“Drop The Bill!”…the speech I wanted to make at Lib Dem Spring Conference!
March 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
This weekend I’ve been at Liberal Democrats’ Federal Spring Party Conference, in Gateshead, Newcastle.
As many (if not all) of you will be aware, the main issue for most members surrounded the Coalition Govt’s Health and Social Care Bill…trying to get my Party to withdraw its support for it was certainly top of my priorities.
What follows is the speech I’d hoped to give if the anti-NHS Bill motion had been debated (which, sadly, as we all now know, it wasn’t) and had I been called to speak (your comments on it are welcome, remain polite though please):
“CONFERENCE, I’m proud to be a Liberal Democrat-proud to be a member of a Party that remains ‘political,’ that is adult enough to accept and even welcome the fact that we won’t always agree with each other on everything.
Indeed as both Liberals and Democrats it’d be odd if we did.
So, I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me when I say:
This is a bad Bill.
Bad for us as a Party, yes, but much more importantly than that bad for the NHS and, therefore, bad for our nation.
Let me be clear, I welcome Liberal Democrats in Government.
I’m proud that it’s Lib Dems who’ve taken the lowest paid out of paying income tax altogether-with more to come.
That it’s Lib Dems who’ve re-linked pensions to earnings.
And that it’s Lib Dems who’ve ensured help for children from underprivileged backgrounds via the Pupil Premium.
I welcome these measures and many more besides.
But, we can’t let these undoubted achievements-and our love our Party-blind us to the fact that we are also doing some things that make many of us deeply, deeply uncomfortable.
From parts of the Welfare Reform Bill to the Free Schools and Academies agenda.
And, at the top of the list, the Health and Social Care Bill.
I love the NHS.
It is one of our greatest national institutions.
I’ve used it all my life and so have my parents and so did my late Grandparents.
Indeed, I’ll never forget the kindness with which an NHS Community Hospital cared for my late Grandmother, Bessy Hulbert, in her final days.
She was ninety years of age and extremely frail.
The very dedicated NHS staff, the doctors and nurses and others, looked after her with care and affection.
Though, by that time, her life couldn’t be saved, she had care and dignity in her final days.
That was the NHS at its best; free-at-the-point-of-use, the best care being provided, yes, by a State-run service, where what’s important is the care you receive, not your ability to pay.
As Dr Evan Harris has pointed out-even with the relatively minor concessions that we’ve managed to ring out of the Tories, The Bill ‘fails to provide the required safeguards against existing NHS services being destabilised by competition.’
As he also makes clear, ‘The remaining problems are significant. (From) the failure to hold in check the drive towards the privatisation of commissioning to making the Bill worse-after the so-called ‘listening exercise’-by requiring GP’s to promote both choice-and thus competition-and ‘innovation,’ above the deep-seated problems of unfair access to healthcare and gross disparities in health outcomes.’
I agree with him when he says, ‘no Liberal Democrat should support a Bill with that order of priority.’
This motion makes clear that either the part of The Bill that makes reference to private competition be withdrawn from The Bill or our Party-from the Deputy Prime Minister down-should withdraw its support for it.
Our Party Leader often, correctly, talks about doing the ‘right thing.’
Well, today, we have a chance to do the right thing.
To stick up for doctors, nurses, other NHS staff, and most importantly patients.
And tell our leadership to tell the Prime Minister to Drop The Bill!’