for registration". can that be explained to me? If all these new benefits are coming and some of these List D schools will be transferred perhaps to some independent outside body or charitable body, surely, if the beneficial effects of the Bill are to be realised, the word "may" should be replaced by "shall".

There may be some simple answer to that but I have not received it and I have not had time to ask anybody about it. I think that the noble Baroness was probably in the same position. I should like some answer to that matter.

On the other question of nursing homes I noticed that, under Clause 1(1) dealing with the changes to Section 61, it speaks of: the whole or a substantial part of whose functions". That is a difference. However, other references are purely to the whole institution and that could apply equally to nursing homes. The definition of "nursing home" is slightly changed as well.

The noble Baroness said that things had changed slightly, particularly the attention given to elderly people. That does not apply to approved schools, because they are not for elderly people, but for young people. I gather that she was referring to nursing homes for elderly people. During our discussions on the other Bill I mentioned nursing homes and questioned which category they would come under and whether they would be subject to a personal charge or to a collective charge. I have not yet had a proper answer to that question because it will have to be prescribed.

It troubles me that this is almost a new growth industry. I have seen hotels which have suddenly ceased to be hotels and have become nursing homes. The definition of nursing home that still remains demands a standard of care which must include a medical practitioner or a qualified nurse. At present the authorities have the right to concern themselves with the people who are employed, the adequacy of staffing and other such matters. I gather that there has been no change in that.

The Bill gives powers that may not exist at present for these new nursing homes that are springing up. I noticed that when West Sound Radio, which is based in Ayr, published its balance sheet it had a considerably increased profit. The balance sheet showed specifically that a considerable part of the increased profit came from nursing homes. One would not have expected such a body as a radio station to change its line of business and become involved in nursing homes, most of which are very expensive. Considerable care is required by local authorities in respect of registering these homes and I gather that their powers are unchanged.

There is quite a lot in this Bill which we have not considered because it only reached us on 23rd March, and that is not all that long ago. In fact, we actually received it on 24th March. We have not had time to look at it properly and to realise its importance; nor has the noble Baroness had time to consider it.

There is a lot of hard work involved in this Bill in terms of drafting and going through the previous legislation, checking up on what is being done and on what kind of schools and other bodies are affected. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for telling me that "grant-aided schools" and "independent schools" really mean approved schools.

I approve of the increased powers given to local authorities. However, I am worried that certain bodies may apply for registration but will not be required to do so. If they do not apply for registration where do the powers spring from? The noble Baroness should query that point with her advisers. However, in the meantime I should certainly not think of opposing the Bill and I hope that we shall be given time after we have completed the Report stage of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill to give it the attention which it demands.

7.5 p.m.

The Earl of Dundee

My Lords, may I first congratulate my noble friend Lady Carnegy on so eloquently bringing this Bill before us today. It is a small but important measure designed to enact for Scotland provisions very much on the lines of those—or most of those—in the Residential Homes Act 1984, which is applicable to England and Wales.

My right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State is wholly in support of the Bill. We have for some time ourselves sought a convenient opportunity for enacting a similar measure in Scotland and are most grateful to my honourable friend Mr. Albert McQuarrie for his enterprise in taking matters forward in another place on our behalf. We have been glad to co-operate by giving all possible assistance with drafting and with such consultations as have been possible in the short time available.

We believe that the provisions of the Bill should commend themselves to local authorities and the owners of voluntary and private establishments. This has been confirmed in formal and not so formal discussions with representatives of local authorities and voluntary organisations.

We particularly welcome the prospect that local authorities will be able in future to recoup some at least of the expenditure which they incur in the exercise of registering and inspecting all independent homes. Charging for such services is wholly consistent with the Government's policy on charging for local authority services and I, too, support my noble friend Lady Carnegy's hope that authorities will use the income provided for their registration functions.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross, raised a number of points and he prefaced his remarks by referring to the pressure which those of your Lordships who are taking an interest in another Scottish Bill now find themselves up against—not least the prospect that over the Easter holidays we shall have to do a great deal of homework. Perhaps this Bill coming as it does at this moment does not give all of us enough time to study it as much as we should like. That is the position in which I am today and I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will excuse me if I do not respond to all his points now. I will of course write to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, and I know that my noble friend Lady Carnegy, when she winds up, will be commenting on some of the points concerned.

I would just say on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, raised about which schools will be encouraged to apply for registration under the 1968 Act that the position, as I understand it, is that all the former List D schools, which are continuing to provide child care services from 1st April 1986, were encouraged to apply. Although in theory Clause 2 of the Bill would make such continuing registration voluntary, in practice it is unlikely that the managers of any of these establishments would not follow through on the applications submitted, or would subsequently withdraw, and seek to continue to operate without social work registration. That would make them liable to repay substantial grants to the Secretary of State on the basis of agreement reached between the establishments and the Secretary of State when new arrangements came into operation on 1st April 1986.

I very much hope that the Bill will obtain your Lordships' approval, and that it enjoys a safe and speedy passage through the House under the guiding hand of my noble friend Lady Carnegy.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him, when he is having a look at this, to have a look at Clause 5(3), which relates to fees. In paragraph (a), it states: the maximum fees which may be imposed by local authorities under this section; and (b) the times at which fees may be charged", may be prescribed by the Secretary of State. But in the next subsection it states: a local authority shall have regard to their reasonable expenses in carrying out their functions under this Part of this Act in fixing fees under this section. Surely it is the Secretary of State who should have regard to these things before he fixes the maximum fees, and then he can leave it to the local authorities.

The Earl of Dundee

My Lords, I appreciate the point that the noble Lord makes. I shall certainly have a look at that, and no doubt we shall have an opportunity of discussing it further.

7.12 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, my noble friend has undertaken to respond at the next stage to a number of the points raised by the noble Lord. In regard to the timetable, having had a word this afternoon with the noble Lord, I have asked that the day when the House will be fully occupied for the whole day with the rates Bill should not be the day when we take this Bill in the dinner hour. I have already asked for that, but there will have to be a discussion with the usual channels about when the Bill will be taken.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and, I think, all concerned are anxious that this Bill should not be long delayed. Therefore we shall have a rather tight timetable, but we shall try to meet the convenience of the noble Lord and my noble friend on the Front Bench so far as we can.

So far as concerns the definition of the word "establishment", I said in my remarks that in the main they are establishments for adults but there are others, and I went on to describe them. When the noble Lord has time to go through the Bill with his usual care and unbelievably experienced assiduousness he will find that there is a variety of different sorts of establishment to which the Bill applies, but in the main they are establishments for adults.

My noble friend responded to the question about the List D schools. I think that when the noble Lord reads what my noble friend said he will find that that is in fact a clear explanation of the position now for List D schools, which have of course been changing their status and changing the way they operate. The Bill picks up the point where they now are and incorporates them in the arrangements. The nursing homes which are dealt with in the Bill are those which have a social work and health element. It is a question of joint registration, and the health side of it would be overseen by the health board and the social work by the social work authority.

As to the fees, my understanding is that the Secretary of State simply fixes a maximum and the local authority has discretion to decide any fees up to that maximum. The figures I quoted are the figures at present operating in England and Wales, which would amount to something like 28p in regard to each resident in an establishment. That was simply a figure to show what would happen if the maximum were fixed at what the fee is in England and Wales. Of course it may be fixed higher or it may be fixed lower, but the provision in the Bill is for discretion up to a maximum.

I think those were the main points that the noble Lord raised, but we shall doubtless get more information from my noble friend at a later stage.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.