Tories filibuster to stall Labour's NHS Bill

Tory MPs demonstrated yesterday they would rather play games with parliamentary procedures than discuss how to fix the NHS. It's time for a radical commitment to a new Bill that will truly sort out the mess.

Alan Taman
5 February 2015
jacob rees mogg.jpg

Image: Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, one of those attempting to 'talk out' Efford's NHS Bill

In a towering example of how MPs can avoid discussing anything substantial and stop important changes becoming law, Tory MPs sitting on the House of Commons Committee for the Efford Bill (NHS (Amended Duties and Powers Bill)) showed their mastery of filibustering today – by spending over 2 hours debating whether future meetings should start at a later time.

Clive Efford’s Private Members’ Bill to stop the worst changes to the NHS brought about by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 is Labour’s attempt to fix the damage already done to our health service. Yet it is being killed slowly at its committee stage by Tory MPs.

Conservative David Nuttall’s amendment to the Bill, proposing to shift the start time of future meetings from 9.30 am to 10 pm, set the stage for him to spend most of the hearing describing why this would be a good idea, including his view that it would allow MPs more time to get to the meetings during adverse weather. He was repeatedly supported in his procrastinations by Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative), who at one stage said that the later start would help ‘Westminster clerks’ brains’ to work better.

The only committee member present who voiced strong opposition to the filibustering was Phil Wilson (Labour), who on a point of order was able to state what most people would surely be thinking:

“… the NHS is the top concern of the public outside this House. This Bill received a second reading with 241 votes to 18. Won’t people struggle to understand why we’re not discussing the substance of the Bill rather than having to listen to Conservative members waffle inanely for nearly two and half hours?”

To which the Conservative Chairman of the Committee, Jim Hood, simply replied: “this was not a matter for the chair”.

If there were ever doubts that the current government has any intention of stopping or slowing down the continued privatisation and dismantling of the NHS, this latest act of parliamentary filibustering should dispel them.

The NHS Reinstatement Bill goes further than the Efford Bill in tackling the current dangers to the NHS. It focuses directly on the risks of the purchaser-provider split, as well as giving back to the Secretary of State the responsibility to provide a universal, comprehensive health service (instead of just promoting one, which is now the case). It is critical that it is included in the next Parliament, and the Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015 is asking as many people as possible to approach their prospective MPs before the election and find out whether they support the Reinstatement Bill.

Filibustering is not new. What is new, and shocking, is the way Conservative MPs are using this tactic to stop any substantial discussion on such an important topic. We can expect more of the same unless MPs know they can’t get away with it. Then to see the NHS crumble as its most profitable services are given to private providers and we are left with a two-tier service. You can probably guess where the poorest and most vulnerable will have to get their healthcare from. This has to be stopped by changing the law. We’ve one chance to save our one health service. Please, support our campaign for an NHS Reinstatement Bill.

This piece first appeared on the NHS Reinstatement Bill Campaign website.

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