Friday, 9 March 2012

Chris Huhne Wrong - Tribunal Decides

Hedge End MP Chris Huhne has been siding with the Government in the recent controversies over Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill, voting to keep secret the Department of Health's Risk Register.  Although recognising it was in conflict with the Liberal Democrats' long-standing policies on freedom of information and open government, Chris concluded that "not releasing this risk register is in the best interests of full and frank policy-making".

After two days of evidence and two days of consideration, the Information Tribunal has decided that Chris, together with most Conservative MPs and a number of Lib Dems, was wrong, and that it is in the public interest that the Government should publish the risk register.  The Information Commissioner's original judgement has been upheld, and MPs and the public should have the full facts before the final decision is made on the Bill, which has been described as a hand grenade being thrown into the NHS and "an unholy mess".

The Lib Dems are split over the NHS reforms with some, such as Andrew George MP, the Lib Dems' representative on the Health Select Committee in favour of publishing the risks and against the Bill itself. 

These NHS reforms have no popular mandate: they were not in the Lib Dems' or the Conservative manifesto, and they are not in the coalition agreement.  An e-petition calling on the government to  "drop the bill" has reached over 170,000 signatures and will be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday 13th March.

In the teeth of opposition by voters and the majority of the professional bodies working in the NHS, there is a strong grass roots movement in the Lib Dems hoping to use an emergency debate at their Spring conference this weekend to call on the leadership to withdraw support for the Tories' plans. 

As the Conservatives have indicated that they have every intention of kicking Eastleigh Lib Dems when they are down, Chris and his local team must be wondering whether it is in their best interests to support the Tories or defend the NHS over the next few days.

If you should feel inclined to let Chris know how you feel about the NHS plans, he can be contacted on

(Photo credit: David Spender)

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