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And the answer is not just with consultations. The issue facing us today, and why I cannot support clause 119, is simply this: the argument on reconfigurations, with the greatest respect to all hon. Members, will not be won by politicians or even by senior managers in the NHS. There has to be a clinically led argument from GPs upwards throughout the acute sector. For many, many years they have not made the case. The process has been littered with broken promises over the years, regardless of the good intentions of politicians. I can do nothing tonight that would suggest a further breach of trust by weakening the power of consultation, even though I accept that consultation has not had its finest hour—or, in my case, its finest 10 years.
I have faith that the voice of the British public, and the intent behind the Health and Social Care Act 2012 in particular, on which I was engaged over many weeks, is to bring clinical decision making to the front line and to empower local people, local authorities and patients further. That has been a great step. The second reason why I find it difficult to run with clause 119, and why I support the amendment tabled by Paul Burstow, is that he recognises the need to extend the consultation to all key stakeholders, not least to those in trusts that could be affected through no fault of their own, to extend their powers as well. That went to the heart of the 2012 Act. Indeed, we are blessed with two former Ministers in the Chamber, with whom I spent many happy hours on those Benches—it was not acrimonious at all. This was a core principle behind what we were trying to do.
Let us deal with the exceptional cases. I accept entirely that there is no master plan to run through configurations on the basis of the proposed changes, but I cannot ignore the fact that the proposed legislation we are being asked to approve allows for changes to be made in circumstances that would leave a democratic deficit and subjugate clinical judgment because of a stressful financial situation.