NHS reform risk report to remain secret

 

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley vetoed the publication of a confidential risk assessment of the Government's contentious NHS reforms today.

The move to defy an Information Tribunal ruling that the risk register should be released was agreed by the Cabinet this morning.

Mr Lansley said he believed in "greater transparency" but that it was also essential to retain "a safe space where officials are able to give ministers full and frank advice in developing policies and programmes".

The November 2010 register set out internal Government assessments of the risks posed by the reforms in the Health and Social Care Act, which became law in March after a tortuous passage through Parliament.

Labour MP John Healey called for the register to be published under the Freedom of Information Act - a demand backed by Information Commissioner Christopher Graham and then the Information Tribunal.

But the Cabinet agreed today that the "ministerial veto" should be used to prevent publication.

Mr Lansley said: "Had we not taken this decision, it is highly likely that future sensitive risk registers would turn into anodyne documents, and be worded quite differently with civil servants worrying about how they sound to the public rather than giving ministers frank policy advice."

He said he was instead publishing a document setting out "key information" from the register but protecting its "language and form".

"This is not a step I have taken lightly. I am a firm believer in greater transparency and this Government and this department have done far more than our predecessors in publishing information about the performance and results of our policies.

"But there also needs to be safe space where officials are able to give ministers full and frank advice in developing policies and programmes.

"The Freedom of Information Act always contemplated such a 'safe space' and I believe effective government requires it.

"That is why Cabinet has today decided to veto the release of the department's transition risk register."

Mr Lansley said the public had "all the information necessary to understand what we considered the risks to be and how we have acted to mitigate them".

"To continue to be transparent about the risks we considered, and to be equally clear about how we have mitigated those risks, I have also published today a document setting out key information relating to the areas of risks in the original risk register, how we have met those risks head on and how we will continue to do so," he said.

Mr Healey said the decision was "poor policy and dumb politics", and would "only fuel doubts and distrust" about the reforms.

The veto is used very rarely - the last Labour government vetoed the release of Cabinet minutes relating to the invasion of Iraq.

"This is a desperate act which will backfire badly. It is an admission of defeat on the legal arguments for public release," Mr Healey, a former shadow health secretary, said.

"It is totally over the top to place NHS changes on the same footing as preparations for the Iraq war.

"There must be some very big risks in the Government's NHS reorganisation for ministers to override the law with their political veto.

"Ministers have made the announcement in the very last hour of the last day, trying to bury this bad news on the eve of the Queen's Speech.

"The Government has lost twice in law, yet still won't accept that patients and NHS staff have the right to know the risks ministers are running with the biggest ever NHS reorganisation."

A draft risk register leaked in March showed that ministers were warned of the risk that the reforms could lead to a loss of financial control, reduced productivity and emergencies being less well managed.

That document was produced on September 28, 2010, and it is not known what changes were made before the completion of the transition risk register on November 10.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower