NHS (Private Sector)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:17 pm on 16th January 2012.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Secretary of State for Health 7:17 pm, 16th January 2012

Just hang on and listen. Nothing has been done to the Bill to bring together the Prime Minister’s and Deputy Prime Minister’s promises that there would be no privatisation. There has been no substantial change since the pause.

Let me come directly to whether the Bill represents a privatisation of the kind that we saw in the 1980s. In doing so, I shall refer to a report from the King’s Fund, which I recommend to the hon. Lady. The Government have failed to introduce measures that they promised, months after the pause, so it is still considered appropriate for a body as respected as the King’s Fund to make a fairly shocking comparison that, indeed, the Bill is similar to the privatisations of the Thatcher Government. The report says:

“The Government’s proposals draw heavily on the regulatory framework developed in telecoms and utilities regulators …Interestingly, Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley’s own ideas for the reform of the NHS, developed while in opposition, were born out of his experience of the privatisation and regulation of utilities in the mid-1980s when he was Principal Private Secretary to Norman Tebbit.”

There we—[Interruption.] Okay, there we have it. That is the view of the King’s Fund—this is a privatisation along the lines of those we saw in the 1980s.

To back up that point, the King’s Fund quotes from a speech that the Secretary of State gave in 2005 to the NHS Confederation. He said this of the 1980s privatisations:

“The combination of the introduction of competition with a strong independent regulator delivered immense consumer value and economic benefits.”

There are two problems with that statement. First, there are real questions about whether gas, electricity, water and rail customers feel that they have had immense value. Secondly, it is troubling that the Secretary of State for Health, of all people, considers the delivery of health care directly comparable to telecoms and utilities.