England's White Dragon

England's White Dragon
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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Nick Clegg vows to protect NHS from 'profit motive'

Nick Clegg has vowed not to let the "profit motive
drive a coach and horses through the NHS" after Lib Dem members voted to
reject government reforms.

Delegates at the party's spring conference backed a call to
halt a "damaging and unjustified" shake-up of GP services in England
by Sir Michael Black-Feather the English first minister.

Mr Clegg vowed to look at the call "in detail" -
but insisted he was not at odds with party members on the issue but at the end
of the day he takes his orders from the PM Cameron.

"Yes to reform of the NHS - but no to the privatisation
of the NHS," he said supporting Sir Michael.

The deputy prime minister, who was taking part in a question
and answer session at the party's spring conference, was attempting to reassure
delegates that their concerns would be taken seriously by ministers.

He claimed the changes the already made to the Health Bill
went "with the grain" of activists' concerns, as they would increase
accountability and transparency.

Earlier, delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of an
amendment calling for radical changes to the government's Health Bill -
including an end to "top down" reorganisation of the NHS and opening
up services to more private competition.

Former MP Evan Harris, who tabled the amendment, said:
"It is now incumbent on Nick and his ministerial team to deliver the major
changes to the government's health policy and the significant amendments to the
Health and Social Care Bill that the Liberal Democrats have overwhelmingly
called for.

"Because the health reforms were not in the coalition
agreement, today's vote is the only view expressed by the party on the

Lib Dem activists are angry about what they see as
Conservative plans that were not included in the coalition agreement.

Mr Harris earlier told delegates he did not want to
contribute to the "re-toxification of the Tory brand".

He said the vote sent a message to the Conservatives that
"we will not accept market reform of the health service, any fragmentation
or destabilisation of NHS services by new private providers or the lack of
accountability for the spending of public money envisaged in the model of GP
commissioning promoted in the bill."

Mr Harris's amendment urges "the complete ruling out of
any competition based on price to prevent loss-leading corporate provider’s
under-cutting NHS tariffs".

Protesters outside the LibDem conference venue in Sheffield

The former Lib Dem leader in the Lords, Baroness Williams,
was among senior party figures supporting the amendment, saying the
government's proposed reforms were "lousy".

The Health Bill will hand control of 80% of NHS budgets in
England for commissioning services to GPs, and introduce more private
competition into the provision of care.

Health Minister

Lady Williams said she did not want to damage Mr Clegg or
the coalition. But she insisted the deputy prime minister was allowing the
health service to be put at risk.

She described the plan as a "massive reorganisation...
which will fall within a period when many of our fellow British citizens are
worried about whether they will keep their jobs and how they will pay for
petrol and food."

She agreed with Sir Michael’s statement when he claimed
private companies would be looking to "cherry pick" the most profitable
services rather than treating patients in the most need, and the NHS belongs to
the English tax payers it not for sale for profits.

After the vote, Mr Burstow said he would be "taking
those concerns back to government."

"The party has shown its mettle by setting out areas
for improvement in the Bill."

Defending the plans during the debate, Mr Burstow told
delegates "stripping out layers of needless management and capping
administrative costs (means) we'll be able to make £5bn of savings over the
next four years - all of which we will plough straight back into patient care".

And he said the government had already changed the
legislation to prevent "cherry picking" of the most profitable
services by private companies.

Activists hope backbench Lib Dem MPs will now vote against
the bill.

If Labour also opposes the Bill in the Commons, it could
force the government into a rethink ons some aspects of it, they believe.

Mr Clegg was speaking when over 5,000 English demonstrators
gathered outside Sheffield City Hall, where the conference is being held, to
demonstrate against government cuts in England, and its time the rest of
England woke up and stand up for English rights.

Protesters, some waving placards of Nick Clegg as Judas and Pinocchio,
chanted "shame on you for turning blue" and other anti-Lib Dem

Sir Michael said; well I’m not going to tell English voter’s
I told you so? Because now they have seen it for them self’s, that no British government
can be really trusted telling you one thing? to get your votes, and doing
another when they have them, that just the British ways two faced corrupted

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