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Lib Dem MPs back Labour call to publish NHS bill risks

Category: Politics

Published: 22nd Feb 2012 11:40:51

Fifteen Lib Dem MPs are backing a Labour call for ministers to publish a risk assessment of the NHS shake-up.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham is urging more Lib Dem MPs to back the call when it is debated later.

The government is fighting a Freedom of Information ruling that it publish its "transition risk register" for the controversial NHS bill for England.

The health secretary has said that to publish the risks in the form presented would be "completely misleading".

The controversial Health and Social Care Bill has passed through its Commons stages but has been amended several times by the House of Lords, delaying its progress.

Crossbencher Lord Owen is expected to put down an amendment to the bill which would delay its passage through Parliament until after a Freedom of Information ruling on the risk register on 5 and 6 March.

The bill has also been criticised by various bodies representing healthcare professionals - Mr Lansley was heckled by protesters on Monday outside Downing Street as he headed in to a meeting about the NHS changes.

And Lib Dem activists are preparing an emergency motion for their party's spring conference next month, urging the party to work towards defeating the bill.

But the government has signalled its intention to press ahead with the bill - Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday there were "myths" about the bill, but insisted it was "vital to reform our NHS" by increasing choice for patients, better integrating services and putting more decisions into the hands of GPs rather than "bureaucrats".

MPs and peers simply cannot be expected to give final approval to a far-reaching change of this magnitude to our country's best-loved institution without possession of all relevant information”

Labour will use its "opposition day debate" later to demand that the government publish the register compiled by the Department of Health, calculating the risks relating to the implementation of the Bill. The vote is not binding but would increase pressure on the government.

Last November the Information Commissioner ruled the government had been wrong to refuse FOI requests that the risk register be published because "the public interest in maintaining the exemption does not outweigh the public interest in disclosure".

The government appealed and the case is due to be considered by the Information Tribunal in March. If it loses, it could choose to take the case to the High Court.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the NHS Employers conference in November that the register was an "internal mechanism" in which people were encouraged to present what the "greatest potential risk might be" in "open and frank terms". He added that changes had since been made to the bill - which would not be apparent from the register.

But Labour's motion urges the government to "respect" the information commissioner's ruling and publish the report "to ensure that it informs public and parliamentary debate".

An early day motion on the same issue has been signed by 15 Lib Dem MPs - including Duncan Hames - an aide to Energy Secretary Ed Davey - and fellow backbenchers Martin Horwood, Julian Huppert and Greg Mullholland.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has written to all Lib Dem MPs, regardless of their position on the Bill, to say they should support Labour's motion in the interests of freedom of information - and for "factual information" to inform debates about the bill.

He said: "MPs and peers simply cannot be expected to give final approval to a far-reaching change of this magnitude to our country's best-loved institution without possession of all relevant information."

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BBC News, 2012. Lib Dem MPs back Labour call to publish NHS bill risks [Online] (Updated 22nd Feb 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/850939/Lib-Dem-MPs-back-Labour-call-to-publish-NHS-bill-risks [Accessed 23rd Apr 2014]

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