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The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The measure risks damaging, rather than building, public trust in the whole process of changing hospitals. In the end, that is probably the most powerful argument against what the Government are seeking to do.
By any reckoning, the proposal is a major change of policy from the one set out in the coalition agreement; yet there has been no Green Paper, no White Paper, no policy document, no statement to Parliament, no proper explanation of the Government’s intentions and no justification of the extreme measures sought. Instead, on the back of a court defeat, the Secretary of State has rammed a new clause into the Bill, asking the House to give him sweeping powers over the NHS in all our constituencies without even having the courtesy to come to the House to make the argument for the changes himself. How arrogant to expect us just to rubber-stamp the powers, without even coming to explain himself. That really shows the House a major discourtesy.
The fact is that the Secretary of State has not adequately made the case for what he wants to do. Instead, Members are asked to take a leap of faith and to trust him, but that is very hard to do when we see what happened to the people of Lewisham. In standing up to this Government, they won a victory for everyone; without them, we would not be debating clause 119 today. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Dame Joan Ruddock and my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham West and Penge (Jim Dowd) and for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), who provided superb leadership when the people of Lewisham felt incredible outrage at their trusted and valued local hospital being prised out of their hands.