As the Lib Dems gather for their spring conference, Lord Owen tonight called on the party to pause the third reading of the health and social care bill.
As the Liberal Democrats gather for their spring conference in Gateshead, Lord Owen tonight called on the party to pause the third reading of the health and social care bill.
He spoke out following the call today by the Information Tribunal for the NHS Risk Register to be published “immediately”, having upheld the Information Commissioner’s earlier ruling. Lord Owen described as a “constitutional outrage” the idea that the government could go ahead with the bill while further appealing the publication of the register in the High Court.
“Surely now Liberal Democrat Peers, with a long and proud history of supporting freedom of information, will not go along with any attempt by the coalition government to continue with the third reading of this bill in the light of today’s Information Rights Tribunal on the NHS Transition Risk Register.
“If the government insist on appealing to the High Court then they must accept that the bill is paused until that judgement has been made.
“If, as they should, the government publishes the bill’s risk assessment now then the House of Lords will need time to satisfy itself – as I say in the motion which I have had on the Order Paper since before the Christmas recess – “in the light of any further examination of risk, and taking account of the views of the health professions, that the risks of not proceediing with the Bill are greater than the risks inherent in the Bill itself”.”
Increasing the pressure on the Lib Dem Peers, he added:
“To go ahead with legislation, while appealing to the High Court, would be the third constitutional outrage associated with this legislation. The first was to legislate within months of the prime minister promising in the general election that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The second was to implement large parts of the legislation without Parliamentary authority.
“The attempt to railroad this legislation through both Houses of Parliament has raised very serious questions about the legitimacy of this coalition government. Now at the last moment Parliament has a chance to assert its democratic rights and the many Liberal Democrat Peers, who know in their heart of hearts that this legislative procedure is fundamentally wrong, have the opportunity to stand by their principles.”
As Dr Evan Harris wrote earlier in the week, for the sake of the NHS, the Lib Dems should pull the plug on the legislation and kill the bill.
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• Information Tribunal orders Lansley: Publish NHS Risk Register “immediately” – Shamik Das, March 9th 2012
• Losing the plot: How the Lords rubbished the NHS bill – then voted for it anyway – Jos Bell, October 15th 2011
• Lord Owen: NHS is under threat like never before – Alex Hern, October 11th 2011
• Lord Owen: Government acting with “no authority” over NHS reforms – Jos Bell, April 4th 2011
• Lord Owen turns on coalition health plans – Will Straw, January 19th 2011