Do Libdems support NHS Bill? Not really..


by Sunny Hundal    
2:55 pm - May 11th 2011

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Department of Health statistics today reveal that waiting times of over 6 weeks for any one of the 15 key tests was 10,800 at the end of March 2011.

This is an increase of 2,800 from February 2011, and an increase of 7,000 from March 2010. Still think the cuts aren’t affecting front-line services?

Meanwhile, how much Libdem support is there for the NHS Bill? And should we even be focusing once again on their ‘betrayal’?

The myth is that the Libdems have been offering full-throated support of the NHS Bill.

But a reading of their votes and presence in Parliament betrays otherwise. And this does not bode well for Lansley.

Revolts.co.uk offer this reading:

Yesterday saw a Labour Opposition Day debate on the future of the NHS – at the end of which no Liberal Democrat MP voted in support of the Labour motion.

But dig a little deeper, and you can see signs of the Lib Dem doubts about the government’s policy for the NHS. Andrew George, who abstained on the Second Reading of the Health Bill on 31 January, cast a deliberate abstention last night by voting in both lobbies. And there is also a question mark over the large number of missing Liberal Democrat MPs. Dr John Pugh, a long-term critic of the Bill, spoke in the preceding debate against the legislation, but was then nowhere to be seen in either division lobby.

In total, there were 23 missing Lib Dems last night, of whom four were members of the Government (including the Deputy Prime Minister). So that leaves 19 missing Lib Dem backbenchers. We doubt all 19 had been given the night off.

And contrast last night’s limp turnout of 33 Members with the 48 Lib Dem MPs who enthusiastically voted in favour of the Second Reading of the Health Bill on 31 January. The two votes aren’t directly comparable but mustering fewer than six in ten of your parliamentary party in support of a key plank of Coalition policy hardly represents a full bill of health.

If Labour is able to deftly exploit this deep Libdem unease over the NHS Bill, it could jeopardise Lansley and Cameron, and block the bill.

But it requires some careful footwork from Ed Miliband.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Yes, this is right. Lord Matthew Oakeshott was outspoken in his criticism of the NHS bill (and of the banks) at last night’s crossparty Compass mtg. He explicitly said that ho took himself to be representing mainstream LibDem opinion on this. Evan Harris was also criticising the bill at another Compass gathering yesterday, and garnering support from other LDs present. More significantly perhaps (than these ‘usual suspects’), an influential LibDem MP recently privately said to me that he was keen tolisten to those against the bill and expected further significant changes in it.
The key points are GP-commissioning not being forced on anyone, resisting moves to further privatisation, resisting any charging. On all 3 now, the prospects are promising. WE can WIN this.
The really big question additionally is what happens to NHS funding. The wheels will come off the NHS if it is made to stick to its current funding projections and limits. They have done every single previous time there has been a funding crunch, and there has never been such a long one planned. Expect big big trouble for the Coalition in this regard, by about 2014…

2. Mr S. Pill

@1

“an influential LibDem MP recently privately said to me”

Name them.

Isn’t there a chance that they’re abstaining so they aren’t seen to support it, whilst effectively letting it through? I want to be optimistic about parliamentary LibDems, but I’m not sure that not voting is the greatest of signs, to be honest…

If Labour is able to deftly exploit this deep Libdem unease over the NHS Bill, it could jeopardise Lansley and Cameron, and block the bill.

But it requires some careful footwork from Ed Miliband.

I think we can rule that out then – he has not shown that sort of ability so far as Labour leader.

More to the point, I don’t think that we can constitute absence of MPs (and Rupert’s account of the actions of figures associated with Compass, which kind of shows there ideological leanings anyway) as evidence for the feelings of Liberal Democrats. Some at least probably support the changes – check out the Orange Book on NHS reform – whilst others are less keen, but not voting in an opposition day motion is indeed a long way from voting for or against a bill.

Um, duh. Conference voted against the reforms, Lamb is against them, Harris is against them, Williams is against them, the activists are against them, councillors are against them and even Nick Clegg claims to be (somewhat) against them.

I guarantee that you will not see the NHS reforms going through unless they have been gutted and changed beyond all recognition first.

If Labour wants to help ensure this, it would be useful for them to engage in practical criticisms of the proposals so that Lib Dems can have reasons to change the proposals.

I watched both the second reading debate and the opposition day debate and I can say that both were disappointing.

In the case of the second reading, only the front benches knew anything about the bill. Indeed, only the front benches knew anything about health policy. If it is depressing that an MP would vote on a Bill s/he has no knowledge about, it is extremely depressing that they will give a speech in suppost of a bill they have no knowledge about. In the case of the second reading the LibDems spoke against Labour health policy as if the Bill was somehow the antithesis of Labour. I can only come to the conclusion that you have to have a below par IQ to be a LibDem MP.

In the case of the opposition day debate the MPs seem to have a little more knowledge, but the speeches were still dire. The interventions seemed pointless, and often when one speaker made a completely made up assertion, the opposing benches did not intervene showing that they had not noticed and hence did not understand the issue. Yet again, the LibDem MPs attacked Labour health policy. Perhaps someone should remind them that they are in government? I think some LibDems still think that their party exists to be in permanent opposition.

Actually, the part of the debate that made me most optimistic was when the Tory Tony Baldry spoke. He clearly is totally confused about GP commissioning, but he is wrong in the right way.

He said:

GP commissioning enables GPs to put their confidence in their local hospitals by commissioning services for them. In my county we will be replacing an Oxfordshire-wide PCT with an Oxfordshire-wide GP-led commissioning body, with GPs in the county working collaboratively.

He does not understand the role of Monitor. Monitor will be legally bound to enforce a healthcare market and actions like that described by Baldry will be regarded as anti-competitive by Monitor and will be stopped and competition forced on the GPs. This is why Labour wants the competition clauses (well, all of Schedule 3) removed from the Bill. I want the commissioning that Baldry describes – GPs working collaboratively – but that is not what the Bill says.

I find Baldry’s statement optimistic because I believe that when he finds out what the Bill really means, he will not vote for the Bill and there is a possibility of him voting against the Bill. On Sunday, Sunny, I tweeted you that I think it is the shire Tories who will bring down this Bill, and unbeknown to me, Baldry – a shire Tory – gave a speech that supports what I say. If Cameron knows what’s good for him he will remove Schedule 3 and stop Monitor forcing competition on the GPs in Baldry’s constituency.

(Oh and he should not put too much confidence in the Horton. It is well known locally to be a hospital at risk, and it is likely to be taken over by another FT. There will be fuckall that Baldry can do about it, and it will be foprced upon the hospital by Lansley’s policies.)

@5: “Conference voted against the reforms, Lamb is against them, Harris is against them, Williams is against them, the activists are against them, councillors are against them and even Nick Clegg claims to be (somewhat) against them.”

So what? Paul Burstow, a LibDem MP, is the minister of state in the Department of Health.

#1

The really big question additionally is what happens to NHS funding. The wheels will come off the NHS if it is made to stick to its current funding projections and limits. They have done every single previous time there has been a funding crunch, and there has never been such a long one planned. Expect big big trouble for the Coalition in this regard, by about 2014…

You’ll find the wheels will come off later this year. In the NHS’s past there have been four such crises and every time the government have found that public opinion has been so vociferous that they have had to provided extra funds. What will be interesting is whether Osborne will provide extra funds this Autumn, or at the next budget to mitigate this crisis.

Lansley has shown himself to be an incompetent Health Sec. The NHS would have faced a crisis in Autumn 2011 whoever was Health Sec, it should have been obvious to Cameron that the whole point of the Health Sec in 2010/11 would be to try and minimise the crisis. Lansley should have known this too, instead of working hard to keep the NHS afloat Lansley has been playing with his toys. I went to a national NHS conference in 2009 and my notes from the finance talk says clearly “expect financial crisis in two years time”.

Your quote of 2014 is important. Slowly, Tory MPs are starting to realise how daft Lansley’s deadlines are. If the government lasts to May 2015 that will be one year after the deadline for all hospitals to be FTs and two years after GP commissioning will formally start. These are such huge changes that even the most ardent supporter realises that any conceivable benefits will not be apparent by May 2015. Because of the big squeeze on funding, it is likely that perhaps 20 trusts will be close to closure and many others (30?) will be close to bankruptcy. The Tories will go into the next election saying “we are the party that has pushed the NHS into bankruptcy, vote for us”. There is disquiet in the Tory ranks to make sure that the deadlines are extended and provisions are made to carry hospital trusts through to the next Parliament. But Lansley is stubborn.

Ah yes, the Orange Bookers – tireless defenders of the NHS! I do hope the rumours are true and David Laws is set to replace Andrew Lansley. Now *there’s* a man I’d trust to, erm, scrap the NHS entirely given half a chance and replace it with a social insurance scheme.

10. Charlieman

@7. Bob B:
“@5: “Conference voted against the reforms, Lamb is against them, Harris is against them, Williams is against them, the activists are against them, councillors are against them and even Nick Clegg claims to be (somewhat) against them.”

So what? Paul Burstow, a LibDem MP, is the minister of state in the Department of Health.”

That is how coalitions work. Burstow’s role is to moderate and possibly to swallow. On this occasion, he may not have to swallow much nor pacify the party.

Thatcherite change of health provision is over, for the term of this parliament.

#7. Bob B

@5: “Conference voted against the reforms, Lamb is against them, Harris is against them, Williams is against them, the activists are against them, councillors are against them and even Nick Clegg claims to be (somewhat) against them.”

So what? Paul Burstow, a LibDem MP, is the minister of state in the Department of Health.

Indeed. The Lib Dem Spring conference was 11-13 March. The Bill Committee sat between 8 Feb and 29 March, ie the Spring conference was slap bang in the middle of the Committee. The Committee exists to amend the Bill and yet the only changes were typos and technical changes. Burstow could have put the Lib Dem conference amendments into the Bill during the Committee. He didn’t.

@9

Hear hear. The Orange Bookers make the average Thatcherite Tories look like socialists. The really astonishing thing is how they managed to blag so many people – including many of their own members who clearly never bothererd to read their own party’s publications – into thinking that the Lib Dems are some kind of centre left party.

13. Charlieman

@11 Richard Blogger: “Indeed. The Lib Dem Spring conference was 11-13 March. The Bill Committee sat between 8 Feb and 29 March, ie the Spring conference was slap bang in the middle of the Committee. The Committee exists to amend the Bill and yet the only changes were typos and technical changes. Burstow could have put the Lib Dem conference amendments into the Bill during the Committee. He didn’t.”

The quote mistakenly ascribed to Bob B was intended for me.

Burstow appears to have acted as a politician. In a coalition government. Did he act to deceive?

14. Martin Young

I think people are missing what is actually happening in the NHS. The bill might not proceed but the changes will. Hospitals are be given over to private health care companies already. Savage cuts to funding will ensure that many more hospitals fail and fall foul to the criteria which allows this. Unless Lansley, Burstow, Burns and Milton get the sack they will gradually push through their agenda (sorry the private health care agenda) which Lansley has been paid to do.
The NHS is finnished under the coalition. We receintly spoke to our local tory MP who quite candidly said he haden’t fully understood the bill and didn’t agree with all the changes but he will probably still support it mind you. Libdem MP’s are in the same situation and may abstain but this will ensure the bills success. The 38 degree and save the NHS campaigns must surly be targeting most MP’s, if libdems are so against NHS changes why do we not here them.
Patients referred by GP’s are already being deemed not appropriate for treatment by “referral teams” and being bounced back to the surgery, to ask if they don’t mind paying presumably.
Small subtle changes will bring about most of what private health care wants and is being complicitly supported by the libdems to their shame.
Sorry to rant but as a previously apathetic left wing person this issue has made me incandescent with rage I can’t understand why people haven’t stormed Westminster and all the nasty Lobiests and burned the lot down!

@12

“The Orange Bookers make the average Thatcherite Tories look like socialists.”

Please. This Liberal Democrat has read the Orage Book and is very happy to confirm that the ideas in it come from the Liberal tradition. I have been telling Tories I am not socialist/left wing for many years.

The problem with the “analysis” presented in post 12 is that it seems able to conceive only of 2 strands of political thought – “left” and “right”. In fact there are many – conservative, socialist, liberal, green, nationalist, etc etc

Also, can someone please explain why having private providers of health care paid for out of the public purse and free to all at the point of use is automatically wrong if the quality of care is the same or better for a given amount of money.

Notes

1) This is not whether the Lansley reforms are workable or not, but about the question of whether private provider involvement can be better than what is currently on offer.

2) Answers to the effect that only the state should be allowed to employ heathcare staff as a matter of political principle are not allowed.

TW

@12

“including many of their own members who clearly never botherred to read their own party’s publications ”

The Orange Book is not a publication of the Liberal Democrat party. Charles Kennedy (leader at the time) was carefully neutral in his forward. It’s available on Amazon for those (presumably including Geezer) who have not read it.

See here for a useful review. (It’s amusing/painful to read the comments about Mark Oaten) http://www.bonkers.hall.btinternet.co.uk/liberator.html

Its all a bit late now chaps.

Having told the staff they were useless, and party consensus to require 30% staffing cuts ‘because “bashing bureaucracy” is a good sound bite even though international evidence suggests different… guess what? Even before any changes in legislation the previous organisations are falling over, with the most talented people leaving.

The world renowned NICE taking decisions about which treatments are cost effective in a single consistent national way, based on research and the views of leading clinicians – has been sidelined and dis-empowered. (Hello post code lottery, rising health inequalities, and money frittered away on treatments because the drug rep talked a good game)

The short waiting times the public so value, which took a decade to sort out after the last Tory disaster, are busy rising because you didn’t stop Lansley abolishing them.

Now La La’s antics have led to the biggest vacuum in the NHS history. Guess what? You don’t get strongly led efficiency drives when you give 100,000 people an ‘at risk of redundancy’ notice!

Yet all Nick Clegg is talking about in concessions is a delay to the change. (If you are being mugged, you dont say to the mugger – okay then as long as you stick the knife in more slowly!)

The Lib Dem manifesto was wafer thin on health – as a consequence you didn’t say anything meaningful about some of the central issues. What you need now – more than anything – is some real expertise from friendly faces who work in the NHS enough to know the detail in depth – to stitch together a proper credible coherent alternative approach.

Blair managed it with the NHS plan and National Service Frameworks. Even Brown almost managed it with Lord Darzi’s review (despite his error on polyclinics).

A massive opportunity if anyone in Lib Dem polcy land is willing to listen to our experience and the worldwide research evidence. And it might just save more lives and stop our best national asset being vandalised.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Do Libdems fully support NHS Bill? Not really… http://bit.ly/iB9Jwp

  2. Double.Karma

    RT @libcon: Do Libdems fully support NHS Bill? Not really… http://bit.ly/iB9Jwp

  3. Trakgalvis

    Do Libdems fully support NHS Bill? Not really… | Liberal Conspiracy http://goo.gl/cfgzM

  4. sunny hundal

    Evidence suggests Libdems are more skeptical about NHS Bill than everyone thinks http://bit.ly/iB9Jwp

  5. Nat Guest

    RT @sunny_hundal: Evidence suggests Libdems are more skeptical about NHS Bill than everyone thinks http://bit.ly/iB9Jwp

  6. sunny hundal

    NHS waiting times of over 6 weeks on key tests have jumped to 10,800 – an increase of 7000 from last year! http://bit.ly/iB9Jwp #saveourNHS

  7. Georgina Hughes

    RT @sunny_hundal: Evidence suggests Libdems are more skeptical about NHS Bill than everyone thinks http://bit.ly/iB9Jwp

  8. Darren Johnson

    Big jump in NHS waiting lists for key tests. Will the Lib Dems do anything about cuts to health care? http://bit.ly/k6RJtE

  9. NHS reforms live blog | Birmingham Link

    [...] Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy has spotted that waiting times keep going up. Waiting times of over 6 weeks for any one of the 15 [...]

  10. NHS reforms live blog | Rubytall News

    [...] Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy has spotted that waiting times keep going up. Waiting times of over 6 weeks for any one of the 15 [...]

  11. chang mei wan

    RT @trakgalvis: Do Libdems fully support NHS Bill? Not really… | Liberal Conspiracy http://goo.gl/cfgzM

  12. chantal chegrinec

    Do Libdems fully support NHS Bill? Not really… | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7t5dMGJ via @libcon. Hope yet the bill will be axed???

  13. Daniel Pitt

    Do Libdems fully support NHS Bill? Not really… http://bit.ly/iB9Jwp #ConDemNation





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