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Lib Dem president calls for competition chapter to be removed from health bill

The Health and Social Care Bill should be scrapped unless sections on promoting competition are abandoned, says the president of the Liberal Democrats.

Speaking on a debate on Granada TV’s Party People last night, Tim Farron gave the strongest indication yet of the strength of feeling in the Lib Dem ranks, and urged the Government to ‘give way’ on the whole section of the bill that looks to increase competition.

The disclosure heaps pressure on the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who has repeatedly insisted the health bill should go through, and leant his backing to beleaguered health secretary Andrew Lansley.

But Mr Farron, who appeared on a panel with shadow health secretary Andy Burnham and Conservative MP Stephen O’Brien, was pinned down on whether he thought the bill should be scrapped, and said he felt it should only remain if all traces of competition were removed.

He said ‘It depends on one thing, it depends on chapter three, the competition chapter of this bill. If the new competition introduced by this bill is removed, then I think it’s better on the buck than it is off it.’

‘But it’s not, then we are in a situation where I do not feel…it’s not in our manifesto, or in the coalition agreement, we have got to take some responsibility for all this. We could have perhaps dealt with this sooner on but it’s important we deal with it now.

‘We have to look at what this bill means for the future of our NHS. It’s the competition element that worries me the most.’

‘I would like the Lords to propose amendments and I would like the Government to give way on those things.’