Lansley forced to explain 'split' on NHS
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, was yesterday called to the House of Commons to explain apparent divisions within the Coalition over the Government's Health Bill.
Labour demanded that Mr Lansley explain why, if the Government was united on the health reforms, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had written to Liberal Democrat MPs calling for further amendments to the legislation. But Mr Lansley claimed there was no disunity and said that while the amendments proposed by the Lib Dems were "significant" they were fully backed by him and the Conservatives.
In a somewhat ill-tempered session – for which Mr Lansley had been forced to cancel a speech to patient groups – two Tory backbenchers urged Mr Lansley not to "dance to the tune" of the Liberal Democrats.
Labour said Mr Clegg's letter either revealed that the legislation was in complete disarray – or it had been pre-agreed piece of choreography to "save face" for the Deputy Prime Minister.
"Either way, this House is entitled to ask: What's going on?" said Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham. But Mr Lansley told him he was aware of the letter and said it did not reflect a split within the coalition. "The point of the letter was to reflect the debates we've been having," he said.
Meanwhile, a committee of MPs ruled out a specific debate in the Commons of a petition signed by nearly 163,000 people calling for the Bill to be dropped.
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