Government defeats health reform challenge
The government has comfortably defeated a fresh attempt to amend its controversial health reforms for England in the Lords today.
Labour former health minister Lord Warner spearheaded a move to place a new duty on the health secretary to secure improved adult social care services.
Lord Warner said adult social care services were in a “parlous state” and needed reform quickly to avoid a “financial crisis” in the NHS.
But junior health minister Earl Howe said that although the government recognised the need for lasting reform, an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill was the wrong way of achieving it.
He promised a white paper on care and support in the spring with legislation to follow “at the earliest opportunity”.
Lord Warner’s amendment was rejected by 261 votes to 203, majority 58, during continued report stage debate on the Bill.
The move came as ministers sought to allay peers’ concerns over the coalition’s divisive NHS reforms in a bid to head off a damaging revolt at this weekend’s Liberal Democrat spring conference.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has secured government support for a series of changes to the Bill.
Under the latest concessions, large increases in private work by NHS hospitals will require the approval of governing bodies.
Ministers are promising a vote on any move to increase the proportion of private income by 5% or more.
Ministers saw off a later move intended to protect the NHS from European competition law by 278 votes to 188, government majority 90.
Later, the government bowed to Liberal Democrat demands to delete clauses in the Bill relating to Competition Commission reviews of the development of competition in the provision of NHS services.
Lord Howe said that to prescribe reviews every seven years may place “too great an emphasis on competition in the NHS”.
Lord Clement-Jones, welcoming the move, said the government had made “many concessions in collaboration” with the Liberal Democrat benches.
Further debate on the Bill was adjourned until Thursday.