Today will show that when Nick Clegg signed the Health and Social Care Bill over a year ago he was actually reflecting the true position of the LibDems on the NHS – that they really are in favour of the break up and marketisation of our NHS.
It was only after the world and the LibDem’s own rank and file members started to wake up to the awful implications of the Bill, when they realised that this was a potential vote loser, that Clegg and his colleagues at Westminster started to tinker with the detail.
They have not changed the fundamental aim to create a fragmented market in healthcare in the UK. In fact, they have made it more complex, bureaucratic and expensive.
Suddenly the NHS is as toxic an issue for the LibDems as it has been for the Tories. And today will see their pathetic attempt to retrieve the situation AGAIN before a LibDem spring conference.
A bombastic booming Lord Clement-Jones will lead a self-serving set of amendments which will be the window-dressing of Part 3 of the Bill. He will claim that the NHS Act 2006 introduced competition and favoured the private sector and that the Bill addresses these issues – which are untrue. He is attacking Labour to deflect attention. In fact the 2006 Act is a consolidation Act that changed very little. It did not mention the word competition once – it is simply absent.
Lord Clement-Jones will accept strong reassurance from the Minister when he should be forcing a vote to protect the NHS from EU procurement law.
He will also over-claim for some amendments that Labour put down stating that these alone will save the NHS from the full force of the Competition Commission. In fact, these were a small part of our large and comprehensive set of amendments to protect the NHS from an economic regulator.
The only thing that will truly protect the NHS from full-blown utility regulation is either the Bill being withdrawn or Part 3 being withdrawn – it will be interesting what Baroness Williams does now, since that was her preference.
As a fall-back the LibDems could support Amendment 300A at the very end of Report Stage (on 13th March) and delay implementation of the Economic Regulator until May 2016.
The LibDem spring conference should be ashamed of their leadership and of their Peers. They have betrayed the NHS. Their party will pay a heavy price at the next General Election that is for sure. Before that happens, however, thousands of patients will pay the price in suffering and uncertainty.
Baroness Glenys Thornton is Labour’s Shadow Health Minister in the House of Lords. This post was first published at the Labour Lords blog.