Coalition 'united on NHS reforms'

 

Changes to NHS reforms backed publicly by Nick Clegg in a bid to
see off a Liberal Democrat grassroots revolt were drawn up with the help
of Tory ministers, Andrew Lansley has told MPs.

The Health Secretary dismissed Labour claims that a letter issued yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister and a leading critic of the legislation betrayed a Government in "disarray".

Responding to an urgent question in the Commons over the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, he repeatedly insisted that the coalition was entirely united.

Mr Lansley conceded that the amendments, set to be accepted tomorrow as the reform package continues its stormy passage through the House of Lords, were "significant".

That appeared to be at odds with statements by Downing Street yesterday, which had played down the impact of the changes backed by Mr Clegg.

But he insisted that they did not alter the fundamental nature of the reforms.

Nothing in the legislation as it existed would allow a US-style "market free for all" in healthcare, he said, but "further reassurance" could be given to opponents.

Competition elements in the legislation remain the most controversial with Lib Dems.

Granted a chance to grill Mr Lansley over the letter to Lib Dem peers and MPs - signed by Mr Clegg and Baroness Williams - shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said either the Government was in disarray or the letter had been carefully choreographed by the coalition to save Mr Clegg embarrassment.

Party activists are gearing up to take on the Lib Dem leadership over the shake-up at the party's spring conference - a year after a previous revolt there forced a "pause" in the Bill.

Both governing parties were "putting their political pride ahead of the best interests of the NHS", he suggested, questioning who was in charge of the policy.

Mr Lansley told him: "The point of the letter was to reflect the debates we've been having.

"We, and I do mean all of us on these benches, are using the debates in the Lords further to reassure all those who care about the NHS.

"The Deputy Prime Minister and Baroness Shirley Williams were explaining to their Liberal Democrat colleagues some of the amendments we have been working together on in order to make sure there is further reassurance."

He added: "The Bill is about quality, not competition on price. The Bill does not permit any extension of charging; care will be free and based on need.

"Where doctors and nurses on the ground know that competition is in the best interests of their patients, where it is based entirely on the quality of the care and treatment provided and not in any way on the price, then competition can play an important role."

Asked to clarify whether or not the changes were significant, Mr Lansley said: "The amendments... which we will support, will by their nature be significant."

The debate came as 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.

Any such demand which secures six-figure support on the Government e-petition website is eligible for debate.

But the backbench business committee ruled that it did not have sufficient cross-party support and that the issue had anyway been extensively debated in Parliament.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all