Last week, I wrote to my MP, Julian Huppert, asking him to vote against the above bill, both in the motions being proposed in the Lib Dem conference, and the actual Bill itself.
He proceeded to do so, rebelling against the party line to do it. I would like to thank him publicly for doing so, and for representing me in that regard.
A few days later, I received an email from him, which explained his, and the Liberal Democrats position in more detail. As at the time he hadn’t got anything on his website and I thought the email gave a more nuanced view than some of the polarising opinions, I thought it was worth publishing here;
15 March 2012
Dear Mr Constable,
Thank you for contacting me to let me know of your concerns about the
Health and Social Care Bill.
I voted against the Bill last September, when it left the House of
Commons. Although the Bill by then was better than the version
originally proposed by Andrew Lansley, largely through the efforts of
my colleagues, I did not believe it had been improved sufficiently to
get public support and confidence.
In the months since then it has been debated in the House of Lords,
and I acknowledge that much work has been achieved, notably by Liberal
Democrat peers, to make further improvements.
I am proud of Liberal Democrat amendments to the bill that ensure that
competition is not the focus, that there is a duty to reduce health
inequality and that there is a greater priority for medical research.
We will continue to have universal health care that is free at the
point of care. I also welcome the clause in the bill that will ensure
that never again will Governments be allowed to favour private sector
contracts when there are existing NHS providers.
However, I believe that the improvements are still not enough and
crucially the bill is now opposed by the medical professionals who
would have to implement it.
I therefore voted in the House of Commons on 13th March for the
amendment tabled by some of my Liberal Democrat colleagues saying that
the House “declines to support the bill in its current form and calls
for an urgent summit of the Royal Colleges, professional bodies,
patients’ organisations and the Government to plan health reforms
based on the Coalition Agreement”. I also voted for the main motion
calling for the bill to be dropped, when the amendment was defeated,
because I believe that the NHS is too vital for the welfare of every
person in Cambridge to be broken up by unpopular reforms.
Sadly, I was not on the winning side in that debate and vote.
There has also been significant discussion of the NHS Transition Risk
Register, and whether it should be released. I welcome the ruling of
the Information Tribunal that the Government should publish the NHS
Risk Register and wrote immediately on the publication of the report
to the Secretary of State for Health asking that the register be
immediately released. I had previously written in similar terms after
the Information Commissioner’s original ruling, and signed an Early
Day Motion calling for the Risk Register to be released. I hope that
Andrew Lansley will do the right thing on this issue.
I do believe that the NHS needs improvement and reform. Everyone in
this country deserves a first class health service which protects
everyone regardless of ability to pay.
The 1997-2010 Labour government made a number of reforms that
introduced private sector providers into the health service and paid
them more than NHS providers for the same service, including £250
million for operations that were never performed. In addition a
botched computer system that never worked cost £12 billion pounds and
the Health Service was left with a bill for £60 billion from PFI
contracts. Labour’s response to these failures was to employ
management consultants, the number of in the NHS rose by eighty per
cent in the years 2008-2010. The 2010 Labour manifesto also contained
proposals for greater involvement of the private sector.
We should be under no illusion that the previous government’s reforms
left the health service with health outcomes that are below the EU
average and near bankrupt hospitals. I remain convinced that there is
a pressing need for reform.
I believe that the only way to maintain free universal health care is
through bottom-up reforms which are fully supported by clinicians on
I hope the Government will be able to improve the NHS over the coming
years, but I believe that the current Bill will not make the changes
Thank you for writing to me about this important issue.
Member of Parliament for Cambridge