Bill 'unlikely' to move to House of Lords before September

The Health Bill is unlikely to reach the House of Lords until September after Liberal Democrats pledged to veto plans for the regulator Monitor to promote competition in the NHS.

Baroness Thornton: it is impossible to predict whether the Bill would be law by the end of the year as there were ‘too many unknowns’
Baroness Thornton: it is impossible to predict whether the Bill would be law by the end of the year as there were ‘too many unknowns’

Health minister Lord Howe has previously said he expec­ted the Bill to be received in the House of Lords ‘prior to the summer recess’, and that the Bill would become law by the end of the year.

But Liberal Democrat dem­ands for changes to the Bill and efforts to incorporate changes proposed as part of the listening exercise are now expected to slow its progress.

The Liberal Democrats have produced a 23-point list of ‘ess­ential amendments’, including a call for consortia boards to inc­lude a ‘substantial proportion’ of elected councillors.

The party is also demanding that GP consortia are cotermi­nous with council boundaries and that the role of Monitor should include the promotion of fair access to health services.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is reported to have told the party’s MPs that the decision to establish Monitor as an ‘economic regulator’ was a ‘misjudgment’.

Labour peer and shadow health minister Baroness Thornton said it was unlikely that the Health Bill would be received in the House of Lords before the summer recess, which begins on 20 July.

‘In theory the House of Lords could have the Bill just before summer, but it seems unlikely unless something very decisive happens,’ she said.

But Baroness Thornton said it was impossible to predict whether the Bill would be law by the end of the year as there were ‘too many unknowns’.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris said: ‘These 23 points are all the things that are required. The Liberal Democrats can’t vote for measures that don’t deliver these. If our requirements are not acceded to then there is no government majority.’

Dr Harris reiterated that the Liberal Democrats would not back policies not inc­luded in the coalition agreement. He said the party would not oppose GP-led commissioning, which was included in the coalition agreement with the Conservatives.

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