Monday, 13 June 2011

"You can't trust the Tories on the NHS" warns Andrew George

St Ives MP Andrew George has been quite robust in his comments on the NHS Bill today, declaring:

"Of course we should pat ourselves on the back for having forced an unprecedented pause in a major piece of Government legislation. It is clear that, had the Conservatives outright power, they would be railroading this Bill through Parliament without hesitation. I'm afraid we can't trust the Tories with the NHS. They brazenly ignored the Coalition Agreement before the ink was even dry. Tory promises on the NHS should be issued with a 'health warning'"

The 'pause' is still continuing, but today the head of the group that is looking at what needs to be done to the Bill has recommended that major changes are needed. In particular, they say that reforms need to go ahead more slowly and that the emphasis should be about co-operation and not about competition.

A couple of weeks ago, Cornwall Council made its own comments on the Bill which included the Liberal Democrat group's call for it to be abandoned and for work to start again from scratch.

Whilst today's news is clearly good, I'm less convinced than Nick Clegg that the Lib Dems have got everything that we wanted. He may say that we have got 11 of the 13 key criticisms directly addressed and the remaining two changed in another way, but that ignores a huge number of concerns which were not included in our debate at conference in March. Even with these 'victories' the NHS Bill will still be a great distance from what many Lib Dems will feel is acceptable.

Should the Lib Dems be able to hold a veto over these NHS reforms? In general, the work of the Government is being governed by the coalition agreement which in turn has policies from Lib Dem and Conservative manifestos. But the sweeping nature of these NHS proposals were in neither manifesto and nor were they in the coalition agreement and so I think it is fair for Lib Dems to refuse to back any changes they don't like (as it is fair for Conservative MPs to do likewise). For so long as the main Tory aim seems to be striding towards privatisation, I think Andrew George's words are right and the Lib Dems should be very wary about accepting any reform of our health service.

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