The revised Destroy the NHS Bill is to be returned to the House of Commons to be debated briefly and superficially. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis issues a “call to arms” to defeat the ConDems attacks on public services.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
Changes to proposed NHS reforms in England will be subject to fresh scrutiny in the Commons after MPs voted to send them back to committee stage.
MPs voted by a majority of 73 to “recommit” parts of the Health and Social Care Bill in a rare procedure.
Labour wanted the whole bill re-examined, arguing concessions meant it had changed beyond recognition.
Ministers have accepted limits on competition and a greater role for doctors and nurses in commissioning.
The concessions followed a backlash against Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s original proposals by many within the medical profession.
MPs backed a motion recommitting aspects of the bill by 297 to 224 votes following a short debate in the Commons. The last time this happened during the passage of government legislation was in 2003.
Shadow health secretary John Healey said Labour would continue to “oppose this reckless and needless NHS reorganisation” and argued the decision only to review the proposed changes was a “procedural fix”.
But Health Minister Simon Burns said ministers did not believe it was necessary for the entire Bill to be recommitted to committee in order for proper scrutiny to take place.
“Indeed we feel very strongly that this would unnecessarily delay the progress of the Bill to the ultimate detriment of patients,” he said. “It is now time to give greater clarity and direction to staff and patients.”
DAVID Cameron was last night accused of trying to rush through the Government’s botched NHS reforms without real scrutiny.
The PM was forced to water down Andrew Lansley’s original blueprint, and now the Government wants to steamroll the Bill through Parliament with just a fraction of MPs debating it.
The Commons Health Select Committee will get only 10 days to look over 60 of the Bill’s 300 clauses – meaning 80% of them will not be scrutinised fairly.
Shadow Health Secretary John Healey said it was “rushed and reckless” to deny the House of Commons its “proper role”.
He added: “NHS patients and staff have seen a wasted year of confusion and incompetence.
“It’s clear today this will continue, with the NHS set to be more deeply mired in complex bureaucracy and wasted costs for years to come. The way the Government is treating the health service is a disgrace.”
Labour MP Grahame Morris, who sits on the Health Select Committee, added: “The Health Bill is in chaos because this government thought it could steamroll the largest ever NHS shake-up though Parliament.”
Mr Cameron defended the limit, calling 10 days a “significant amount” of time.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis called the union’s 1.4 million members “to arms” today with a vow of sustained industrial action to defeat the Con-Dem attacks on public services.
In the wake of the huge anti-cuts demo on March 26 he warned Prime Minister David Cameron: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Mr Prentis declared unwavering support for the NHS and public-sector pensions and solidarity with sister unions taking strike action on June 30.
“Today is this union’s call to arms,” said Mr Prentis to repeated applause from delegates at the Unison conference in Manchester.
“When you get back to your branches, prepare for action. You have a massive job to do – deciding in regions what action to take, millions of leaflets to distribute, winning the argument with the public, recruiting new members to the cause.”
“Strike action will need to be sustained and the political and public campaigns intensified.
Prentis accused David Cameron of defending the interests of “fat cat bankers” and sacrificing low-paid public-sector workers. But he also fiercely attacked the Labour party, threatening to withdraw support unless the party backed the union campaign.
He said of the government’s action on public services: “They’re cutting further now than Thatcher dared. For them it’s unfinished business. They’ve declared war on our public services – with Tory donors, City firms, hedge funders back in the heart of government.”
He pledged support for the four unions holding a one-day strike next week and said: “If the government fails to listen, to heed our warnings, to negotiate in good faith, I say, David Cameron, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We will strike to defend our pensions. A campaign of strike action without precedent. Yes, we hope for the best. Yes, we will negotiate. But we plan for the worst. Our preparations are well advanced, but there is more to do.
“This is our union’s call to arms. When you get back to your branches, prepare for action. You have a massive job to do; deciding in regions what action to take, millions of leaflets to distribute, winning the argument with the public, recruiting new members to the cause. Strike action will need to be sustained. And the political and public campaigns intensified.
He issued a message to the government on NHS reforms, saying: “We want the bill scrapped and we will fight you every step of the way, until [Andrew] Lansley tosses it back in the bin, where it belongs.”
On Labour he said: “It’s about breaking a political consensus that says markets know best. In truth, Labour built the bridge over which the Tories now march. In future, [it’s about] only supporting labour candidates who support our values, our union, our people.”
Union officials said this would not mean withdrawing funding from the Labour party (they have donated more than £400,000 in the past year) but instead refusing to endorse constituency candidates who did not promise to back the campaign, including industrial action.