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Lords reject motions to block Health Bill

12 October 2011

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The House of Lords has rejected two motions to scrap and place parts of the Health Bill in a Select Committee for intense scrutiny.

Crossbenchers Lord Owen/Lord Hennessey’s proposed “delaying” amendment for the creation of a Select Committee was rejected by a margin of 68 votes (330 to 262).

The defeat comes after the Shadow Leader of the House of Lords Baroness Royall pledged the bill would come out of committee by mid-Jan, thereby not “upsetting” the planned timetable of the reforms.

Lord Rea’s amendment to block the bill was also rejected by 354 votes to 220, despite his claims that the bill is “virtually unamendable”.

The Health Bill will now carry on through Parliament as normal and is committed to face a committee stage in the House of Lords in the upcoming weeks.

Tory Health Minister Lord Howe apologised to peers for the concerns raised over the accountability of the Secretary of State for Health.

He moved again to reassure the House that the role will not be “diluted”.

“Money will no longer grow on trees for the NHS,” said Lord Howe.

“We are putting our trust in NHS staff to deliver what we know they can.”

Following the vote Shadow Health Minister Baroness Thornton tweeted: “The lib dems love power more than the NHS. They provided cover for the Conservative proposals for the NHS.”

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council, said the organisation will continue to raise its concerns at “every available opportunity” as the Bill progresses through the House of Lords. 

“It remains the BMA position that the Health and Social Care Bill should be withdrawn, or if not that it should be substantially amended,” said Meldrum.

“The BMA continues to have many areas of concern, including the need for assurance that increasing patients’ choice of provider for specific elements of their care won’t be given priority over the development of integrated services and fair access.

“We also need to see an explicit provision that the Secretary of State will retain ultimate responsibility for the provision of comprehensive health services. In addition, we continue to have significant concerns over the arrangements for public health and education and training and we will be looking to see improvements made in these areas too.”