Parliament: Health: GP reforms debate may run for hours

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MPS WERE digging in for a possible late-night sitting last night over the Government's health reforms.

The Commons has 23 groups of amendments to the health Bill to consider during the detailed report stage. But it took three hours of debate to deal with the first set of amendments.

Conservative backbenchers, buoyed by yesterday's Euro-election results, made a series of lengthy speeches on aspects of the legislation.

David Amess (C Southend West) spoke for more than an hour - prompting Labour's Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) to accuse him of "time-wasting self-indulgence".

The Bill scraps GP fundholding, introduced by the previous Tory government, and replaces them with primary care trusts.

Ministers suffered three defeats on the legislation during its passage through the Lords.

Government business managers had scheduled the Bill for last night's sitting only to complete its remaining Commons stages. At the current rate of progress, the whips were facing the choice of sitting into the night or moving to "guillotine" debate and having a second day on the Bill.

In an intervention, Dr Evan Harris, for the Liberal Democrats, commented on the lengthy speeches of the Tories, saying there was "something going on in this report stage" debate.

Philip Hammond, for the opposition, said any "chagrin" on the Tory benches was due to the Government allowing only one day's debate on the report stage. His party believed this was wholly inadequate, he declared.