Lords reject bids to kill Health Bill

The House of Lords has not backed calls for the Health Bill to be scrapped and refused a motion calling for swathes of the Bill to face in-depth scrutiny.

House of Lords (Photograph: www.parliament.uk)

Despite widespread campaigning ahead of the vote, 354 peers voted against an amendment calling for the Bill to be scrapped, compared to 220 members in support of the amendment.  

A key vote on whether sections of the Bill around the health secretary’s powers and competition should face in-depth scrutiny in a select committee was also not backed by peers.

Ahead of the vote health minister Lord Howe warned that sending the Health Bill to a select committee could result in ‘fatal’ delays to the NHS reform plans.  

He said backing the motion would carry ‘grave implications for the government’s ability to achieve royal assent for the Bill by the end of the session’.

The Bill cannot be carried over into the next session of parliament, and as a result ‘the establishment of clinical commissioning groups would have to be very considerably delayed’, he said.

Despite assurances from Labour peers that the scrutiny committee would work to a pre-determined schedule that would not upset the timetable of the reforms, the vote was lost. A total of 262 peers voted in favour of the motion compared to 330 against.

The Health Bill will now continue through the normal parliamentary procedure, facing a committee stage in the House of Lords in the next few weeks. It is here where critics of the reforms hope significant amendments could still be made to the Bill.

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