This government is driven by venal self-interest

by Amanda Ramsay

It’s a very strange time in parliament at the moment. Having changed the legislative calendar, with the Queen’s Speech now in May rather than the traditional November, parliament has run-out of business. The Commons is becalmed while the battles over health, welfare and legal aid being fought-out in the Lords.

With welfare reform cuts about to hit home and housing benefit caps forcing displacement and homelessness, the character of the laws due royal assent over the next few weeks show an old school Tory, right-wing, ideological intent to take government back to laissez-faire sink-or-swim economics; where the state sits back and does the very bare minimum to assist its citizens in trouble.

Whilst Labour souls worry about the Tory-led government’s woeful destruction of aspiration and hope, it is difficult to detect any noticeable or natural empathy from the likes of independently wealthy Cameron and Clegg and the many other millionaires in the cabinet.

Those with private wealth don’t usually know the fear of facing homelessness or joblessness. They can pay for private health insurance and secure their futures through top-class public schooling; can afford private care if disabled, frail or ill and enjoy their own pensions and investments, so have no need for the welfare state. As Tory grandee Alan Clarke once memorably explained, they live off the interest on the interest. Put simply, they can cut with impunity because they don’t feel the pain.

No clearer is this ambivalence evident than with the Health and Social Care Bill. The ramifications of allowing foundation hospitals to use up to 49% of their resources for private, non-NHS work, may not worry certain individuals that can afford US-style private health care insurance, however, NHS waiting lists will surely soar while paving the way for a two-tier health care system.

The next few days in both chambers will be dominated by this bill. Labour will lead an opposition day debate in the Commons tomorrow and offer all MPs a motion to drop the bill. With Tuesday being the last day of the report stage of the bill in the Lords, there is still time for Liberal Democrat peers to support Labour amendments.

Lib Dem conference yesterday was notable for the vote which released their parliamentarians from any commitment to back the bill – which is not in the their coalition agreement. In principle, they could yet save the day. But will they?

Of course not.

Given their dire poll rating it is hard to see Lib Dem MPs defeating the health bill, or any other piece of legislation which in theory, could bring the government down if a vote of no confidence followed.

Individual Lib Dem back-benchers like the thoughtful John Pugh MP might vote with Labour, if nothing else because of the government’s refusal to publish the “risk register”.

Prepared by civil servants, this assessment of the ramifications of the bill and recommended steps that government should take to limit any dangers of reform has been kept secret, despite two court orders requiring the department of health to make public.

With the bill shortly reaching the end of its parliamentary consideration, there is an urgency to all of this. In a decision issued last Friday the information commissioner overruled the department of health’s decision not to make the risk register public.

Shadow secretary of state for health, Andy Burnham has been calling for this for months. In February, Burnham called on the government to “respect the ruling by the information commissioner and to publish the risk register associated with the Health and Social Care Bill in order to ensure that it informs public and parliamentary debate.”

Secretary of state for health, Andrew Lansley, has responded on behalf of the government with a big fat, defiant silence. Showing the contempt that has seen him ignore health professionals, the majority of whom overwhelmingly oppose the NHS changes, Lansley now ignores the ruling of two judges.

But the likes of Pugh will be in the isolated minority. The third reading is expected in the Lords next week and there is a wretched inevitability to the biggest reorganisation of the NHS in over 60 years.

It’s a sorry picture: cabinet ministers with no personal stake in the welfare state, Lib Dems more worried for their seats than the state of the country and a House of Commons twiddling its thumbs while the NHS is brought to its knees.

Labour will continue to fight the good fight but the venality driving the Tories and Lib Dems is about to have major consequences for the country.

Amanda Ramsay worked in parliament during the Blair government for whip Graham Stringer and is now a charity campaigner

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7 Responses to “This government is driven by venal self-interest”

  1. Sean says:

    I share your concerns but worry that most of the damage with regard to the NHS reform bill has already happened.

    The old trusts have now taken on new names and responsibilities and GP’s have already been forced into the clusters that are meant to serve us all so well. The face of the NHS has already been altered.

    The funds will be available but only for those well educated and eloquent enough to insist that there local GP/health supplier does right by them.

    It will once again be those who would most benefit from the service, the poor and disadvantaged, that will not be able to access proper health care.

    As we enter into an economic world that feels like the 1940’s maybe now is the right time to welcome back those old favourites such as Rickets and TB.

    Keep battling.


  2. Clr Ralph Baldwin says:

    Lol how funny, the Labour Party is currently dominated by self-interest and much of it supports the current Government.

  3. paul barker says:

    There you go again, The Left ie you are driven by kind hearts & the thirst for justice. Anyone else is corrupt if not evil.
    One reason why no-one is listening.

  4. treborc says:

    Interesting to see if labour now bother with the battles to save the NHS or state well it’s over we better look for another battle ground.

  5. BenM says:

    The problem is – and the Tories make hay with this fact – is that much of the objectives in this rotten bill were championed by the Blairite New Labour Party.

    Foundation Hospitals, Private provision of services, that dratted word “choice”. All of these things were brought in by the last Labour government.

    It really was folly to appease and embolden the rightwing agenda when we had our chance to turn back so much of the damage caused by the last Tory government – because it was always going to be thrown back in our faces as soon as the Tories gained power again and stamped on the accelerator.

    That’s what they’re doing and they can claim Labour’s backing with some justification. And opposition just looks like opportunism.

    Thanks Blair.

  6. Anon E Mouse says:

    BenM – It’s over for the NHS scaremongering nonsense thank goodness.

    Any day now labour will just say sorry for the deficit as well because the electors have long long memories and we all remember the mess they left the country in.

    You also failed to mention PFI as well brought in by Labour’s most successful leader in their history Tony Blair but your grandchildren will enjoy paying £37.75 for each £1.00 lightbulb the hospital uses.

    But I’ll tell you what, in common with the voters polled at the time, I’d have twenty Tony Blairs over one Gordon Brown who was the least popular Prime Minister since records began.

    What is worrying is that you would actually wish for a system where there is no choice and since socialism has been rejected by every single country in the world given a choice I feel you need to go and join Socialist Worker BenM because your views are not shared by normal Labour voters…

  7. Not too late to lobby MP today just enter your postcode here

    This list represents the financial and vested interests of our MPs and Lords in private healthcare. The same people allowed to be in charge of dismantling our NHS, to vote on a bill that they clearly have something to gain from.

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