Victory for Labour MP’s Private Member’s Bill To Repeal the Tory Privatisation of the NHS and Exempt the NHS from the TTIP Agreement

22.11.14

Labour MPs, including Andy Burnham and leader Ed Miliband showing their support for Labour MP Clive Efford's Private Member's Bill to protect the NHS from privatisation.Congratulations to Clive Efford, the Labour MP for Eltham and Plumstead, in south east London, and the 240 other MPs who voted for his Private Member’s Bill, the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill, which aims to repeal the worst aspects of the privatising Health and Social Care Act that the Tory-led coalition government passed in 2012 (which I covered in detail at the time, prior to successfully campaigning to save Lewisham Hospital from destruction), and to protect the NHS from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a planned trade deal between the EU and the US, which, as the #noTTIP protest group explained, will, if it goes ahead, “grant corporations the power to sue governments, threatening to lock-in the privatisation of our schools and NHS. Rules that protect workers, the environment, food safety, digital rights and privacy would be undermined, with harmful industries like fracking encouraged.” See my article about TTIP here, and my media interviews here and here.

Only 18 MPs voted against the bill, and as the campaigning group 38 Degrees noted in an email to supporters, “It looks like the government told their MPs to boycott the vote. Maybe they realised they couldn’t win.” Or maybe they also realised how unpopular their privatising reforms are with the general public, who, for a change, seem to see through their lies. The bill can now move forward in the hope of becoming law — although that is a slim chance, as Private Member’s Bills rarely get that far. As Denis Campbell argued in the Guardian, however, “the admission by an unnamed cabinet minister last month that the [2012 Health and Social Care Act] was this government’s greatest folly (quoted on the front page of the Times) and the fact that 44% of the public think the NHS is under threat from private health companies suggests Efford’s bill has caught a mood.”

As the general political landscape shifts to the right, with UKIP promoted largely unchallenged by the media, the Tories opportunistically drifting further to the right to compensate and Labour suffering a damaging identity crisis, the stage is being set for an election campaign dominated by distractions about immigration, while a dangerous truth is obscured — that, if the Tories can somehow get into power again, perhaps through another Frankenstein’s Monster coalition, they may well take us out of the EU, destroying all our human rights legislation so that we can embark on a policy of ethnic cleansing (the enforced repatriation so beloved by UKIP), as well as furthering, unchallenged, their own disastrous mission, under the guise of austerity, to destroy the taxpayer-funded state and privatise almost everything except their own jobs, with disastrous effects for tens of millions of British people.

I’m short of time right now, as I’m preparing to launch a new campaign, We Stand With Shaker, to try to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and his safe return to his family in the UK, so I’m cross-posting below what Clive Efford wrote for Epolitix, which provides an informative take on the need for his bill:

The Tories fought the last election with a promise not to impose any top-down reorganisation of the NHS. Yet two years later they did exactly that with their 2012 Act which unleashed the full force of the market onto our NHS. The Act requires NHS services to be put out to competitive tender so that any company can bid for the contracts.

The result is that millions of pounds are now being wasted on lawyers and accountants to prepare and assess tenders for NHS services whilst patients are left waiting longer and longer for treatment. Since the Act was passed some 70% of contracts that have been tendered – worth £2.6 billion – have gone to private sector companies.

The 2012 Act also allowed NHS hospitals to generate up to 49% of their income from private patients. In one hospital where private income has increased ten-fold, the number of patients waiting too long for operations each month has risen from 70 in 2010 to 490 now.

Unison has recently revealed that at the same time as the NHS is being opened up to private companies, 64 government MPs, both Tory and Lib Dem, have links to companies with private healthcare interests including some of the most senior members of the cabinet like David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

People need to realise that this pace of privatisation means the NHS will not have the capacity to compete in the future leaving us all at the mercy of the private sector. Decisions are being made in the interests of competition and not NHS patients. My Bill will reverse that.

The Bill will also give Parliament sovereignty over the NHS and will protect it from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which threatens to allow private companies to use the courts to force the wholesale privatisation of the NHS.

My Bill will not save the NHS overnight — only the election of a Labour government can do that. But it does give all MPs the opportunity to accept that the 2012 Act has been a disaster and to begin to create an NHS which puts patient care at the centre of all it does, not private profit.

I’m also posting below what Dr. Onkar Sahota, a member of the London Assembly for Ealing and Hillingdon, a practising GP and the chairman of the London Assembly Health Committee, wrote about Clive Efford’s bill on Left Foot Forward:

As a Londoner, a politician, a doctor and a parent it is my view that we must support Clive Efford’s private members bill … to repeal the worst aspects of the Health and Social Care Act.

In just two years this unmandated and top-down reorganisation has fragmented our NHS. It squandered £3bn of tax payer money at a time when real term funding has been cut for five years; it has left our NHS on its knees.

The service is being forced to the brink of privatisation and is being pushed to engage in a race to the bottom, putting pounds above patient care.

Clive Efford’s bill … aims to save the NHS from complete atomisation, competition and what has been a privatisation by Jeremy Hunt [and his predecessor Andrew Lansley] in all but name.

I have always been open minded about reforming the NHS, but what happened two years ago was nothing short of vandalism.

The coalition’s Health and Social Care Act created an NHS that is open to complete unfettered free market competition. It asks doctors to manage huge commissioning budgets which they neither have the time nor the training for, and then blames them for all that is going wrong in the NHS.

Things have simply got worse under this government, and in London we are suffering crisis after crisis. Seeing a GP is getting harder. Being a GP is getting harder. Cancer waiting times and patient experience ratings are among the worst in the country. A&E waiting times are getting longer and ambulance response times are in free fall.

Under this government’s ‘reforms’ NHS London has been replaced by 32 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG). This fragmented commissioning across London causes massive inefficiencies, internal conflicts and confusion. The NHS is fragmenting structurally and financially, none of which is good for the patients it is there to serve.

Under this government there is no trade protection for the NHS. There are fears that once the EU-US trade agreement is signed next year, US health care companies will have more power over the NHS than our own elected government.

Clive Efford’s Bill would rewrite the rules and stop the NHS being held to ransom.

It would remove the power of the NHS Monitor to act as a competition enforcer.

It would remove the NHS from any free trade partnerships and thus protect our health service from huge international competitors.

Finally, it would return responsibility of the NHS back to the secretary of state for Health, reinstating democratic accountability for the decisions made in our health service.

This bill is about protecting the NHS as a unified service to all, free at the point of need regardless of income or ability to pay. It is time we took back our NHS.

Note: There’s an e-petition in support of Clive Efford’s bill here, which needs 150,000 signatures by March 2015 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate. You can also support it here via the Labour Party. Also, please read Caroline Molloy’s more detailed analysis of the bill’s strengths and weaknesses for Open Democracy. And don’t miss veteran Labour back-bencher Dennis Skinner tearing into UKIP’s new MP, the Tory defector Mark Reckless, on the BBC’s website. As the BBC noted, Mark Reckless “suggested that some EU citizens living in the UK would only be able to stay for a ‘transitional period’ if the UK left the European Union.” In response, “[i]n a debate on the NHS in the Commons, Mr. Skinner said that he had had a ‘United Nations heart bypass’ carried out by a Syrian cardiologist, a Malaysian surgeon, a Dutch doctor and a Nigerian registrar.”

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    I just wanted to express my happiness that 241 MPs (mostly Labour) have voted for Clive Efford’s Private Member’s Bill seeking to stop the privatisation of the NHS by the Tory-led coalition government, and also to stop the NHS from being threatened by corporate vultures as a result of the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Just 18 MPs voted against it; most Tories stayed away. Now the bill can continue through Parliament.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Lori FU Wallace wrote:

    As an American, three cheers for the NHS! Great news, Andy.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s only the first step, Lori, and Private Member’s Bills rarely reach the statute books, but I definitely think it catches the mood of those in the UK who aren’t embracing the severe right-wing drift of what passes for our political discourse, with its talk of the forced repatriation of “immigrants,” and who are concentrating instead on the services that are essential for our survival as a civilised country, rather than some corporate reinvention of feudalism.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Cathy Teesdale wrote:

    Yay!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, a small, hopeful sign, Cathy. After the disaster of WhiteVanGate (wot? an MP is sacked for a wordless photo?) and the savage interviewing of Labour I saw on Newsnight and C4 News last night (while UKIP continue to get treated like royalty), Labour desperately need to seize the initiative on the NHS, and then build a case for a taxpayer-funded state and not the Tories’ wretched alternative – a kind of feudal state, but with smart phones. It’s no joke, though. If the Tories get another run at it, they really will turn back the clock to some real horrors – and those who sleepwalked into it will eventually get the most profound shock of their lives.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Cathy Teesdale wrote:

    I love ur ‘some corporate reinvention of feudalism’ Andy, nail, bang! STM.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Cathy. But the problem is that far too many people don’t see what’s going on. This depressing fashion for repatriating immigrants is permanently at the top of the agenda, along with leaving the EU, as if that’s any solution. I imagine us, adrift from Europe, engaged in ethnic cleansing, and then, at the end of it all, people finally realising that there are still no jobs, that there are no public services, and no welfare state, that the rich are still getting richer and the poor are still getting poorer and then – only then – they’ll realise how much they’ve been lied to.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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