Legality of NHS reforms questioned as Lords debate Health Bill

An inquiry into the NHS reforms could find the government's handling of the reforms 'unconstitutional if not illegal', a Labour peer has warned.

The Health Bill is being debated in the House of Lords (Photograph:
The Health Bill is being debated in the House of Lords (Photograph:

As the House of Lords debate on the Health Bill began on Tuesday, Labour backbench peer Lord Nicolas Rea of Eskdale criticised the government for implementing changes in the NHS before the Health Bill became law.

He said many now argue that the changes in the NHS are now ‘too far down the road to reverse’.

But he said if the Bill was withdrawn more clinical involvement in commissioning could be achieved by re-establishing ‘leaner and more efficient’ PCTs with ‘enhanced clinical membership’.

Lord Rea said: ‘Many of us would like to know what justification the government had to start implementing these changes before the Bill was passed through parliament. An inquiry might find this unconstitutional if not illegal.

‘The coalition agreement... contains no words suggesting this enormous Bill was in the pipeline nor was it mentioned in the Conservative or Liberal Democrat manifestos’.

But health minister Earl Howe said the democratic mandate for the government’s proposals was ‘absolutely clear’.

He said: ‘The fruits of this deliberation were laid out in various Conservative and Liberal Democrat publications from 2006 onwards, in the manifestos at the last election, the coalition agreement and White Paper from which this reform directly stems.’


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