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Health Bill to be sent back to Commons

MPs have voted to send the Government's Health Bill back to the Commons to debate key changes to the reforms.

The decision to 'recommit' parts of the Bill was passed by a majority of 73, following the Government's acceptance of key concessions to the reforms that will limit competition and create more roles for other clinicians aside from GPs on the boards of consortia, now called clinical commissioning groups. .

Health Minister Simon Burns said the amendments would focus on the role of the Secretary of State, clinical commissioning groups, the NHS commissioning board, the role of Monitor, foundation trusts, health and wellbeing boards and HealthWatch.

He said the Government would recommit 63 of the Bill's clauses, amending 35 of them, and add a further five clauses to the Bill. In total he said the Government would make 160 amendments to the legislation.

The minister acknowledged the changes were ‘substantial and significant', but insisted it did not require the whole Bill to be committed, despite Labour's argument that the Government's concessions had altered the Bill to such an an extent that it should be sent back in its entirety for debate.

Shadow health secretary John Healey said: ‘The way the Government are dealing with the NHS and with the House of Commons is a disgrace. Last week, the Prime Minister was forced to backtrack in some areas to buy off the many critics of his health plans. This week, to head off proper parliamentary scrutiny of his plans, he refuses to put the whole Bill back into Committee.

‘The Bill will mean that the NHS is deeply mired in more centralisation, more complex bureaucracy and more wasted cost in the years to come. There will be five new national quangos and five new local bodies doing the job that one—the primary care trust—does at present.

But Mr Burns defended the moves, which he said will allow 'a sensible debate about the revisions'.

‘As the changes we are making are substantial and significant, we have decided to recommit relevant parts of the Bill to Committee. We are demonstrably committed to subjecting the Bill to the full and proper scrutiny of Parliament.'