Clause 148

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:30 pm ar 30 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 6:30, 30 Mehefin 2009

My hon. Friend makes a good point. That would be a classic case of an undertaking that could cost a significant amount of money, and it would need statutory authority. One part would be in England and one would be in Wales, so there would have to be a fair bit of co-operation between the UK Government and the Welsh Assembly Government. Any legal jurisdiction or body that was created to bring that about would have a cross-border function. It might well be the kind of thing envisaged under the clause.

Will the Minister tell us whether we have any cross-border authorities already? If we do, could we have some examples? If we do not, what kinds of things are Ministers talking and thinking about? Constituencies like mine on the English-Welsh border and those on the English-Scottish border have specific concerns about any possible impact. I am thinking particularly about how those authorities would treat people who live on the other side of the border. I will give just one example so as not to test the patience of the Committee. My example relates to the national health service.

I have a number of constituents who live in England and whose GP is physically based in Wales, although some are physically based in England but registered in Wales, so they are regulated under the jurisdiction of the Welsh Assembly Government. That has consequences for their access to secondary health care and the screening regimes undertaken by the health service. Constituents who live and vote in England, and who ultimately decide on the policies of the UK Government on the NHS in England, are treated differently from constituents who live elsewhere in my constituency but whose GPs are not registered in Wales. Clearly, that has an impact on the public sector equality duty and the bodies making decisions about how they treat people and whether decisions should be based on geography—where they live or where their GP is registered. There are clearly policy implications and that is why I am trying to get a handle on which kinds of bodies are affected. If we are talking about bodies that are not necessarily called “cross-border” but that have some kind of cross-border impact on the policy functions that they exercise, whether in health, education or transport, that might bring them into part 4.

Finally, does being in part 4 and being a cross-border authority make any difference to how the duties are applied? Again, what I am driving at is: how will people from different sides of the border be treated?