Portsmouth Lib Dems call to ‘drop the Health and Social Care Bill’ to party leader Nick Clegg

21/4/2011    RO''Portsmouth local election hustings held at the Central Library. Pictured L-R  Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson Liberal Democrats, Graham Heaney Labour Party'''Picture: Paul Jacobs (111425-2)
21/4/2011 RO''Portsmouth local election hustings held at the Central Library. Pictured L-R Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson Liberal Democrats, Graham Heaney Labour Party'''Picture: Paul Jacobs (111425-2)

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LIBERAL Democrat politicans in Portmouth are calling on their party leader to drop backing a controversial NHS Bill.

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and MP for Portsmouth South Mike Hancock have written to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to ask for a change in the party line with regards to the Health and Social Care Bill.

Since the Bill was introduced by health secretary Andrew Lansley last year it has been met with fierce opposition from many politicians, unions and medical professionals.

The biggest concern is that some parts of the Bill could open up the NHS to privatisation.

Mr Hancock said: ‘There are no circumstances in which I can support this Bill in Parliament.

‘Unfortunately this has not been a good exercise by the government – sometimes one makes mistakes in politics.

‘The best thing is to put one’s hands up and acknowledge it rather than ploughing on.

‘It is clear the government has not been able to persuade the public on this Bill.

‘Virtually all doctors and professional medical associations are also against it.

‘Ministers say 80 per cent of the reforms can be implemented without the Bill passing – that should now be the way forward.’

This is a copy of the letter sent to Mr Clegg:

Dear Nick

We are writing to you today as at the group meeting of Liberal Democrats councillors on Portsmouth City Council. On Friday, March 2, we had a discussion about the Health and Social Care Bill.

The unanimous decision of the group was to seek a change in the party’s view so that we no longer support this legislation.

We do recognise that there are parts of the Bill that will be helpful for councils and the NHS to work together, but the political reality of the situation was that people have lost trust in this Bill and to a certain extent us in supporting it and this gives political ammunition to the Labour Party where we have no need to give them any ammunition.

This is particularly the case given the strong campaign that the Liberal Democrats mounted for more spending on the NHS when Labour would only follow the previous Conservative government’s spending plans on it following their election in 1997.

That spending on the NHS has almost doubled in real terms since 1997 is in no small part thanks to that campaign by the Liberal Democrats.

It would be disappointing now if the public did not think that we strongly valued and supported the NHS.

We would therefore request that the Party’s line changes, as the political battle on this Bill in the country has unfortunately been lost by the Government.

If, as Ministers have said, that 80 per cent of things on this Bill can happen without it then there appears to be no need for the Bill.

It is also our intention to make public our view that the Lib Dem Party on Portsmouth City Council are not in favour of this Bill.

Best wishes

Cllr Mike Hancock CBE MP, Portsmouth South

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader, Portsmouth City Council