banner unionsafete

Libdem Peer Stabs The NHS In The Back In House Of Lords NHS Debate

"This is certainly disappointing. But over the last few days the 38 Degrees petition had a real impact, bringing the concerns of the public into the chamber of the House of Lords. It is not over yet. The legislative process will take several more months. It won't be easy but there's still a chance we can secure changes."

Lord David Owen, proposer of the amendment for a special scrutiny committee

Wednesday 12th October 2012 will be remembered by those who spent the previous day and all of that day watching the debate on the Health Care Services Bill unfold and end with a vote that allowed the Bill to be scrutinised on the floor of the Lords.

The Health Care Services Bill is a huge Bill consisting of 444 pages, 12 Parts, 303 sections, and 24 schedules!

For this to be appropriately scrutinised it requires a special committee of legal, health, and clinical experts due to its complexity was the argument made by Lord Owen as to the need for the carrying of his amendment.

Indeed it is very unlikely that the majority of the Lords, never mind of MPs in the Commons; have actually scrutinised the Bill in full and understand its ramifications for the NHS as it currently functions.

Despite a massive last minute campaign, in addition to that which had already been run by 38 Degrees prior to the Commons 3rd reading of the Bill; the vote was lost.

With 262 Lords voting in favour of a special scrutiny committee for the dangerous NHS plans, a greater number, 330 voted against.

If just 35 more Lords had voted the right way, Lord Owen’s amendment would have been carried.

The aforementioned last minute campaign by 38 Degrees was so popular and successful that over 150,000 people signed the emergency petition, in just 24 hours.

During the debate, many Lords and Baronesses mentioned the 38 Degrees campaign in their speeches as they pledged to vote in favour of Lord Owen’s amendment to send the Bill to a special before a special Lords scrutiny committee.

 Lord Hunt said:

“This morning, I and my colleagues received from 38 Degrees a petition containing over 135,000 signatures collected in a very short space of time asking this House to protect the NHS and to ensure that the Bill gets proper scrutiny.

That is but one small reflection of widespread concern in the community and the NHS...

The scale of concern and mistrust among the public and the NHS is greater than I have ever known it before. Only this House now stands between safeguarding the NHS and these confused and damaging proposals.”

Lord Winston Life peer and fertility expert ended his contribution to the debate by saying:

" We've heard a lot about the legacy of the last Government, but actually the health service was left in a pretty fine state by the last government .... In my view this Bill is unncesary and I'm afraid to say it is irresponsible."

However, in the end, and despite the direction of the debate, with the majority of the Lords speaking expressing deep concerns and sometimes outright rejection of the Bill; the result of the vote did not reflect the debate.

In fact it left many feeling that the result of the vote showed that the peers voted, in the main, on party lines.

Watching the whole of the Lords debate via the BBC’s Democracy now website and BBC Parliament on TV was this website's editor Chris Ingram.

He commented:

“Watching and listening to the debate in the Lords over the last two days, I was hopeful that the second amendment by Lord Owen would be carried. This, especially following the Lords opposition leader pledging that in carrying the amendment, a commitment can be given to complete the committee stage by January in order to ensure it went back to the Commons in time for completion this Parliament.”

He added:

“Given the first amendment called for the Bill to be thrown out, and the acceptance of Labour’s promise not to delay the Bill in the Lords committee stage, I do believe Lord Owen’s amendment would have been carried.

That was until Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Paddy Ashdown’s intervention at the very last moment!”

During Lord Owen’s summing up of his amendment at the end of the debate, Lord Ashdown (former Libdem party leader) made the final intervention, and quite angrily argued that the Lords is a ‘reforming house’ and not there to defeat the Government.

Lords debate the Health Care Services BillHe added that, (despite there being previous Bills sent to a special Lords committee), the whole of the Lords should scrutinise the 276 page Bill.

He reminded the peers of their ‘democratic duty’. This was met with many cheers on the Government’s side of the House.

It was clear to many, judging by the comments on Twitter that his intervention had had a major impact; and many blamed the Libdem’s for what they see as a betrayal of the NHS.

It did not go without notice that over 150 peers did not vote, which many campaigners feel, given the fact that this Bill is about the future or destruction of the NHS, is a disgrace.

Much debate over the result of the vote and what it means to the campaign to save the NHS from privatisation as a result of the passing into law of the Health Care Services Bill, has taken place on Twitter, FaceBook, and 38 Degrees own website.

One 38 Degrees member, Yvonne, summed it up on the 38 Degrees FaceBook page:

“We may have lost the battle, but we have not lost the war!”

Today, (13th October) 38 Degrees issued a special message via email and on their website to all the signatories of the petition to the Lords, and to those who had also written to an adopted peer direct:

" We did not have that breakthrough this week. But we saw that our strategy can work and we still have time to do more. We can send more messages, sign more petitions, pay for more briefings from legal experts and organise more local campaign events.

We can work together to come up with new ideas for people powered tactics. If we keep going, there's a real chance we can change an extra 35 Lords' minds before the final votes in a few months' time.

38 Degrees NHS Update pageSome Lords, particularly Liberal Democrats, said they wouldn't vote in favour of a special scrutiny committee because it was unnecessary. They claimed it will be possible to address 38 Degrees members' concerns by following the standard House of Lords procedure. [6] Now, we're going to have to do all we can to make them keep their word on this – it certainly isn't the time to give up!

We've done an incredible amount to sound the alarm about the threats our NHS is facing, and highlight all the reasons why having a public health service is one of the things Britain should be most proud of. It's obviously a bit depressing that yesterday's vote went the wrong way. But the fight is nowhere near over.

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, contacted the office after the vote with this message for all of us: "Members of 38 Degrees have played an important role in speaking up for our NHS and highlighting concerns. Today's vote is by no means the end of the story, keep going!"

Many Peers replied to those writing to them. One example of such a response, Lord Avebury’s, can be read here

It must be remembered that there was no mention by either the Tory or the Libdem Party during the General election of May 2010 of the intention to reform, privatise, or re-organise the NHS.

As if to highlight this perfectly, a comment on FaceBook was made last night by CWU Liverpool Branch member Lorna Dhillon:

"Our Local MPs should have been advising us of this and then taking the public opinion to Parliament. They haven't done this so they can get what they want through. In fact this should have been put up for public referendum!"

You can read the Health Care Services Bill in full here

The timetable for the Bill can be found here

Source: 38 Degrees / BBC Parliament TV / BBC Democracy Live website / Twitter / FaceBook

Designed, Hosted and Maintained by Union Safety Services