Coalition defeats rebel Lib Dem backbench MPs’ attempt to stop the NHS Bill

The Coalition Government has just now defeated by 314-260 votes an attempt by five backbench Lib Dem MPs — Andrew George, John Pugh, Adrian Sanders, Greg Mulholland, and David Ward — to halt the controversial Health & Social Care Bill.

Their move came in the form of an amendment to this Labour motion:

That this House notes the e-petition signed by 170,000 people calling on the Government to drop the Health and Social Care Bill; and declines to support the Bill in its current form.

The Lib Dem 5 proposed the following amendment, which was accepted by Labour:

Line 2, leave out from ‘Bill;’ to end and add ‘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.’.

Here’s what Greg Mulholland, Convenor of the Lib Dem Backbench Group, had to say about their move:

“There has been considerable concern with Government’s Health and Social Care Bill from both those within the NHS and from those who use it. I have made clear on previous occasions that I am not willing to support the Bill in its current form and that is why I have put my name to this Lib Dem Amendment. The Bill should now be pulled and interested parties and colleagues should come together and plan reform of the health service, in line with the collation agreement, instead of pushing ahead with these reforms.

“Pushing a Bill through in any area, never mind in one so important as the NHS, with so many professional organisations and medical professionals opposed is not a sensible or acceptable way to make policy and it is time to get people round the table and find a different and acceptable way forward.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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21 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 13th Mar '12 - 8:25pm

    Well done to the five. Shame on the rest of them.

    Tony Greaves

  • mike cobley 13th Mar '12 - 8:43pm

    Tony – hear hear.

  • lets hope the labour motion in the Lords on Monday for the Bill to be paused until “after” the government has published the Risk Register is supported by Libdem peers.

    I really do not see any excuse they might have for not supporting the motion, It would not be voting against the government and given conferences motion on Saturday it would be entirely the right thing to do

  • Spencer Hagard 13th Mar '12 - 8:53pm

    Hold hard, Tony and Mike – I don’t think this fine quintet were the only Liberal Democrat MPs voting for the Mulholland amendment. Can’t find the full list, but please add Julian Huppert to the roll of honour.

  • Is there any sensible reason the Government would not want a ” summit of the Royal Colleges, professional bodies, patients’ organisations and the Government to plan health reforms based on the Coalition Agreement” ????

    The 5 MP’s deserve great credit, shame that more of their colleagues did not support them.

  • Richard Shaw 13th Mar '12 - 9:12pm

    It’s been noted elsewhere on the internet that 260 is less than the total number of opposition MPs which stands at 287 so clearly, taking the non-Lib/Lab/Con MPs and rebel Lib Dems into account, several Labour MPs were minded to vote against the Lib Dem motion (and therefore their whip). If the amendment had passed it may have encouraged more Lib Dems to abstain or vote for the Labour motion. I eagerly await the publication of the voting record.

  • @Richard Shaw
    I’m not sure if it is the case in this vote, but there might have been pairing to allow members on either side of the argument to be absent from the House ?

  • Am rather amazed that people think this outcome was ever in doubt…

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Mar '12 - 10:40pm

    Given that the party has expressed its opposition to the Bill, surely the word “rebel” should apply to those MPs who support it, not those who oppose it.

  • We should add Julian Huppert and Martin Harwood to the roll call of those who supported the party’s policy

  • Nigel Ashton 13th Mar '12 - 11:48pm

    I’ve just read the voting list in Hansard. John Leech also voted for the Lib Dem amendment.
    Out of interest, when was the last time there were Lib Dem tellers in both lobbies?

  • “It’s been noted elsewhere on the internet that 260 is less than the total number of opposition MPs which stands at 287 so clearly, taking the non-Lib/Lab/Con MPs and rebel Lib Dems into account, several Labour MPs were minded to vote against the Lib Dem motion (and therefore their whip).”

    I’ve been through the list and can’t spot any Labour MPs voting against the Lib Dem amendment. I can find 4 Labour MPs who voted for the amendment but didn’t vote for the final motion (presumably having gone home early?), and only 2 Labour MPs (and 2 from Plaid) who voted for the motion but did not vote on the Lib Dem amendment (arrived late?). Given the coalition’s tally was 314 in both votes, it seems unlikely that anyone who voted for the motion had previously voted against the Lib Dem amendment.

    Furthermore, 287 (273 once we exclude Sinn Frein and NI’s Unionists) is still less than 314, so even if every Labour MP absent/abstaining had voted for it (and even assuming the absentee coalition MPs they were paired with remained absent), it still wouldn’t have passed.

    “If the amendment had passed it may have encouraged more Lib Dems to abstain or vote for the Labour motion. ”

    So, the Lib Dems who voted against the amendment might have been persuaded to vote for the motion if the amendment had somehow passed despite them voting against it?

  • Richard Shaw 14th Mar '12 - 7:28am

    @Matthew No, because Conference didn’t call for Parliamentarians to vote for or against the Bill and cannot force them to do so. “Rebel” quite rightly describes those who go against the policy of a government of which they are part.

  • So much for activists being listened to!

  • Sadly it seems the party is being ripped apart at its seams by a leadership more wedded to its coalition allies than its fundamental values, or even its commitment to the coalition agreement.

  • Oh, by the way when I referred to “coalition allies,” I really meant “coalition fair weather friends.”

  • Richard Shaw 14th Mar '12 - 12:58pm

    @McClusky

    I made my comments before the publication of the voting record and was based on the known numbers I had available, chiefly the result of the vote and the numbers of rebel Lib Dems, Labour and non-Labour opposition MPs.

    @Linda

    Quite wrong? For saying Conference can’t force MPs to vote a certain way or for saying that the term “rebel” is conventionally used for those who go against the Government? I don’t recall the term regularly being used to describe those who go against the wishes of party members or conference rather than the government. Please note that I am not expressing any judgement on the votes of the Parliamentarians or the Bill.

  • paul barker 14th Mar '12 - 1:08pm

    @David Evans, if you want to know what a party “tearing itself apart” looks like I suggest you read some labour blogs, in particual labour uncut or labour list. The 98 comments on the Ken Livingstone piece on uncut for example. Its routine for labour commenters to call on other members to join another party, call each other traitors etc. As democrats we know how to dissagree without putting each other down.

  • @Richard,
    Granted you didn’t have the list of votes, but given that the 314 that voted against both the amendment and the motion was lower than the total of coalition MPs, and given that the figures of 260 for the amendment and 258 for the motion were out there, I can’t fathom why you jumped to the conclusion that you did (that “clearly [...] several Labour MPs were minded to vote against the Lib Dem motion”). I don’t see how the known numbers could ever have supported that assumption. You refer to the discrepancy between 287 and 260 being “noted elsewhere on the internet “, but I can’t figure out why it should have been (also, 287 is doubly wrong – it’s 286 by my calculation, and includes both SF MPs who don’t take their seats and DUP MPs who usually vote with the government).

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