Labour Rebels Set to Win Concessions on Foundation Hospitals; UP TO 70 BACKBENCHERS OPPOSE FLAGSHIP SHAKE-UP OF THE HEALTH SERVICE

By Murphy, Joe | The Evening Standard (London, England), July 8, 2003 | Go to article overview

Labour Rebels Set to Win Concessions on Foundation Hospitals; UP TO 70 BACKBENCHERS OPPOSE FLAGSHIP SHAKE-UP OF THE HEALTH SERVICE


Murphy, Joe, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: JOE MURPHY

TONY BLAIR was being forced to offer new concessions on his NHS reforms today in the face of a huge rebellion by MPs.

Up to 70 Labour backbenchers were set to oppose his flagship plan for foundation hospitals in a Commons showdown tonight.

Ministers were dropping strong hints to backbenchers they are prepared to water down the plans further to prevent the revolt growing.

The moves include promising that Parliament will be given powers to scrutinise the activities of foundation hospitals, which will be semiindependent.

In addition, they are promising safeguards to prevent hospitals being "taken over" by pressure groups, such as religious sects or antiabortion campaigns.

Some 65 Labour MPs voted against the plan in the last big vote in the Commons in May - with another 50 sitting on their hands.

Labour whips were said to have reassured Mr Blair yesterday that they were confident the size of tonight's revolt had been held in check and might even fizzle out.

Today's vote is the first since the reforms' author, Alan Milburn, stepped down as Health Secretary.

New Health Secretary John Reid has held a string of private meetings-with wavering backbenchers over recent days where he promised to heed their concerns.

Among the concessions is a promise to ensure new elected committees running hospitals will properly "reflect the communities which they serve". That is aimed at concerns that small groups of singleissue campaigners could take over to dictate, for example, policies on abortions. …

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