IMG_3614With the local NHS under increasing threat, Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing North, has voted for Labour’s new Bill to repeal the Tories’ new competition rules that drive NHS privatisation at the expense of patient care.

Labour MP Clive Efford successfully introduced a Bill this week that will scrap David Cameron’s market framework for the NHS and make sure local NHS patients are always put first. Now the Tory-led government is under pressure to honour this new bill and make sure it is enacted and enforced.

The Tory-led government has forced hospitals to open themselves up to a privatisation agenda which prioritises spending on competition lawyers and tendering exercises instead of on patient care.

Stephen Pound voted for Labour’s new Bill as a way of protecting and saving our NHS, and has challenged the government to act to make sure patients are put before profits.
Stephen Pound said: “The Tories’ approach is to let private companies cherry-pick the most profitable NHS services, regardless of patient need, and spend more money on economic regulators and competition lawyers. Instead, Labour will ensure that the NHS once again puts patients before profits. Labour will rescue the NHS with our £2.5 billion Time to Care package which will fund new staff including 20,000 more nurses – investment the Tories will not match.

“The Tories haven’t just destabilised our health service; they’re holding it back from meeting the challenges of the 21st century as well. I voted for this new Bill because it will end the creep towards NHS privatisation, bureaucracy and red-tape, and put patients back at the heart of the NHS. Now it’s time for the Tory-led government to listen to Parliament and put this bill into action so that patients in Ealing North are prioritised once again.”

What’s it All About?
Under the Tories’ damaging Health and Social Care Act, enforced competition and creeping privatisation within the NHS have left patient care as an afterthought and not the priority that it should be. On 21st November, a Private Member’s Bill from Clive Efford MP was debated which, if passed, will restore real democratic accountability for the NHS, scrap the new competition framework and make sure NHS patients are always put first.
Labour’s Bill to repeal David Cameron’s market framework in the NHS
The Bill would scrap the rules that force market tendering of services and that are seeing millions of pounds wasted on competition lawyers instead of patient care.

Section 75 regulations
These are the rules that many doctors say are forcing them to put services out to the market, even if they do not want to, for fear of legal challenge.
Labour oppose these regulations because they risk fragmenting care and are seeing large amounts of money spent on tendering exercises rather than patient care.
• Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party show NHS hospitals are now spending in excess of £60 million per year just on tendering exercises / assessing tenders for bids. In addition to this, Clinical Commissioning Groups will also be spending millions on putting services out to tender.
• In a survey by Health Service Journal, two thirds of commissioners said they had experienced increased commissioning costs as a result of the new regulations (Health Service Journal, 4 April 2014)
• Last year, the Chief Executive of the NHS said “You’ve got competition lawyers all over the place, causing enormous difficulty…We are getting, in my view, bogged down in a morass of competition law which is causing?.?.?.?significant cost in the system” (Sir David Nicholson, Financial Times, 5 November 2013).

The Bill scraps these rules and return to a system based on collaboration and integration. The Bill would also give contracting authorities the right to use ‘NHS contracts’ to ensure they can avoid competition law.

Pound Notes – A different Paisley pattern

Stephen Pound was among those at the memorial service for the firebrand First Minister

Ian Paisley moved on from a position of frozen defiance

Ian Paisley moved on from a position of frozen defiance

The transition of the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley from firebrand demagogue to warm-hearted inclusive statesman has been well documented but it is one that many of us are still struggling to come to terms with.
The vitriolic language and sheer negativism that were his trademarks during the decades that led to the Good Friday Agreement still take some getting over, and the numerous stories of his personal kindness and the service he gave to constituents from both communities in North Antrim do not entirely shade away the memory of he who chose to bellow at the Pope and ramp up the divisions that held us back in the north of Ireland for far too long.
Paisley is no longer with us and maybe it is time for a little generosity of spirit and a concentration on his role as the power-sharing First Minister who may have characterised his relationship with Martin McGuinness as a lamb lying down with a lion but which the rest of the world marvelled at and accepted that the relationship between First and Deputy First Minister was not only quite extraordinary but was an essential component of the architecture of the power sharing executive at Stormont. With charitable thought in mind, I headed off to the remembrance service held at the Ulster Hall on October 19.
The order of service proclaimed that Lord Bannside had been “born on the 6th April 1926, born again on the 29th May 1932 and called home on the 12th September 2014”.
Naomi Long, Alliance East Belfast MP and the woman who beat Peter Robinson at the 2010 Westminster general election, was there with Alisdair McDonnell (SDLP South Belfast) and the Rev Dr Willie McCrea MP – presumable in his capacity as a Free Presbyterian minister – as was Jim Shannon, DUP Strangford.
I was seated in a row that extended from Chief Constable George Hamilton and the Speaker of the House
of Commons, John Bercow, to the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle, and included Paul Murphy, former Labour Secretary of State in Northern Ireland, and Sylvia Hermon the (very) independent MP for North Down. However, I was actually seated between former Taoiseach Bertie Aherne and Alex Salmond. Bertie seized Alex in a warm handshake with elicited a gasp of pain from Scotland’s recently bruised Braveheart and he pointed to the bandaging that wrapped his right hand. He told Bertie that he had suffered from the extensive handshaking during the referendum campaign to which the former Taoiseach gently suggested that he might have needed to have shaken a few more in light of the result.
This was very much a family occasion and Dr Paisley’s two sons, Ian K. Paisley MP and the Rev JC Kyle
Paisley spoke amid the ministers but Eileen, Baroness Paisley, was the star of the afternoon with a passionate and loving tribute that overcame the limitations of a trembling voice and deep emotional sadness.
I won’t pretend that I wasn’t profoundly conflicted and as the piper played Amazing Grace, I kept hearing those harsh tones in my ear and remembering the booming voice declaiming like the Demosthenes of the
DUP that he didn’t say “No” as that was far too temporary – he said “Never!”
Yes, I do remember the gentler side. Former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who was brought up in Armagh and educated in Belfast, once asked me to approach Dr Paisley on his behalf to ask if he would marry Lembit and Sian Lloyd. In the spirit of theological and political ecumenism I happily did so and cherish the memory of the meeting that I brokered in which Ian Paisley said that he would be happy to officiate, but if he bound Lembit and Sian together it would be with bonds that could not be broken and which would be tied very tightly indeed. Lembit transferred his affections and attention to one of the Cheeky Girls soon afterwards, but I saw no causal linkage.
Sadly, the peace process in the North is still fragile and the latest impasse is being addressed by the current cross-party talks. Hearing the increasingly impressive Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, talk about the commitment of Dublin to breaking the logjam and remembering how Ian Paisley bitterly opposed any such moves or participation from Dublin during the early days of the Good Friday Agreement reminded me of how far we had come.
The three strands of the Good Friday Agreement are as crucial today as they were when agreed and the delicate nature of the talks currently being undertaken both underlines the seriousness of the impasse and shows in stark relief the gap between the wishes of the population of the north of Ireland for a peaceful and inclusive future and the apparent inability of the political institutions to reflect this.
Ian Paisley was able to move on from a position of frozen defiance, and there are enough good politicians in Stormont to show that they can do the same.
That really would be a tribute to the late Dr Paisley.

Stephen Pound is Labour MP for Ealing North

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