Lib Dem MPs have voted against supporting the government’s controversial health reforms by 314 votes to 270.
The outcome of the vote, held yesterday (Sunday 11 March) at the party’s Spring Conference, does not mean MPs have called for the bill to be scrapped either.
MPs rejected the chance to debate Dr Charles West’s motion to drop the bill last weekend (10 March), and instead opted for Bns Shirley Williams’ motion to support the amendments to the bill and the reforms as a whole.
Health Minister Paul Burstow told MiP the vote simply leaves the decision of how to proceed with the bill to the discretion of Lib Dem MPs and peers in parliament.
“Conference has not sanctioned the dropping of this bill – they had a chance to do so but didn’t take it,” he said.
“The vote shows members and MPs want to leave the decision of whether to go ahead with our colleagues in the Lords.
“It is clear people have not fallen in love with the Health and Social Care Bill. The vote tells us there is more we need to do and to get on with it.”
Burstow said the vote will prompt more communication work from the government to explain and reassure rebel MPs, the public and the medical profession that the bill is the “right thing to do”.
The Health Minister told MiP most of the deepest criticism around the bill has come from a deep-seated anxiety around change and the financial pressures placed on the NHS.
He gave credit to Labour campaigners who he said have been “very effective” at marshalling and advancing “a whole set of ploys and misleading propaganda”.
“Only when the bill becomes an act will the medical profession and public alike see that what we have done is the opposite of what everyone is saying we have done,” he said.
By Louise Naughton
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“I believe they DID NOT do the right thing by voting against. All we have is opposition for opposition sake stirring up anxieties when all the common man wants is for help to be available at the point of need whoever provides it” – V Henry, London