Health Bill to become law after passed by parliament

The Health Bill is set to become law after it passed its final parliamentary hurdle last night.

Mr Lansley: the emergency debate granted to Labour had ‘no purpose’
Mr Lansley: the emergency debate granted to Labour had ‘no purpose’

Labour’s last ditch attempt to prevent the controversial Bill failed in the Commons last night after a bid to delay its passing until it’s risk register was published, failed by 82 votes.

The government hopes the Bill will now become law by Easter after it gains Royal Assent. During its 25 days in the Lords, the Bill received 374 amendments.

On Monday night, the amended Bill sailed through its third reading in the Lords when a last-minute attempt by Labour peer Labour peer Baroness Thornton was defeated by 269 to 174, after she claimed it would ‘lead to the fragmentation and marketisation of the NHS and threaten its ethos and purpose’. Only one Liberal Democrat peer voted against the Bill, Lord Greaves.

In the Commons yesterday afternoon health secretary Andrew Lansley said the emergency debate granted to Labour had ‘no purpose’ and was just an attempt to 'delay amendments made in another place'.

During the debate former shadow health secretary John Healey who made the 2010 Freedom of Information request to the DH to release the risk register, said its the decision for full disclosure should not be political but that it was ‘legal and constitutional’ duty.

But Mr Lansley stood by his decision to withhold publication until he had the full decision of the information tribunal which ordered its publication, claiming that the ‘reforms’ had already been ‘used positively’.

On 9 March, the tribunal quashed the DH’s appeal of the Information Commissioner’s Office ruling last November which ordered the government to publish the ‘transitional risk register’ drawn up by civil servants to show ministers the worst case scenarios if the Bill became law. But the tribunal backed the DH’s decision to keep the full ‘departmental risk register’ secret.

During the emergency debate shadow health secretary Andy Burnham claimed the real reason the government refused to publish the risk register was because it would wipe out the 'pitiful' support the Bill had.

A DH spokeswoman said: ‘The Health Bill will hand power to GPs, put patients at the heart of the NHS, and reduce needless bureaucracy.

‘It has been exposed to unprecedented parliamentary scrutiny over the past 14 months. For example, it has been debated for a total of 50 days, which is the most a Bill has been scrutinised since 1993.

‘Over the same period we have listened and addressed the concerns people raised, and as a result strengthened our plans to safeguard the future of the NHS.’

Marina Soteriou

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