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I will come on to that point, but the CQC had existing powers on care failure, and powers to move more quickly than clause 119 provides for. Adequate powers were in place to deal with the point the hon. Gentleman has just made.
In truth, it is arrogance in the extreme for the Government to be coming along today—and worse, it seriously risks damaging public trust in how change in the NHS is made. That will be the real loss if the clause is accepted. It threatens to destroy any public faith in a sense of fair process governing these crucial decisions, and any prospect of cross-party consensus on a way to make changes to hospital services.
Making changes to those services is about the most difficult decision that politicians have to make, but the fact is that hospitals need to change if we are to make services safer and respond to the pressures of an ageing society. We did not shy away from that in government, and we do not say something different now. However, there is a right way and a wrong way of going about such things.
The Government’s answer—to use a brutal administration process to take decisions above the heads of local people—is a spectacularly wrong response to a very real problem, and precisely because those decisions arouse such strong emotions, we must find better ways of involving people, not shutting them out. If people suspect a stitch-up, and see solutions imposed from on high, they will understandably fight back hard. Does the spectacle of tens of thousands of people marching in Stafford or on the streets of Lewisham not give Ministers pause for thought that this new approach might seriously set back the goal of better public engagement in the NHS?