Public’s strength of feeling leads Halifax MP to attend the NHS Bill debate

Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS thanks the Halifax MP, Holly Lynch, for listening to her constituents and attending the House of Commons debate on the NHS (Reinstatement) Bill on Friday 11 March.

We also condemn Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker for taking part in a four and a half hour long Tory filibuster that delayed the start of the NHS Bill debate. As a result, it only had  17 minutes of Parliamentary time.

Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS was part of a determined, organised Calderdale campaign for the 2016 NHS Reinstatement Bill, that saw several local organisations, including Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign Group, announce their support for the NHS Bill, and many members of the public ask their MPs to attend the House of Common debate on its second reading.

NHS Bill is vital in order to stop and reverse the dismantling of the NHS

This is currently galloping ahead in Calderdale and Kirklees.

The proposed hospital cuts would mean each area ends up with only  half a hospital – one for planned care, one for emergency care – with only one Emergency Centre (a new type of A&E) for both areas.

Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS is intent on stopping these proposals, which are contrary to the health needs of the people of both areas. The deeply flawed public consultation, which is due to start on 15 March, is just as unfit for purpose.

Restoring the NHS through the NHS Bill is ultimately the only way to stop these proposals from being rolled out all across England, as part of the government’s agenda to shrink the NHS and replace it by a private health care system.

When we lobbied her on Saturday 5th March, Holly Lynch told us she wasn’t intending to attend the NHS Bill debate, but would change her mind if enough constituents told her they wanted her to.

After successful lobbying by the group and local people, Holly Lynch realised the strength of feeling in the local community and changed her decision

It is a testament to the Halifax public, and to Holly Lynch for listening to them and keeping her word to us, that she did end up attending the NHS Bill debate.

The challenge now is for more members of the public to gain the ear of their Labour MPs and convince them to support the NHS Bill too – since this was something that to date the Parliamentary Labour Party has so far not been willing or able to do.

We are sure that the position of the Parliamentary Labour Party on this does not reflect the view of the majority of Labour Party Members; local Labour Party members say they will continue the fight to change this position, with the the support of Labour MPs who have come out in favour of the NHS Bill.

This Bill isn’t going away

Caroline Lucas MP, who presented the NHS Bill in the House of Commons, said after the debate,

“The NHS is in crisis – and this week tens of thousands of people have asked their MPs to say ‘enough is enough’. But the enthusiasm of the public hasn’t been met by the political commitment that’s needed to save our health service.

“It’s extremely disappointing that we didn’t have a chance to properly discuss or vote on this bill today. Though I pay tribute to the SNP and to those Labour MPs who did take the time to come to Parliament today for this crucial debate, the Tories who filibustered the bill have done our democracy a disservice. But the Labour Leadership should have done more to move this bill forward too. I had hoped they would have publicly committed to it and asked their MPs to come to today’s debate – by doing so we could have ended the filibustering and properly discussed the future of our NHS.

“This Bill isn’t going away and I urge MPs to join the campaign to reinstate the founding principles of a truly public NHS.”

Peter Roderick, the co-author of the NHS Bill, said  after the NHS Bill debate:

“Perhaps the most disappointing impression was the small number of Labour MPs who turned up – perhaps 15, certainly no more than 20 (hard to count with the comings and goings). Full marks to those who did – and to the strong showing from the SNP – but there’s a long way to go.

“… If enough Labour MPs had turned up, it might have been possible to stop the Tory MPs talking by putting a closure motion. When this was pointed out by Caroline Lucas, the shared smirks on the faces of silent Heidi Alexander, Labour shadow health minister, and the junior health minister Ben Gummer, gave the game way. The Tories didn’t want a proper NHS debate, neither did Labour’s health team and together they made sure it didn’t happen. Body language speaks louder than words.

“Filibustering, empty benches, silence, smirks and front bench deals are contemptuous responses to tens of thousands of people. They are also counter-productive.  This second NHS Reinstatement Bill will fall. But the spirit is high and the commitment to bring a third, and a fourth, and a fifth – until a proper public NHS is restored – is stronger than ever.”

Something to build on

In continuing to campaign for the NHS Bill, Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS are heartened by the success of the campaign to urge Holly Lynch MP to attend the debate, and to vote for it if the occasion arose.

This gives us something to build on, and it is doubly a credit to Holly Lynch MP that she turned up – even though the Labour leadership didn’t commit to the NHS Bill and ask their MPs to come to the debate. So thank you again, Holly.

It might seem ungracious to accompany credit to Holly, where it’s due, with criticism from Peter Roderick of both the Tory Party AND Labour’s health team.

But Calderdale & Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS know from attending an NHS activists’ meeting with Heidi Alexander in January this year, that she does not share the Labour leadership’s support for the NHS Bill.

In carrying on the campaign for the NHS Bill, we are bound to draw attention to the need to resolve this problem.

The next big step is in April, when West Yorkshire TUC takes forward its priority motion in support of the NHS Bill to the regional TUC.

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