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MPs clash over Summary Care Record

By Steve Nowottny

A furious political row erupted yesterday following the publication of the Health Select Committee's report into the electronic patient record.

In an extraordinary outburst at the press conference held to launch the report, MPs shouted each other down and traded insults in front of bemused journalists.

The bust up came after the three Conservative MPs on the committee voted against the whole report, in protest at an alleged breach of parliamentary etiquette.

Tory MP David Amess said a number of committee members had broken a long-standing parliamentary convention by taking part in a party political debate on NHS IT while the committee's inquiry was ongoing.

Several committee members, including the Labour chairman Kevin Barron and Tory member Stewart Jackson, took part in a debate on NHS IT in June.

The clerk of the House of Commons had confirmed that the convention existed, Mr Amess added.

‘He gave me the advice that it was fine if I and my colleagues felt minded not to continue to attend the rest of the evidence sessions, which we didn't do, and that when it came to the consideration of the report to vote against,' he said.

However, Liberal Democrat MP Sandra Gidley said: ‘I'm very disappointed with the way this has divided along party lines, because that's not the way we work.'

‘I think there was a deliberate attempt to scupper the result.'

In a heated exchange, Kevin Barron, Labour MP and chair of the committee, angrily denied that the parliamentary convention existed.

‘I think this is about people who didn't like what was said on the floor of the House,' he told Mr Amess. ‘Quite frankly I think your opposition is party political.'

But Mr Amess, the longest serving member of the committee, replied: ‘I take it entirely personally what you've said.

‘I'm not going to be called a liar,' he added. ‘We're not going to air our dirty linen in public.'

Mr Barron retorted: ‘You started it.'

A spokesperson for the House of Commons said: ‘There's no hard and fast rule that members on a committee wouldn't engage in a debate on the topic that their committee was investigating.'

‘There is a rule that proceedings in committee are confidential, so they wouldn't be able to divulge any of the committee's views or what it had been deciding.'

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