Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lib-Dems 'To Get Free NHS Vote'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lib-Dems 'To Get Free NHS Vote'

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil Deputy Political Editor

NICK CLEGG will not force his MPs to back key planks of Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms if they are blocked by Liberal Democrat peers, the Evening Standard has been told.

Shirley Williams, who has led the revolt against the reforms, believes it is "highly unlikely" that her party's MPs would be whipped into overturning Lib-Dem-backed amendments in the Lords.

"It's quite a dramatic advance," she said. Lib-Dem parliamentarians are drawing up rival plans to Mr Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill in case the Government has to ditch it completely.

The moves will infuriate Tory MPs.

Mr Clegg's aides believe a deal can be reached between Lib-Dem peers and the Health Secretary which would avoid a Commons showdown. But they did not rule out MPs being given a free vote on changes to the Bill made by the Upper Chamber where it is being debated this week.

Lib-Dem peers want the Competition Commission's role in the reforms stripped from the Bill, tighter controls over conflicts of interests and the independent regulator Monitor to agree limits with each hospital on how many private patients it can treat. …

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