§ Queen's recommendation having been signified—
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Protection of Children Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—
- (a)any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of the Act; and
- (b)any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other Act.—[Mr. Jamieson.]
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)
I would have thought that on an occasion such as this the Minister might have sought to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because this is the opportunity for the House to consider the financial implications of a private Member's Bill that has received its Second Reading. As I recall, none of the financial implications of the Bill was examined on Second Reading, and that makes this money resolution debate that much more important and germane as it gives the House the opportunity to examine in more detail the financial implications of the Bill.
I have glanced through the Bill and identified four areas of potential additional expenditure that it may require. I shall examine each in turn so that the Minister has an opportunity to let the House know what the financial implications are so that it can take a view. The first area is, self-evidently, costs arising in the Department of Health. That issue arises immediately from clause 1, which states:The Secretary of State shall keep a list of individuals who are considered unsuitable to work with children.I presume that there will be a cost implication within the Department of Health in the maintenance of such a list. That is especially true as one examines the provisions of clause 2, which lays a number of responsibilities on the Secretary of State, including determining the references, provisionally including individuals on the list, inviting observations and confirming an individual's inclusion on the list. All of those activities imply a process within the Department of building up and maintaining the list and 141 suggest that an underpinning of bureaucracy and officials will be required to fulfil all the different functions outlined. It would be useful to hear from the Minister about the extent to which his Department will require additional officials to carry out the responsibilities laid on it by clause 2.
I shall come later to the tribunal, which I suspect will add the biggest single extra cost. First, the next additional element of cost arises from clause 5, which refers to the additional grounds for prohibiting or restricting employment with regard to the Department for Education and Employment. I had some passing experience of these matters when I was responsible for List 99 at the Department for some years.
I believe that clause 5(2)(c), which refers tothe grounds that the persons concerned are not fit and proper persons to be employed as teachers or in such work as is mentioned",considerably widens the scope that has traditionally been available through List 99—always a relatively narrowly focused mechanism that was rightly concerned with ensuring that people who had committed some offence would, after due consideration by the Department, be put on the list and barred from teaching.
I suspect that clause 5 gives rise to the possibility that much wider consideration will be needed, and that implies considerable additional effort by the Department and its officials. What extra cost does the Minister believe will fall on the Department for Education and Employment over and above the cost of the existing List 99?
The next heading that I have identified as involving almost certain additional expenditure falls within clause 8, which is titled:Searches of both lists under Part V of Police Act 1997The clause describes additional new requirements, which implies additional costs for the police service. Those costs should be laid before us so that we may consider them.
I have identified three distinct areas of additional cost in the Department of Health, the Department for Education and Employment and the police.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Hutton)
Has the right hon. Gentleman read the regulatory impact assessment that accompanied the Bill, and which dealt with all those issues?
§ Mr. Forth
I am grateful to the Minister for being helpful so far into the debate. He might or might not accept a bit of friendly advice from me—if he had done the House the courtesy of rising to move his money resolution and explaining what lay behind it, he might have truncated the proceedings. If he wants to do it back to front, that is entirely up to him. Whether or not I have read any document is neither here nor there. [Interruption.] This is a debate, and it is the occasion on which the House of Commons has an opportunity to consider these matters.
§ Mr. Forth
If the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) is moved to shout "idiot", 142 he will not help his colleagues, who are anxious to get home. Each time he says "idiot", he will add a considerable number of minutes to my speech. I invite him to think a little more carefully before he does that again because he will earn no brownie points from his hon. Friends.
I shall now address briefly—albeit not quite as briefly as I had originally intended—the main item in the Bill that is likely to cause extra expenditure. The provisions for the tribunal must surely require considerable extra expenditure, not only because of the requirements set out in the clause, but because of those that are usefully set out in some detail in the schedule to the Bill. It would be helpful if the Minister were to explain in some detail the possible elements of expenditure.
Not only does the schedule contain the usual provisions that one expects in setting up a tribunal—provisions relating to the president, the panels of persons, the process of appointment and so on—but there are provisions relating to meetings and training, which one might have thought would require a considerable amount of on-going bureaucratic commitment, to say nothing of provisions relating to staff and accommodation required by the tribunal and also to remuneration and expenses. The schedule helpfully spells out that:The Secretary of State may pay to the President, and to any other person in respect of his service as a member of the Tribunal, such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary of State may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine.I accept that that is clearly a provisional arrangement, but even at this stage the Government should be able to give us some idea of the scale of remuneration and expenses for the tribunal that they have in mind. I doubt whether even the Government would want to embark on such a project without any idea of the costs it entails.
§ Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)
Ministers believe that the costs of an appeal tribunal can be met within current provision for Departments—the regulatory impact assessment mentions a figure of £500,000 shared between the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Employment. However, my right hon. Friend shares my perception that the fact that costs can be met within current provision does not mean that they should not be subject to scrutiny and explicitly approved by the House.
§ Mr. Forth
Like my hon. Friend, I always thought that that was the point of a money resolution. It appears to have escaped Labour Members, but my hon. Friend and I share the view that a money resolution debate is a vital part of the mechanism for the proper scrutiny and consideration of a Bill—especially given that it is a private Member's Bill and none of the matters currently being considered were touched on during Second Reading. The fact that figures may or may not exist in a document is no excuse for them not to be properly considered on the Floor of the House and put on the record. That is why the Minister's contribution should be helpful.
On the matter of attendance allowances, the schedule to the Bill states:The Secretary of State may pay such allowances for the purpose of or in connection with the attendance of persons at the Tribunal".That could become a substantial item of expenditure, depending on the view taken by the Government of the volume of business that the Tribunal might attract and the 143 number of persons who might attend the tribunal and be paid attendance allowances. Past experience of tribunals supports the assertion that such allowances will become a substantial sum.
The money resolution almost certainly contains a wide range of potential additional expenditure: departmental expenditure in two Departments of State; probable expenditure on the part of the police service; and, not least, expenditure resulting from the activities of the tribunal. The House will want to hear the Minister's remarks on all of those item before it is fully satisfied that the expenditure is properly undertaken in connection with the purposes of the Bill. The House will then want to consider whether or not to approve the money resolution, having only recently given the Bill a Second Reading.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Hutton)
I must correct the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) on one point. He expressed concern that I had not moved the money resolution. It is normal for money resolutions to be moved by Ministers, but I should point out that Government Whips are Ministers.
Much of our time tonight could have been spared if the right hon. Gentleman had read the regulatory impact assessment. It is quite clear from his contribution that, unfortunately, he has not had the opportunity to read the assessment, in which we set out in some detail most of the issues that he raised in the House this evening. He will certainly be aware of the purpose of the Bill and what it seeks to do because he took part in the Second Reading debate only last week. We welcomed his contribution then, as we do tonight.
I shall try to respond to some of the right hon. Gentleman's concerns about the money resolution. The Bill creates an obligation upon the Secretary of State to maintain a list of individuals deemed unsuitable to work with children and allows other organisations to refer names to the Department of Health list in certain circumstances. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there is presently no statutory requirement on child care organisations to refer to the list or to check names against the present Department of Health consultancy index. The Bill will change that arrangement. Once included on the list, the individual concerned will be prevented from obtaining employment in certain positions.
Additional costs associated with the establishment and operation of the appeals tribunal will fall on the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Employment. The tribunal will hear all appeals from people in the child care and health service fields against inclusion on the Department of Health list. It will deal also with appeals from List 99, which is a similar list operated by the Department for Education and Employment.
The right hon. Gentleman was correct in identifying that extra costs will fall on the Department of Health in operating a scheme which, due to the expansion that we envisage, will process an increasing number of checks. I assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that those additional costs will be met by the Department from within existing budgets, and therefore are not affected by the term of the money resolution.
144 However, costs will be incurred by the creation and administration of the tribunal system, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The estimated costs associated with the appeals tribunal, which we have identified, are set out fully in the regulatory impact assessment, and we estimate that they will be in the region of £500,000.
The purpose of the Bill is clear and simple: it introduces the mechanism of an appeals tribunal and widens accessibility and scope. Both of those aims have been broadly welcomed by all child care organisations and by the House, which gave the Bill an unopposed Second Reading. In simple terms, the money resolution that we are debating will authorise the necessary expenditure relating to the establishment of this new appeals tribunal, and I urge the House to accept it.
§ Question put and agreed to.