Parliament returned this week for its September session. On Monday there was a government U turn re-introducing “control orders” on terrorist suspects despite the Tories and Lib Dems in opposition and in their coalition agreement proposing to scrap them.
Then on Tuesday and Wednesday the Government's delayed Health and Social Care Bill was re-introduced for its Report Stage and Third Reading. I received many e-mails and letters from constituents expressing concerns about this Bill. A legal opinion obtained by the campaign group 38 Degrees showed that there were serious flaws in the proposals. It was also opposed by the British Medical Association. The Bill removes a key protection of the 1946 Act of the post war Labour government that set up the NHS – that the Secretary of State for Health should be directly accountable for providing the Health Service. The Conservative/Lib Dem plans break up the NHS as a national public service and are fundamentally weakening the Health Secretary’s responsibilities.
The Government have not acted upon the recommendations of the independent group of NHS experts, the Future Forum. Despite the “pause for reflection” the Bill still contained the essential elements of the Tories’ long-term plan to set the NHS up as a full-scale market based on the model of the privatised utilities. Under their plans a new economic regulator will enforce competition law on the NHS for the first time, and have the power to fine hospitals 10% of their turnover.
Earlier this year I had voted against the Second Reading and this week I joined with my Labour colleagues to oppose the Bill and support amendments to stop the changes.
I believe that the future of our NHS is now at risk as money promised and needed for patient care is wasted on a reckless top-down reorganisation.