Baroness Judith Jolly writes: Why Lib Dem peers have supported an amended Health and Social Care Bill

Twenty five days of debate in the chamber of the House of Lords have now concluded on the Health and Social Care Bill. Our health team in the Lords has been involved in numerous meetings, events and correspondence discussing the Bill over the last eighteen months. We made it plain throughout the process that we could not have voted for the Bill without significant series changes that Liberal Democrats and professional organisations demanded. We believe that great care is now needed over how it is implemented in order to avoid the dangers of which many have warned and in order to restore the confidence of professionals in the NHS.

Our role, working with Liberal Democrats in both Houses and throughout the party, has been significant in making major changes that have yet to be communicated fully to either the professionals or the public, but we can say that our role has guaranteed that:

  • The Secretary of State must retain responsibility for a comprehensive health service, has power to intervene if things go wrong and is accountability to parliament
  • Competition has to be in the best interests of patients and based on quality, not just price
  • Commissioning has to be done in a way which is transparent, accountable and free from conflicts of interest
  • Any profits gained from private treatment have to be accounted for and invested in the NHS
  • The NHS now has a duty to reduce health inequalities and report on progress
  • All providers have a duty to provide NHS education and training
  • The NHS will be at the forefront of research

We felt that there was more danger to the NHS from failing to pass it and starting again from scratch for several reasons. Delaying the Bill would have left the NHS at risk from the full force of competition law. More services would have been commercialised on the basis of price rather than quality and this would have been against patients’ interests. Important changes in the Bill , such as moving responsibility for public health to local authorities and establishing the Health and Wellbeing Boards would have been be delayed and this would have put back the important work of turning the NHS into a service focused on health promotion and improvement.

There is much more to get across to the party, the professionals and the public about these issues and we will continue to do our best to explain them. We have made this Bill better, now we need to work with everyone who wants to make the NHS better. In the meantime, we have placed on the party’s website a series of statements about health issues and policies.

* Baroness Judith Jolly is Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Health and Social Care.

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  • “Our role, working with Liberal Democrats in both Houses and throughout the party, has been significant in making major changes that have yet to be communicated fully to either the professionals or the public”

    Yet you failed to properly consult with the Royal Colleges and as a party, despite the conference motion, passed the Bill without doing so. There is lack of clarity surrounding the training of Specialists and the place of the Colleges within this. You also seem to have failed to have “explained2 the changes well enough at the Conference to gain support. Perhaps many people, especially those experts within the system and the former NHS Chief Exec, understand the Bill all too well and see it as bad for the health service.

    Perhaps instead of a series of statements it would have been netter to have held a series of meetings with the Colleges as a party. Cameron excluded those that do not support and I have seen no better behaviour from the PLDP.

  • OOoops Typo’s

    “explained” not “Explained2

    better not netter

  • @George Potter
    Spot on…

    It appears the PLDP only believe in open government for those they do not serve in. Obviously we should see the legal advice of the Iraq War but not the detailed explanation of the risks of this Bill.


  • The Tories must surly be throwing back the shots from their subsidised members bar and Singing aloud “another one bites the dust” as they laugh, cheer and clap each other on the back.

    For every far Right Winged Tory Policy, Privatisation that they manage to slip through this parliament they have the Liberal Democrats to thank for allowing them to implement their reforms.

    And by doing so, Liberal Democrats are making themselves unelectable at the next General Election and will reap ALL the blame for these reforms.

    We will be going back to 2 party politics again, and all the years you have wasted as a party trying to be taken seriously, will all have been thrown away in exchange for a few ministerial positions and a couple of years in office..

    The Tories would “NEVER” in my opinion dared to implement half of these reforms, especially in the first half of parliament, if they where governing alone, because to do so, they are well aware that they would have been whitewashed at the next General Election by Labour.
    However, having the Liberal Democrats as a human shield has made all this possible. for they know that at the next election.
    hardly any centre or left of centre voter will vote Lib Dem again due to the never ending betrayals performed by the party, NHS, Tuition Fees, Welfare, now our roads and police amongst others.
    Those right leaning voters left in the Liberal democrat party will be more inclined to vote conservative as they will understand that without the support of the left and centre the party is finished and irrelevant anyway.

    The election will come down to a fight between Labour and Tories again, and I think if their where a 3rd party we might even just see the greens or even UKIP replacing the Libdems.

    I really am disheartened with this party, the direction you have taken and the irreparable damage that is being done to our country.

  • It’s a strange day indeed when a peer from a party that deplores unelected peers partly for being political loyalists rather than experts in a field assumes that they know better than expert opinion, public protest and the expressed democratic will of party members.

    It is also a political miscalculation of unprecedented magnitude to try and portray Labour as being anti- national health care, while the Tories (?!) and Lib Dems work together to dilute the role of the private sector. This is obvious bunkum to anyone who knows anything about Tory ideology.

    There is now only one party in british politics that can claim to speak up for the public against profit, even if it hasn’t always done so in all areas, and it’s not either of the coalition parties.

  • jenny barnes 20th Mar '12 - 9:10am

    I expect there will be a reshuffle soon – and a LD will get to be Health Secretary. After all, they modified the bill, so it’s only fair they should look after the implementation.
    When people say “oh we got 70% of our manifesto” I look at the things that I notice – tuition fees, welfare reform, privatising schools, privatising roads, NHS bill, cutting the 50% tax.. and I think. I would have campaigned against all that if I’d known. And the 70% ? raising income tax threshold was good,…think think oh yes pupil premium – except at the same time lots of money taken away from schools. The more I see what the LDs in government do, the more I think they are Tories with yellow ties. I am a member, but I don’t feel very attached any more.

  • Sorry but this is patronising to the point of sickening… just trust us and all will be explained in time – it will be a bit late for that when the risks document finally sees the light of day. Without seeing that document (which I would have thought the Lib Dems of all people would have fought hard for) the specious arguments about how you are doing us all a favour by not delaying the bill are very, very hard to swallow.

  • Roger Roberts 20th Mar '12 - 10:19am

    The more i see of the Lords over the NHS debate the more I think that they are fast becoming an irrelavance.
    Only Tony Greaves had the courage as he always has to uphold Liberal principles.
    If we are blamed atthe next election for a NHS fiasco then the blame will squarely rest on the shoulders of our members in the House of Lords

  • Nick (not Clegg) 20th Mar '12 - 10:31am

    @Jenny Barnes,

    I agree entirely (with one proviso – see below)*.

    I cannot wait for the next post on LDV telling us how “proud ” we should be of the “achievements” of Liberal Democrats in government. Well, this former activist is not proud; he is deeply ashamed and bitterly regrets the hours he has wasted , over the years,campaigning for this party.

    “The more I see what the LDs in government do, the more I think they are Tories with yellow ties” Delete “ties”;insert “spines”

  • Mike Vousden 20th Mar '12 - 11:01am

    I know little about the LibDems constitution, but can someone explain what the implications are of a resolution at the Party Conference to “not support the Bill”? It was said that it would be binding as LibDem policy on MP’s and Lords, but they seem to be voting with total disregard for the Conference decision. Is there something I don’t understand?

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Mar '12 - 11:12am


    For every far Right Winged Tory Policy, Privatisation that they manage to slip through this parliament they have the Liberal Democrats to thank for allowing them to implement their reforms.

    And by doing so, Liberal Democrats are making themselves unelectable at the next General Election and will reap ALL the blame for these reforms.

    We will be going back to 2 party politics again, and all the years you have wasted as a party trying to be taken seriously, will all have been thrown away in exchange for a few ministerial positions and a couple of years in office..

    I voted at the Gateshead conference for the party not to support the Bill, but I am sorry to see comments like this – and they were predominantly what we saw even just after the conference vote. As I said then, the fact that whatever those of us trying within the party do to stop it drifting to the economic right all we get from outside is mass accusation that every one of us in the party is some sort of “yellow Tory traitor” is playing to the Tories. If there had been wider recognition outside the party that there are plenty of us unhappy within it, and an indication that we would get support for what we were doing, more would be emboldened to challenge what is happening. If whatever we do all we get is insults, the slow drift away of activists on the left will continue. People like matt seem to take a delight in the idea of the Liberal Democrats being destroyed, and would rather have that and extreme right-wing Tory government with themselves sitting self-satisfied in opposition than an attempt to modify the worst of what the Tories propose.

    I would very much like the Parliamentary party (Lords and Commons) to be pushing harder against the Tories, and I very much agree with Jenny Barnes that the smug “we got 70% of our manifesto implemented” (actually the figure they keep giving is “75%” does not play well, because it just helps feed the attack line on us that we are too easily satisfied with what little the Tories offer. Nevertheless, I know from many negotiating situations how very easy it is to carp from the outside on how those on your own side are looking weak and not to realise how much they are having to play one thing against the other on the inside. To put it bluntly, if there’s a fight going on and a crowd jeering one side and saying “you’re a bunch of spineless cowards”, doesn’t that rather beg the question “OK, why don’t YOU go in and try fighting them”?

    The reality is that the LibDem peers HAVE got through big changes to this Bill, so there is a valid argument that this is now a compromise worth accepting. If on every piece of Tory legislation the LibDem position was to try and force amendments and then say “we’re still not accepting it”, we would soon find the Tories wouldn’t bother accepting amendments. The ultimate line on both sides is “if you don’t agree, well end the coalition”, and, thanks to the “I’ll never vote LibDem again crowd”, the Tories can play that line with far more effect than the LibDems.

    If the LibDems took the position of opposing every bit of Tory legislation, the Tories would claim the country was “ungovernable”, and blame the LibDems for that. So, what to do? There is no majority support for Labour in this country. Last year the people of this country voted, by two to one, to oppose electoral reform and hence to endorse the “first past the post idea that whichever party is biggest should dominate, even if it does not have a true majority support. Well, that party is the Tories – anyone who doesn’t like Tory domination now should have been shouting out the case for electoral reform last year – well, where were you all who are free with your insults against the LibDems?

  • “Delaying the Bill would have left the NHS at risk from the full force of competition law. ”

    Simple solution to that – pass a bill saying that it doesn’t!

  • @Matthew Huntchbach

    I am certainly not calling any of the grass roots and activists “yellow Tory traitor” I have said previously how much I respect the efforts that have been made by the grass roots and the likes of George Potter who I hold with such high regard.

    I am totally peeved of and frustrated with the Liberal Democrat MP’s and Lords, It is they who are not only ignoring the feelings of the country the Royal Colleges and those employed within the NHS, but they are also blatantly ignoring their grass roots and it’s members. I can not see anything democratic in that whatsoever.

    Why should I or anyone else have any confidence in the party acting in my best interests and those of the country when the leadership has very clearly shut there eyes and ears.

    It is no secret that Shirley Williams and other lords disliked the health bill and still do even after these amendments , but too come out and say that you don’t like these reforms but they are better than what they where before is simply not good enough in my opinion. Not when it comes to probably the most important institution and policy that is our NHS which is responsible for the health and well being of our people.

    “People like matt seem to take a delight in the idea of the Liberal Democrats being destroyed”

    Please, I can assure you that is not the case at all, I loathe the Tories and everything about them, they are a party of the elite who get rich off the suffering and expense of those with the least. They have no compassion or any sense of duty towards the least well of in society and they never have done.

    I have voted Lib Dem in past elections as well as Labour but am more inclined towards labour. I do not wish to see our country going back to 2 party politics at all, I would not like to see this country flipping between Tory and labour Governments for the next 12 years all over again either.

    However, my point is, This was the Liberal Democrats opportunity to stop all that from happening by proving coalition politics can work. IMO it has not because the politics and policies of this country have taken a seismic shift to the Right and we are only in the 2nd year of this parliament. If the Liberal Democrats have not been able to prevent such a lurch to the right then they have in effect been infective in government, and that is why I said it would lose all the left leaning voters to Labour or greens.

    But I can assure you, the last thing i would want is for the party to become so irrelevant,that all Right leaning members also left and ended up joining the Tories and making them stronger.

  • “The ultimate line on both sides is “if you don’t agree, well end the coalition”, and, thanks to the “I’ll never vote LibDem again crowd”, the Tories can play that line with far more effect than the LibDems.”

    Oh so its those who once voted Lib Dem but are now disillusioned who are responsible for the party bending over backwards for the Tories. Take some responsibility.

    What to do????? Well how about putting principles and policy before self preservation.

  • @Mathew Hunchback. ….” and, thanks to the “I’ll never vote LibDem again crowd”, the Tories can play that line with far more effect than the LibDems.” Why do you think there is a crowd who say “I’ll never vote LibDem again”? It is because of the behaviour of the LibDems’ leadership from the very first day of the Coalition. Nick Clegg was so pleased to be in government that, in my opinion, he and the rest of the leadership drew no meaningful ‘red lines’ for the Tories not to cross. The Lib Dems were entitled to insist that, for example, Tuition Fee increases, Education Maintenance Allowance cuts, Commercialisation/Privatisation of Health and Education were not negotiable. This did not happen. In fact the opposite; the Tories have had a field day in that they are passing laws that they would flinch from were they governing with an overall majority. With the LibDems there to support them they are out-Thatchering Thatcher. At the last general election the Conservatives promised that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. On that basis the Liberal Democrats could have simply said ‘No’ to the The Health and Social Care Bill 2011 because it “represents the biggest shake-up of the NHS since its inception.” [The Kings Fund] – yes and dare the Tories to call an election. So is it really surprising that many voters and many former LibDem members have become part of the ‘never again’ crowd.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 20th Mar '12 - 1:23pm

    According to the BBC, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Cabinet Members today “celebrated” the passage of the bill by banging the table: – with their heads, one hopes.

  • The BBC reports, under the heading “Cabinet members ‘bang table’ over Lords NHS win”, that “Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers have “‘banged”‘ the table at a cabinet meeting to mark the impending passing of the coalition’s NHS reforms into law, Downing Street has said.” Now it seems to me that the top LibDems are not wholly ‘in sync’ with the party’s membership.

  • Matthew,

    The fundamental flaw in your argument is that you do not have to oppose EVERY piece of tory legislation just THIS piece of tory legislation. It was not part of the coalition agreement. So it is quite possible to be loyal to the coalition if that is what you want to do but oppose the HSCB. Opposing the HSCB is showing loyalty to the coalition agreement. Supporting it is betraying both the party and England. If the tories threaten to bring down the government as a result, then we should say, “Bring it on!” They can’t be certain of improving their position and defending the NHS can only improve our’s. In a democracy we should only be frightened of facing the electorate if we are doing something wrong.

  • @ AM. Well said.

  • Judith Jolly 20th Mar '12 - 2:00pm

    Hi George – I do read comments, and in one way or another over the last six months have responded to hundreds of people. In addition, at conference we had the Q&A and all Saturday afternoon Paul and I held surgeries.

    The role of the Lords is to revise legislation and then send it to the elected house to determine whether or not to accept the amendments, and this bill had 374 of them. The Lords backbench health team felt it was important to neutralise Labour’s 2006 and 2008 privatisation Bills and that is where we concentrated much of our effort.

    I take the point about the coalition agreement and at 2nd reading I said that I felt the Bill drove a coach and horses through the agreement (for which I was rebuked!) However if you read beyond the first point on health, the one about top down reorganisation, many of the other points were in the Bill.

  • Chris Rennard 20th Mar '12 - 2:10pm

    Just to help inform this discussion, I would draw everyone’s attention to the last sentence in Judith’s posting which is a link to the party website and a series of about 9 postings that the Lib Dems in the Lords have made in endeavouring to explain the context behind the group’s actions.

    I know from the numerous messages that I received that very little of what has actually been changed and achieved in the House of Lords deliberations during 25 days of debate has yet been widely understood and that there has been much deliberate misinformation from opponents of the Liberal Democrats.

    For those who would like to see the detailed list of all the amendments made by the House of Lords (the actual wording) they are here:

    The official explanatory notes is a commentary on the Lords amendments:

    But for what Lib Dems in the Lords in the Lords have actually been saying – do please look at these postings


  • David Allen 20th Mar '12 - 2:33pm

    Followng Nick not Clegg’s posting, here is the direct quote from the BBC website:

    “The prime minister’s spokesman said there had been “cross-party banging” of the table at cabinet to mark the imminent Royal Assent for the legislation.”

    Have they no shame?

  • Piers Allen 20th Mar '12 - 2:35pm

    Professor Dorothy Bishop at Oxford on her blog site issued a challenge in the form of a “Letter to Nick Clegg from an ex Liberal Democrat”: – can anyone, after the highly dispiriting BBC report of “Cabinet members ‘bang table’ over Lords NHS win” and “cross-party celebrations” , mount a reply to her and hundreds of thousands of ex-Lib Dem supporters? Welcome as the Party postings and Chris’s links are, I don’t think these are going to take the sting out of the Labour party continuing to chide us on voting this through, or the criticisms levied at the Party not engaging with the medical Royal Colleges and professional assocations in recent weeks.

  • Let’s hope none of them got a splinter and had to go to A&E.

  • Mike Vousden 20th Mar '12 - 4:02pm

    @Dave Page – Thank you for a very clear and to-the-point answer.

    Nice to find such a civilised and thoughtful website!

  • “It was a neutered and neutral motion which pleased nobody.”

    With a slight modification that would make a fitting epitaph:

    “It was a neutered and neutral party which pleased nobody.”

  • Paul Catherall 20th Mar '12 - 4:11pm

    I think the key word here, on the basis of a progressive party seeking a progressive electorate is ‘unelectable’.
    and a key phrase is ‘Labour landslide’.

  • Simon Bamonte 20th Mar '12 - 4:37pm

    Funny how Tories and LibDems “banging the table” is news to the BBC, but pro-NHS campaigners who peacefully marched on Saturday being met with armed police is not news. Lovely.

    As for the risk register, well..the irony of the same LibDem MPs and Lords who rightly fought for Blair’s legal advice on Iraq to be released now fighting *for* secrecy is not lost on me. “Most transparent government ever” indeed, eh?

    Anyway, the passing of this bill marks the end of my support for this party. Since 1983 I have voted LD/Alliance/SDP. I’ve helped deliver Focus, I’ve knocked on doors, etc. No more. This party which I have supported and loved for nearly 20 years is no longer one I recognise. From tuition fees to the welfare bill to this NHS bill, our MPs and Lords, with a few noble exceptions like Lord Greaves, have given the Tories no red lines we will not cross. They have consistently ignored the wishes of grassroots members such as myself, not to mention the wishes of the electorate, especially on the NHS bill. When we are in opposition and Labour ignores the electorate, it’s horrible. But I guess it’s now somehow different when we do it? Our MPs are now like the animals in Animal Farm: I see no difference between them, Tory and Labour MPs.

    It breaks my heart, but I cannot in good conscience continue to support a party that now stands and votes for policy I have spent my whole life fighting.

  • The amended bill still allows for the wholesale provision of Commissioning of NHS services to be given wholesale to private commissioners and private commissioners to decide on what services will be available and how ‘available’ GPs will be. The whole of NHS services (Devon Specialist children care) can be taken over by private companies who have no specialist knowledge in that area such as the bids by Virgin or Serco. Does it mater ? Of course, when the companies carrying out the work are allowed to file their tax business offshore, and pay the required tax on their earnings.

    Fragmentation, cherry picking, competition and not co operation and a massive increase of bureaucracy in terms of contracts, disputes , legal and accountancy fees.

    There is so much uncertainty in this bill and We are not allowed even to see the risk register to see if legitimate concerns are being met. Perhaps maybe because there are things we generally need to be worried about.

    The way the Conservatives have ‘managed’ the democratic process reminds me why they were out of power for 13 years. The Conservatives talk about choice but what choice do I have to receive my services via NHS providers and not Serco or Care UK ? It is an illusion. If my local services are commissioned out to the private sector, I have none at all.

    This is a very bleak and sad day for England and the health of the people for the country.

    (My partners works as a senior nurse with surgery and chemotherapy patients at the Marsden. I work in a Health Centre in Health and Social Care).

  • Tony Greaves 20th Mar '12 - 5:45pm

    If only we had all been able to bang their heads together a year and a half ago when the White Paper came out. But at the time everyone was still too shell-shocked at being in coalition.

    But we could have stopped the Bill last summer after the Sheffield conference. I said so at the time but most people agreed to “let it go forward and see if we cansort it out.” We could have stopped the Bill in the autumn at Secdon Reading in the Lords. I voted against he 2nd reading but most people agreed to “let it go forward and see if we cansort it out.” Now some of the people who said these things tell me that in retrospect I was right. But they voted for 3rd Reading yesterday when we had out last chance to stop it. The lesson is clear: we have sto top things when we have the chance. Going back to square one is better than trying to amend andimprove if the Bill is as bad as this one was.

    Another lesson is – that our people at the top (Cabinet, Quad, other such places) have to beprepared to say NO at the very start. And to get the advice from the wider party before they make a decision.

    But don’t give up. This party has not changed. People really are doing their best even if some of us think they sometimes make mistakes. A future for British politics without a strong Liberal party is unthinkable and the Liberal Democrats are the only one on offer. Stick in and keep up the fight – otherwise people like me might as well just pack in. And there are a lot more of us than you may think.

    Tony Greaves

  • James Sandbach 20th Mar '12 - 5:49pm

    One thing I don’t quite get is that lib dem peers, especially Tim Clement-Jones, Liz, Shirley and Judith, have been pushing for publication of the risk register before the Bill is finalised for months and months now – now that this campaign has been successfull and (if I understand rightly) the register will be published next month in light of the Information Commissioner’s tribunal ruling – why did our Peers oppose the David Owen motion to delay the final passage/assent of the Bill untill the risk register is in the public domain.

    The political commentators and pundits are all suggesting it’s all down the longstanding rivalry between libdems and Owen – is this really the case? Surely old emnity issues with “the Doctor” (who after all does know his stuff on NHS policy) are ancient history now, and should not come into the debate on the HSC Bill? The public can’t abide political debate being held hostage by personal rivalries etc, Can anyone explain why we voted in such a heavy block (74) against the Owen motion/amendment which seemed a pretty sensible move (and something we were previously calling for)- given the endless delays with this Bill already, another month to wait for the risk register would surely be nothing to worry about (unless the real worry is what the risk register says and its implications). Interested to hear any answers about what the issues were with the Owen proposal….

  • @Tony Greaves
    Firstly, you are owed a great vote of thanks for sticking to your principles and views on this Bill, even when you were alone in doing so. I am minded of the difference between Robin Cook and Claire Short, one stood up and was counted, the other tried to play along despite their deep misgivings.

    People telling you in retrospect that you were right but voting voting in favour regardless does not make wavering voters such as myself confident. If they cannot vote with their conscience on a matter as important as the NHS then when will they?

    You are right the Country needs a strong “liberal” party, however, at this point after tuition fees, welfare reforms and now this Bill I am struggling to find anyone to vote for. If there is no change in direction it will not be the Lib Dems, Labour, after so many years of authoritarian failure are not likely to convince me and the Tories are as bad, if not worse.

    Where will the hope come from? Perhaps some of the MP’s will restore some faith… We need to be able to trust.

  • @Oranjepan
    The level of this debate has been set very much by this government. They have linked the Royal Colleges to the Unions when anyone who, like me, works in healthcare knows they have wholly different functions. They have ignored and at times belittled the concerns of these bodies and when it suited excluded them from the process. So many politicians clearly had no idea about the details when interviewed.

    The opposition are as bad. This is not wholesale privatisation, this is not the end of the NHS. The sensible debate seems to me to only have taken place inside the professions and at times within the Lords.

    One thrust of this thread has been that the changes are not understood by the professional bodies, this is not the case. If they had been treated with less contempt, if they had been properly engaged this could have been a better Bill and one that would have been supported by those who have to implement it. Let’s remember that a large part of NHS expenditure is about to be handed to, GP’s, the majority of whom do not support the Bill.

    We do live in a democracy and we should be able to trust those who are elected to keep to their promises. This is quite simply the biggest “top down” restructuring in a generation, so the Tories fail this test. The coalition agreement re-stated this, and was agreed to by the special conference, so the Lib Dems likewise fail.

    Politics took a battering in the last parliament due to the actions of MP’s. It should have been improved this time around, we should have been able to trust again. I would say this government are the ones who have forgotten we live in a democracy. Failing to keep promises made at election time (when there is the ability to do so) or to the political party they represent is a betrayal of faith.

  • @Tony Greaves
    I too wholeheartedly support your sticking to your principles. I shall stick to mine and never ever vote LibDem again whle Clegg & Co are in charge.

  • In order to win their activists over, the Lib Dem leadership have taken to pretending that this Bill will somehow lead to less competition and private providers in the NHS. The reality, of course, is that it will lead to an explosion of competition and private providers in the NHS – something David Cameron & Andrew Lasnley argue is a GOOD thing!

    So there we have it. The Lib Dems have just played a historic role in bringing the practices of Railtrack into the NHS.

  • It would have been better for democracy if the electorate would have been able to give an opinion on whether the current changes to the Social and Health Bill were wanted or needed in the first place. The overwhelming majority of health professionals and the electorate did not want the Health & Social Care bill.

    A case for change has not been made.

    There have been amendments but in spirit large amounts of NHS work will be given out to the private sector, with massive risks that are not being allowed to be fully explored.

    I personally, do not feel that my democratic rights or choice has been respected.

  • @Tony Greaves

    But don’t give up. This party has not changed…..

    Much as you have come out of this with dignity and can hold your head up I can’t agree with this. There are a lot of supporters in this area who are thinking the party has changed and in a way they feel is out of their control completely.

  • @Oranjepan. In this democracy of ours (which is very precious to me) how can the words “there will be no top-down re-organisation of the NHS” be discarded and replaced by actions that amount to the biggest top-down re-organisation of the NHS in its history. There is a very, very big principle at stake here. Whether one supports this Bill or not, it can never claim to have passed any democratic test, namely to have been approved by ‘the people’.

  • When the risk register is leaked, some people are going to look pretty stupid.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Mar '12 - 10:23pm

    @ Tony Greaves- thank you for trying, sir.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Mar '12 - 10:44pm

    matt and Godfrey

    First, please note the correct spelling of my surname. As it happens there is someone posting here whose surname has the same ending as mine, his originates from a place in Cheshire, mine from a place in Staffordshire. We have been spelling it that way since the14th century, it is pronounced as it is spelt.

    Ok, now I have been reading comments like yours since the coalition was formed. Indeed, I don’t think I recall reading any comment from anyone outside the party and to its left in all that time which did not take the form of yours . I.e. all full of abuse which, sorry, DOES seem to be aimed at ordinary party members such as myself who aren’t too happy with the leadership because it’s abuse written about “Liberal Democrats” and not making much of a distinction, as if all of us have somehow gained comfy government jobs from the coalition and are uncritically singing its praises.

    It would be nice to see at least some recognition of:

    1) The difficult position the party was placed in by the 2010 general election, which meant a Tory-LibDem coalition was the only viable government with a clear majority.

    2) The extent to which the original Tory proposals on many of the subjects where you claim the party has completely given in to the Tories have actually been significantly modifed by Liberal Democrats in Parliament.

    3) The fact that Nick Clegg is not a Lenin, he cannot dictate thought within the party members, just because he says something does not mean all party members agree with it.

    It does seem to me that the failure of you and all the others to make this points suggests you are more interested in seeing the Liberal Democrats destroyed than in seeing it take a stronger position in trying to stop the Tories getting all their own way. I can assure you, as someone who never liked Clegg in the first place and would like to see him replaced by someone more representative of what was mainstream opinion in the party, when I read your sort of stuff it does not mobilise me to work harder within the Liberal Democrats, if that is your aim, it just demoralises me and leaves me thinking “why bother if whatever I do, I’m still going to get denounced as a ‘yellow Tory’ or uncritical Clegg fan?”.

    I do think and actually see this demoralisation within the party leaving to a steady drip-drip dropping out of members to its left, whereas I think if we weren’t subject to insults from your type all the time we might feel more motivated to fight our own corner.

    The NHS Bill is a good example. Sure, at the end I supported the position that we should oppose it, even if that risked jeopardising the coalition – indeed I think we should be moving towards pulling out of the coalition well before 2015 and the next general election, this was as good a pretext as any. Nevertheless, the way this Bill and the Liberal Democrat parliamentary position is getting covered angers me because it just is not true – the Bill as it stands does not represent the wholesale and instant destruction of the NHS which is the impression many seem to be giving, and it is somewhat different, due to hard work by many LibDem peers, from how it was. Telling lies about it and about the Liberal Democrats just seems to me to the old Labour “poor losers” game, not interested in building any sort of alternative co-operation against the Tories, just seeing the Liberal Democrat as standing in the way of a return to the good old two-party system, and unable to realise that actually they lost the last election because they weren’t much good.

  • The NHS & Social Care Bill was not in the Coalition agreement. Why would have opposition jeopardised the Coalition ? If the Conservatives keep on insisting on proposing things that were not in the agreement, then who is putting the agreement at risk ?

    The Liberal Democrats can legitimately say no to suggestions not in the agreement. If you agree to most of the Conservative main policies suggestions, then surely that is against party policy ?

  • Judith, care to rebutt Labour claims on Twitter that Lib Dem Peers celebrated the passing of this Bill with champagne? If so it’d be in very poor taste.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Firstly, apologies for spelling the name incorrectly, that is ignorant of me, It’s actually one of my pet hates, so I wish you had pointed it out to me earlier. I will take extra care in future.

    I do think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one though. I do not believe for one minute that it is the fault of non party members and the criticisms of the “party” which is responsible for left leaning voters and activists leaving the Lib Dems. I think they are leaving because their Voice is being denied and ignored. That’s my opinion anyway.

    I seem to recall you having a massive wobble of your support for the party only a few months ago, I do not recall what the topic it was about, but I am sure I recall you saying you were having to ask yourself if you would be able to be active for the party and deliver leaflets extra. I think it may have been your disagreement on welfare, I do not totally recall.

    I said in a previous post that I believe someone should put forward a vote of no confidence in Clegg and his leadership and I do still believe that. I think he needs a reality check from the membership, reminding that he represents them and not the government, and I think a leadership campaign would force him to do that, take stock of where things are going wrong and hopefully putting the party back in the place where it belongs in the Centre, Centre Left of politics. Which clearly isn’t anywhere near that now

  • Robin Martlew 21st Mar '12 - 10:14am

    What worries me as a 50plus year and very active member, (been ther done that) I find myself very symapthetic to Matthew Huntbach’s position and a strong supporter of Tony Greaves from far back, buit what worries me is that we all seem to be going down the ‘decentralising’ line rather than the individualism line that brought me into the party.
    Decentralising seems to me to put far too much power into the hands of the firm or the vociferous few. A big organisation like the NHS has been should and could mean that we cherry pick from a range of options what we individually need and want.
    All this decentralisation seems to do is insist that people, like doctors, have to become administrators, which they are not trained and usually don’t wish to be.
    I just hope that a lot of the mistakes of this ‘reform’ can be corrected by another government so that we can support cooperation and individualism rather than competition and cororatism.

  • Robin Martlew 21st Mar '12 - 10:17am

    Sorry! I don’t do enough of this and leave loads of silly typing errors. I am checking this first !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • @Chris Rennard
    “I know from the numerous messages that I received that very little of what has actually been changed and achieved in the House of Lords deliberations during 25 days of debate has yet been widely understood and that there has been much deliberate misinformation from opponents of the Liberal Democrats.”

    I’ve no doubt this is true – and I’m equally certain that you will have been acting to do the best you could.

    However this illustrates the problem we have with this bill. If we were in a by-election and our rebuttal of a key attack was “Please look at all these detailed amendments in the House of Lords” I don’t think you’d have thought that was going to work! True or not the perception is “Lib Dems vote with Tories to privatise NHS services” – its perceptions that kill you in politics and take massive amounts of work to undo.

    This bill should never have got off the starting blocks – fiddling with the NHS in combination with the Tories is an incredibly toxic combination. The fact that it got as far as Parliament in the first place reflects very poorly on the political judgement of our leaders. Whatever work our Peers have done they are reversing things that were (enthusiastically?) passed by our MPs in the Commons.

    Remember, Nick supported the White paper behind this bill which said it would:
    “Create a presumption that all patients will have choice and control over
    their care and treatment, and choice of any willing provider wherever
    relevant (it will not be appropriate for all services – for example,
    emergency ambulance admissions to A&E);”

    “The role of Monitor
    Monitor will be turned into the economic regulator for the health and social
    care sectors, with three key functions:
    • Promoting competition….”

    So when he signed off on that was it because he agreed with those plans or didn’t understand them?

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Mar '12 - 3:58pm

    Dorothy Bishop

    But in this dog’s breakfast of a bill, the one thing that is clear is a move to marketisation and competition. You can’t attribute the views of these concerned authors to ignorance:

    But I’m not doing that. I’ve made clear I do not support this Bill, I voted in the ballot at Gateshead for the emergency motion that opposed it outright, and when that fell I voted for the deletion of those lines in the “Shirley Williams” motion which gave outright support to the Bill. I have made clear in previous comments in Liberal Democrat Voice that I feel given the weight of opinion in the medical profession against this Bill that it should be opposed.

    My point, which I have now made many times, is that I believe the sort of attacks that have been made on the Liberal Democrats over this – and in fact over many other things since the coalition was formed – are counter-productive if the aim of these attacks is actually to plead that the Liberal Democrats in Parliament take a stronger line against the Tories. That is, as someone who is on the left of the party and is fighting to stop it drifting ever further to the right, I find these sort of attacks hinder rather than help. Of course, if the REAL aim of the attacks is to cause the left of the party to give up and the right to carry on, with the result that the party IS destroyed after the next general election, well, carry on, you’re all doing a grand job.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    A lot of these issues are emotive and produce emotional responses (attacks) from people, but I see what you’re saying. What then is a better way to try to persuade the PLDP to take that stronger line?

  • Nick (not Clegg) 21st Mar '12 - 4:21pm

    “But don’t give up. This party has not changed. People really are doing their best even if some of us think they sometimes make mistakes. A future for British politics without a strong Liberal party is unthinkable and the Liberal Democrats are the only one on offer. Stick in and keep up the fight – otherwise people like me might as well just pack in. And there are a lot more of us than you may think.”
    Tony Greaves

    But not one LibDem MP , yesterday, voted against the bill, so what would be the point of campaigning to try to get more LibDem MPs elected or to assist any of the present ones to retain their seats?

  • I voted LibDem in every election after 1997 when I voted for Blair.

    I will never vote LibDem again because of their conspiring to push through Welfare Reform and NHS Reform.

    I don’t really have anyone serious to vote for now. I’ll probably vote Green. Not that it matters: where I live Labour have a total stranglehold and won’t be toppled. The only way my vote could count would be if we’d won on proportional representation and we know what happened there.

    It is pretty hard for me to describe how I feel about the Liberal Democrats now without just spurting expletives across the screen. I’ll just settle for saying that I’m more angry at you than I am at the Conservatives. They just did what they do. You have done what you should never have done.

  • Simon Hebditch 26th Mar '12 - 9:57am

    One of the fundamental errors made by party negotiators in 2010 was to fail to establish clear red lines – those items
    which we would not accept under any circumstances. So now it is hard to discern whether there are any red lines at all or whether the party leadership will end up supporting Tory measures until the end of this Parliament as a matter of course. Amazingly, the leadership seems to possibly accept one red line – namely that the deficit reduction strategy should be followed despite the fact that the central economic thrust of government policy has been shown to be deeply flawed.

    There are a number of questions that have to be addressed both about policy developments over the next couple of years and re strategy as we approach the 2015 GE. Just one example – when Cameron is pulled into supporting a military strike on Iran by either Israel or the US, what will Nick Clegg do?

  • @Simon: “Amazingly, the leadership seems to possibly accept one red line – namely that the deficit reduction strategy should be followed despite the fact that the central economic thrust of government policy has been shown to be deeply flawed.”

    If I remember rightly, doesn’t the last page of the Coalition agreement state that deficit reduction trumps any other consideration? Hardly surprising then that this is the only red line being enforced.

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