Burnham lays into coalition as MPs pass clause 119 of Care Bill

The Government have ripped up the coalition commitment to localism in the NHS by voting through sweeping powers for ministers to close hospitals, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said.

The Labour frontbencher said ministers’ assertions that local people and GPs would be in control of health services in their area have been undermined by powers in the Care Bill, which cleared the Commons tonight.

Mr Burnham warned that good hospitals could be closed because of their proximity to failing ones using provisions in clause 119 of the Bill on Trust Special Administration (TSA).

But the Government saw off an Opposition amendment which would have removed those provisions from the Bill, winning a Commons vote 297 to 239, majority 58.

The Bill then received its third reading unopposed, clearing the Commons.

Mr Burnham said: “This goes to the heart of where the coalition began. That local people would be in the driving seat, local GPs would be in control.

“The coalition agreement said they would end central dictated closures. Well, they’ve ripped all that up this afternoon by passing clause 119 into this Bill.

“They claimed they were just doing what we left behind. That’s not the case because the High Court told them otherwise, the High Court told them they had gone beyond the powers that I created in 2009.”

Ministers also saw off a Government rebellion of seven Tories and one Liberal Democrat on an amendment put down by former health minister Paul Burstow and signed by 10 other Liberal Democrats.

Mr Burstow had withdrawn his support for his own amendments after concessions were made and he was given a position on a committee of MPs and peers overseeing part of the implementation of the reforms but it was pushed by Labour’s Jamie Reed (Copeland).

Mr Burnham branded Mr Burstow and his party “sell-outs” for voting through the Bill.

The shadow health secretary said: “You positioned yourself as though you were going to make a stand for local involvement in the NHS.

“What we have seen is just the worst kind of collusion and sell-out of our National Health Service.

“Just as the Lib Dems voted for the Health and Social Care Act, they have backed up tonight the break-up of the NHS.

“You have been in the last few days asking for all of these signatures from all over the country – 148,000 people – to sign your petition, just so it seems that you could get a new job working within the coalition. I’m not sure they’re going to feel well represented this evening.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said of Labour : “Were you in power now, you would not be making the arguments you are making this afternoon because it is patently ridiculous to say you are going to solve a problem without reference to the wider health economy.

“You know that. That was in the guidance that you yourselves produced for Parliament when you introduced the original TSA recommendations.

“This side of the House stands for sorting out these problems quickly and not letting them drag on in a way that is dangerous for patients.”

Summing up the powers in the Bill, Mr Hunt said: “The Care Bill will bring about the most profound change in the care system for a generation.

“It provides certainty over care costs that has never been available before, independent and transparent inspections to drive up the quality of care, integration of the health and social care systems in a way that’s been talked about for years but never delivered, and real patient empowerment to put people firmly in the driving seat for their own care planning.”

Mr Hunt said the Bill would also implement several key recommendations from the Francis Report, which examined the Mid Staffs scandal, and would seek to deal with unsafe care quickly before “unnecessary lives are lost”.

He said: “We know that in the next 20 years 1.4 million more people are likely to need care and support. Today’s Bill prepares our country for that change with the most comprehensive reform of social care legislation in over 60 years.”

On a £72,000 cap on care costs in England, Mr Hunt said: “People who have worked hard all their lives need no longer fear they will lose everything just because they’re unlucky enough to develop care needs beyond any reasonable budget.”

Turning to the care data reforms that will create a new database of health records to further medical research, the Health Secretary said the project would succeed if it gives patients confidence about how their data are used.

He said: “For that reason we have today amended the Bill to provide rock-solid assurance that confidential patient information will not be sold for commercial insurance purposes.”

Six Tories backed Mr Burnham’s Opposition amendment to remove clause 119. They were Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton), Nick de Bois (Enfield), Richard Drax (South Dorset), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) and Bob Stewart (Beckenham).

Apart from Mr Drax, the same Tories plus two others supported Mr Burstow’s amendment after it was pushed by Labour. The additional Tory rebels were Zac Goldsmith (Richmond) and Jason McCartney (Colne Valley).

Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) backed Mr Burstow’s amendment after Labour pushed it to a vote – but Mr Burstow himself did not.

Stephen Dorrell, a Tory former health secretary, said the Bill delivered on former prime minister Tony Blair’s 1997 pledge to no longer tolerate families losing their houses to care for their loved ones.

The chairman of the Health Select Committee said: “It’s taken 17 years to legislate the solution to that problem and I congratulate (the coalition front bench) for having redeemed the Blair pledge.”

Mr Burstow, a former coalition care minister, said: “This Bill… replaces 60 years of piecemeal dog’s breakfast legislation.”