Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on 28 May 2015. The bill sought to take forward several reforms that would allow for the implementation of devolution agreements with combined authority areas and other areas. As it was originally introduced, the bill:
- provided for an elected mayor for the combined authority's area, who would exercise specified functions individually and chair the authority
- provided for the possibility of the mayor additionally undertaking the functions of Police and Crime Commissioner for the combined authority area (in place of the Police and Crime Commissioner)
- removed the current statutory limitation on functions that can be conferred on a combined authority (currently economic development, regeneration, and transport)
- provided for streamlined local governance as agreed by councils.
During the bill's progress through the House of Lords, Lord Warner tabled amendments that sought to provide safeguards to the local devolution of health functions. The amendments made it clear that whatever devolution arrangements might be agreed, the Secretary of State would remain bound by key duties placed upon him or her in respect of the health service.
The amendments also specified some specific duties that could not be transferred, such as overarching responsibility to parliament for the provision of the health service in England, as well as overarching duties on quality, reduction of health inequalities, research, education and training, and duties relating to the NHS Constitution and the mandate to the NHS.
Lord Warner suggested that: 'the Bill was never designed for the devolution of NHS functions. It is not designed for devolving functions from a 67-year-old iconic National Health Service, with many statutory duties placed on a Minister, supported by a bevy of national bodies and requirements, and strong public expectations of adherence to national standards and rules. So far, the Government has struggled to come up with a formula that reconciles the centralised characteristics of the NHS, which is held in great public affection, with a move towards the greater devolution of the delivery of health services and health service functions that many of us would like to see.'
The amendment was passed with 217 aye votes to 152 no votes.
The Minister for Care Services, Alistair Burt, was asked to clarify whether the proposed safeguards would also apply to social care services. The Minister replied that the regulatory powers of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the safeguarding inspection regime would be retained for any social care element covered by a devolution deal. He also suggested that legislation would include further options for combined authorities and local authorities to work together with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and NHS England across a wider area to improve the integration of services.
The Act received royal ascent on 28 January 2016. The Act facilitated health devolution by enabling the devolution of public body functions to local authorities and combined authorities.
Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.
House of Lords.
Clause 16; Power to transfer etc. public authority functions to certain local authorities; HL Deb 21 July 2015 Vol 764 CC 1047-54.
House of Commons.
Cities and Local Government Devolution [Lords] Bill; HC Deb 21 October 2015 Vol 600 CC 1052-1075.