A few minutes ago, 254 peers betrayed the people of England, as they defeated 146 other peers in a crucial NHS vote on a Labour motion in the House of Lords to kill ‘secondary legislation’ that the government is trying to implement under last year’s Health and Social Care Act.
Why was it such a betrayal? Earlier today, one quisling Labour peer, Norman Warner, gave the game away when he went on the record in the Guardian to explain
Why I, a Labour peer, am supporting a regulated market for NHS competition
An unforgivable treason when the amended secondary legislation the government is trying to implement (having failed to sneak it through unnoticed) is even worse than the original version and will mire commissioners of NHS services in England in such confusion and fear of legal action that will force them to play safe by including private health companies in every contract bid.
But Warner was at least a ‘useful idiot’ to a degree. In ‘coming out of the closet’ as an enemy of a truly public NHS, his statement served to make absolutely clear what the government has consistently – and ludicrously – tried to deny: that this legislation is intended to force the piecemeal but progressive privatisation of the NHS.
Describing his reasons for his decision to mark himself indelibly as a turncoat, Warner said,
It is a fantasy to believe that we can solve the NHS’s problems without the help of many new providers with fresh ideas and better management techniques. Other countries facing the same problems are doing just this. To allow new entrants from the private, voluntary and social enterprise sectors to enter the NHS market a set of fair procurement rules are required and that is what the new regulations do.
The weasel words and outright lies are clear:
- that the NHS is unaffordable – it isn’t, it’s simply a matter of choice – if we value it, we’ll pay for it and be glad to do so. That this government doesn’t want to fund the NHS properly simply demonstrates how hollow their ‘safe in our hands’ promise always was.
- that private companies automatically have ‘fresh ideas and better management techniques’. G4S, anyone?
Warner wasn’t finished yet. He went on,
Patient (sic) best interests are served by the new clinical commissioning groups replacing repeatedly underperforming NHS service providers
Thomas Murphy, Chairman of General Motors, infamously said,
General Motors is not in the business of making cars. It is in the business of making money.
Private health companies don’t care about patients’ interests. They exist to make money, and healthcare is just the way they intend to do it. Patients’ interests might be protected to a degree because companies fear loss of profits – but in the end no profit-making company can ever provide the same level and extent of services it could provide if it did not make profit, because profits taken mean money not spent on patients.
Warner’s words make clear that section 75 is designed to lever open the NHS for the entry of private companies – a betrayal of everything the NHS stands for and of all those who rely on it.
But Warner was not alone in his calumny. The media, which almost without exception (and including the now-lamentable BBC) has been almost silent on this vital, vital issue – allowing the government to do as it wished without fear of the public backlash its actions have merited.
And those peers, those 254 peers – no matter which party they belong to – betrayed the British people unforgivably tonight.
They may feel they were doing the right thing. They were wrong – and ordinary British people will suffer for it in their moments of greatest need and vulnerability.
They may feel they were obliged to vote to defeat the ‘fatal motion’ that Labour had laid to try to kill these regulations. They were wrong. No party loyalty can excuse such reckless disregard for the National Health Service that is so vital – disregard for that principle of ‘free to all at the point of need’ that has saved the lives of millions who could never have afforded to pay for healthcare.
They may feel that ‘it’ll all turn out alright in the end’. They are wrong – the only way things will turn out right is if people realise what is being stolen from them and unite to fight bitterly to prevent it.
It doesn’t matter what their reasons were for voting to protect this deceitful, venal government measure. They were wrong, because nothing justifies any threat to something so vital to the national wellbeing – especially not the profits of shareholders that will probably be banked offshore in some tax haven.
Whatever their reasons, what happened tonight was unforgivable. It’s essential that we fight, and that we don’t forgive, or forget – neither at the impending local elections nor at the next general election.
If this measure passes, one of the only resorts left to those who love the NHS will be to do exactly what the government is trying to make Clinical Commissioning Groups afraid of – tie them up in legal action by demanding our rights under the NHS Constitution if they fail to offer contracts exclusively to true NHS providers.
CCGWatch has been set up to enable local communities and activists to do exactly that. If you’re able, please visit this site and use the PayPal link to make a one-off or repeat donation. Thank you.
Edit: the list of names of those voting either way can be viewed here. The LibDems, whose treachery was especially vile, are as follows:
Shame and disgrace on them. The Tories who voted to protect the regulations are bad enough, but for the LibDems to collude with the enemies of the NHS is the most craven spinelessness imaginable.