A marathon debate…

Lord Norton

The Second Reading debate on the Health and Social Care Bill begins on Tuesday.  I say ‘begins’ because so many peers will be speaking that the debate is now being spread over two days, with the House sitting early on both days.   No less than 100 peers are signed up to speak.  Anyone wishing to watch the debate can do so on the BBC Democracy Live website.

45 comments for “A marathon debate…

  1. DanFilson
    09/10/2011 at 7:11 pm

    One question peers should ask is whether any actions have already been taken on an assumption the bill will be enacted.

  2. maude elwes
    09/10/2011 at 8:04 pm

    @Lord Norton:

    I shall be watching closely. Just to see who is the most shifty in the bunch.

  3. gppixelworks
    09/10/2011 at 11:21 pm

    Our future health rests in the hands of the House of Lords.

    Two days seems such a minimal period of time to discuss a bill which:

    o Has no mandate.
    o In no party’s manifesto.
    o Has all major medical organizations opposing the bill.
    o Has had major sections put into effect prior to the bill becoming law.

    The manner in which this bill has been forced through and already implemented in major ways feels as if England was in a war, we lost, and the conquering people are enacting laws against the will of the majority of those in the country.

    This, with all respect, does not feel like democracy is the guiding principle.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      10/10/2011 at 10:57 am

      gppixelworks: It is a two-day debate on the Second Reading. The committee stage of the Bill will occupy a good period of time.

    • Croft
      10/10/2011 at 12:00 pm


      1) Since no one voted for a coalition no one has a mandate (majoritarian) so shall we all pack up for 5 years and twiddle our thumbs!

      2) Actually quite a lot about accountability and choice in the manifesto – little about how that was to be achieved.

      3) (sighs) Yes because the vested interests are of course the most impartial source to decide all such matters. Short memory; the doctors opposed the NHS in 48. Bevan called the BMA a “small body of politically poisoned people”. For all the screaming of the vested interests consider where we are. The UK pays its doctors more than any other OECD country bar the US (’05 figures) which equates to billions lost to the NHS -v- comparative countries in pay/pensions. Bevan stuffed doctors mouths with gold to buy them off and it has continued ever since.

      4)Parts have been implemented before the act because the government had all the legal power it needed under previous acts its not something illegal.

  4. Frank W. Summers III
    10/10/2011 at 3:24 am

    Lord Norton,
    It sounds like a vigorous exercise.
    I look forward to catching much of this…

  5. 10/10/2011 at 8:42 am

    What should those of us with desperate concern about this bill do? Is it appropriate to lobby as many of you as we can? Will that help? Could it be counterproductive?

    Many of us feel the democratic process has failed us with regard to this bill. Can we rely upon the lords to scrutinise the proposed legislation properly and then do what is right and not what the whips require? If so, it shows the great value of an (essentially) unelected upper chamber. You will have my vote 😉

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      10/10/2011 at 11:01 am

      Dr Grumble: A great many people are lobbying peers on the Bill. Our e-mail in-boxes can bear testimony to that, though a letter is sometimes a more effective means of ensuring your point is considered. Anyone wanting to find a list of peers can do so on the Parliament website. It is also possible to follow progress on the Bill via the website and, once Second Reading is completed, the amendments that are tabled to the Bill.

      • DanFilson
        10/10/2011 at 2:10 pm

        Why should a letter carry more weight than a well-constructed polite email? I know it is easier to write and send an email, and some are intemperate, but as someone who lacks a working printer and has unreadable handwriting, I assure you my emails are more reader-friendly. I cannot help it if MPs and Peers do not read what is sent to them. Why should this be? As an elected councillor for 12 years I always read every single letter sent to me, even when on occasions they arrived like autumn falling leaves, impossible to stop. Parliamentarians should do likewise.

        • 11/10/2011 at 11:19 am

          I would have thought the biggest difference was whether the letter/e-mail is individually written, rather than just being a copy of a standard letter crafted by a campaign group. If a peer received a number of identical letters or e-mails, these are collectively going to count for less than just one personally written letter.

          Having said that, if I have customer service issues with a large company, for example, I do tend to resort to a real paper letter as I sill think they have more impact and are harder to avoid. E-mails can be deleted in a fraction of a second, but a letter has to be physically disposed of.

          • DanFilson
            11/10/2011 at 3:35 pm

            You don’t know how fast a letter can be binned! Generally, though, you’re right. I think it most unwise of campaigning groups to produce template emails or letters.

    • Twm O'r Nant
      10/10/2011 at 2:01 pm

      Dr Grumble,

      It takes an awful lot of effort to smiley as you have done, so well done, but what can you do about the local doctors round here, the nearest of whom are, Dr Pain and Dr Boyle?

      Wince? Get out your own needle? what? Pray?

  6. Twm o'r Nant
    10/10/2011 at 9:09 am

    What I wonder is how long it would really take to air all the relevant problems with it, if they were only said once?

    10% of the time, 5% even!

  7. MilesJSD
    11/10/2011 at 9:09 am

    I now have further reason to believe that neither British Democracy nor the BBC in it are Fit-for-Purpose:

    I clicked your link to “Democracy Live”, felt immediately ‘swamped’ by the number of little boxes, graphic stuff, and seemingly ‘directionless’ verbiages; so clicked the “find your representatives” (plural – I felt expectantly overjoyed) by entering my postcode and was shown face snaps of my Labour MP, and six MEPs for the South West.

    I was asked to complete a questionnaire, including filling-in the ‘Comment’ box giving my impression of this BBC Democracy Live e-site as a first-visit-er which I did thus:

    ” Its content-spread looks ‘overwhelmingly detailed’.

    Neither the ‘debate’ I visited DL to follow is readily visible (viz Lord Norton’s LOTB post re Welfare bill);

    nor any ‘snapshottable’ overall-transparent ‘holistic’ Scope of the site.

    From previous live British, European, and United Nations ‘democratic’ experience, since the BBC suppresses serious, even when maximally shortened, questions and constructive-submissions upwards from the democratic citizen, both written in, and voiced during participation in regional and national TV and Radio forums, I come with an already disillusioned and disaffected spirit and mind – unable to trust either the BBC or British Democracy, Constitution, Law and ‘Society’. “
    ————– 0909AM.T11Oct2011.JSDM.

  8. MilesJSD
    11/10/2011 at 9:17 am

    Incidentally to this bogged-down visit to your recommended BBC Democracy Live e-site,

    having quckly been shown 7 (seven) parliamentary representatives for my region the South West

    and having gone ahead and filled-in the questionaire

    the site offers to return me to a main page, which I clicked, and presented me with the following time-saving maximised-‘response’:

    “There are no representatives available for your postcode PL6 5LY”.

    Sh** (shucks), Lord Norton !

    • DanFilson
      11/10/2011 at 3:57 pm

      However it succeeded in showing you:
      (a) your MP
      (b) your 6 Members of the European Parliament.

      It is, incidentally, one of the irritations about the way we have chosen (by which I mean Parliament has chosen) how MEPs are elected, that you cannot say that one particular MEP is your MEP. My political party has two MEPs for the whole of Greater London, so each poor MEP has to visit in turn 70 or so Parliamentary constituencies to keep in touch. But that is just an aside.

      Your mistake was completing the questionnaire. Satisfaction questionnaires just lure the compilers into a false sense of satisfaction with themselves. But this does not mean Democracy Live or the BBC are not fit for purpose. I was quite impressed by Democracy Live as a site, though my preference is for the BBC Parliament Channel which only has a few flaws – the spotty youths who repeatedly tell me the basics of Parliament procedure, the excessive coverage of Westminster Hall and Lords relative to the chamber and committee rooms of the Commons, and the excessive repeating of certain past debates. But no commercial channel covers Parliament anything like so well, and I find it hard to believe any ever will, so those who gripe at the BBC should bear that in mind.

  9. maude elwes
    11/10/2011 at 2:59 pm

    It is almost 2.40pm and I watched from 12.45pm.

    What struck me most in all that time, was, Lord Owen, Dr. David Owen, being very handsome and looking immaculate. He stood out as a man who deserved to be in the chamber because he looked the part. He also appeared to be genuinely concerned and worried about the machinations taking place over this bill.

    The next person to stand out was and I didn’t write down his name, but it sounded like, Lord Robero? On at around 2pm. He was truly articulate with a very good, clear speaking voice. He was the one who said he coined the term ‘cherry picking’ in 2006. And I liked his down to earth views and what appeared to be irritation with the whole carry on, as he is a surgeon and has to put up with the constant bureaucratic nonsense.

    However, the cream of them all was Shirley Williams. Obviously dedicated to the NHS and the understanding, in no uncertain terms, the need for it. Clear in her perception of what is taking place via the back door, and well aware of the mess they have in the US on health care. Along with the subsequent cost and failure of that system. She also knew accountability has to be key to change. Now that is a Lady to elevate. If only ‘all’ the Lords were as dedicated as she obviously is. Then we could return to a sense of trust in the decency and honour in the hour of need, so recently found lacking in those who are supposed to speak for us in a democracy.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      11/10/2011 at 4:26 pm

      maude elwes: Yes, it is Lord Ribeiro.

      • Twm O'r Nant
        11/10/2011 at 7:04 pm

        Not again surely?!

        A veiled apology has been demanded from the hyphen monger for my writing “respons-ibility”.
        It is an apology I gladly give. I’m sorry!

        ThanX to Lord Norton for that link of which I was unaware. The European proceedings can be very interesting.

        Lord Owen is always so clear with his argument; such a fine brain.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          11/10/2011 at 9:01 pm

          Twm O’r Nant: I have my uses! Though you comment raises the important question as to how we can ensure that more people are aware of the Democracy Live website.

  10. fionasvoice
    11/10/2011 at 11:48 pm

    Lords & Baronesses,

    There is grave concern regarding changes to the NHS. The NHS is I believe not only a health service but representative of the values and ethics of our country: a shining beacon in a world that struggles to offer appropriate care for it’s citizens.

    There are so many reasons why these changes need to be scrutinised by yourself and peers. I realise that those who are able to af…ford private health care would struggle to understand the importance surrounding the very real concerns that ordinary people have, however that is never reason to cause harm or damage.

    Myself and millions others like me rely on the security and safety afforded by having a workable and approachable NHS with high moral standards and guidelines. Yes there are reasons for cutbacks however GPs and other medical personnel are trained often at the expense of the public purse to bring healing to the same community that paid for their training. These doctors are not business men and women and neither have they been trained in that manner as part of their medical training.

    Is it not bad enough that the public has been very let down by the banks and financial institutions and furthermore are footing the bill for it – though for the life of me I can’t understand why? Why aren’t the banks shouldering this burden of economic cuts backs. Cut backs that are leaving families hungry, homeless and with evermore health problems looming as a result. Are we now to see our health service destroyed too? I do not think the British public will accept that and it could well be the push to far.

    We the public we need our faith restoring not to be ashamed of the mess that we are in that causes riots or governments to make underhanded cuts that actually will cost the tax payer more. At some point whatever party or people they need to stop and ask what being British stands for: honour, accountability, democracy and a National Health Service for all.

    Please help please question on our behalf. I do not know all the ins and outs of the changes proposed for the NHS but what I have heard and read fills me with utter alarm. If as a country we suddenly decide no we don’t have a duty to offer health care or we set our doctors in competition with one another well then it’s not Great Britain anymore: its the 21 century but that’s no reason not to keep what’s great about this country: the great heart that created a democracy that clothes, feeds and shelters it’s people and 100% proudly offering a wonderful health care for all : that’s what makes me proud to be British. I have watched how proud I was be eroded over recent years and I hope the damage is not irreparable ……..damage to the NHS would not only be to our health service but our faith and trust in the keepers of our democracy, our home and that would be irreparable.

    Fiona Verity MSc

    • Lord Blagger
      12/10/2011 at 10:58 am

      So much so that it contributes to the deaths of 20-80,000 of its patients a year.

      It’s not a shining example, its a disaster.

      1. You need a health set up that has universal coverage – so that rules out the US model.

      2. You need to separate the insurer from the regulator from the supplier

      That rules out the NHS, and the reason is that it kills so many of its patients.

      If you want a workable system, try the Swiss. It’s only a 100 quid more expensive than the UK, and the quality far exceeds UK. Mind you with the NHS, the pension costs have still to hit home.

      • fionasvoice
        12/10/2011 at 1:02 pm

        I do not recall saying that the NHS was without challenges that needed addressing. Furthermore quoting only negatives does not represent the whole situation does it? However, do feel free to quote accurate figures of the thousands treated every year and the thousands of lifes saved each year. You call yourself Lord Blagger a Lord I do not believe would be so limited in their reply and would offer only a balanced objective constructive reply and in future that is what I will respond to. This is not a game there is a lot a stake more than yours or my beliefs or egos Good day to you.

      • DanFilson
        12/10/2011 at 1:29 pm

        Why bring in an insurer at all? Completely unnecessary.

        The NHS model requires an element of rationing, much though nobody wants to admit it. So experts – yes, I trust experts occasionally – decide which drug treatments are too expensive relative to the benefits conferred, which surgical treatments are too risky in given circumstances. And there are decisions taken at the end of life that fighting to keep alive is too harmful to the patient and too injurious to their quality of life that palliative measures are better all round. But give me the NHS any day to the alternatives.

        3 years ago I got a friend to drive me to A&E as I really was not feeling well inside. I know I should have gone first to my GP. But they did tests and calmed my insides down, and then told me they needed to admit for surgery on my aorta. 6 weeks later, 3 operations and 3 stents inserted, a mini-stroke mostly over in 3 days, I emerged both thinner and better. The cost was perhaps over £160,000 and thanks to the NHS it cost me nothing. Yes, sometimes people do die being treated, or just die in a hospital bed of old age. But it is a calumny to suggest that this is a systemic problem.

  11. Gar Howell
    12/10/2011 at 11:30 am

    but representative of the values and ethics of our country:

    With deep regret yes.

    a shining beacon in a world

    a shining beacon of despair for good practices!

    Oh ! Fiona! what’s it worth?

  12. fionasvoice
    12/10/2011 at 1:07 pm

    I am unable to reply properly as I am struggling to understand your point? Please expand. thank you Fionasvoice

  13. Gar Howell
    12/10/2011 at 7:16 pm


    I wonder whether Fiona has a useful treatment
    for being stung on disturbing a nest of hornets?!

    Talking of “Uses” Lord Norton does of course have some uses, which caused me to ask myself whether I am a utilitarian any more; probably not, but if it works, use it, if you need to.

    The link above is to quite few -isms and
    -asms which can be ….useful! Phrontistery.

    How can she be so uncouth about Lord Blagger, who seems to be in good form after his party conference.

  14. MilesJSD
    13/10/2011 at 8:12 am

    Every participant in any democratic process, including LOTB and this particular Lord Norton blog, needs to equip her-/him- self with the good-communication, honest-argumentation, and impartial-criticism skiils given by such clear-minded and un-biased professional persons as
    Christopher. W. Tindale, in “Fallacies and Argument Appraisal” (Cambridge 2007);

    and it is increasingly evident to me that Lord Norton, as “head” of the LOTB, and every mind-functionally ill-disciplined and under-performing parliamentary peer, needs so to do, and exemplarily so to other parliamentarians, and to publicly show that he and they are so doing.

    We are literally being buried alive, by widely ‘closed-shop’, ‘closed ranks’, and ‘professionally-privileged’ high-governance costliness, incapability, selfishness, and moral-mind-functional rotten-ness;
    buried, nigh on imperceptibly across the World but also here in the LOTB, under
    (1) avoidant, diversionary, and fallacious content in initial postings; and by
    (2) (subsequent and largely consequent) fallacious reader responses and response-abilities
    (3) a gathering worlwide decline in belief in British leadership, in English anglophonism, in British Governance, in the Sustainworthiness of British Bankers & the Monarchic Establishment, and in the British People themselves.

    Even many doctors admit that the NHS has never been an adequate health maintenance and longterm wellbeing-building service; despite its being a very good Illnesses, Hospitals, and medications service.
    And local government Social Care wants nothing to do with Health-Needs – “you must go to your GP for that”.

    Such matters need to be seriously scrutinised and remedied, including by the “Health and Social Care Bill” before its final version is printed and irreversibly put into enforcement.

  15. pleasehelpus
    14/10/2011 at 4:27 am

    “Anyone wishing to watch the debate can do so on the BBC Democracy Live website.”

    Shame we cant say the same about the welfare reform bill..

    A letter surely, is also easier to deny, even if the poster has proof of posting and proof of receipt – that only shows an envelope was sent, it does not prove the contents that were sent.

    An email on the other hand, the contents have to match the header checksums etc surely, so you have proof you sent it, and if a read receipt (or other means) is obtained, proof of receipt.

    Lord Norton, is it also not a duty for you to consider the disability discrimination act etc, and to ensure alternative forms of contact are treated with equal weight.
    After all, you are likely to get a lot of disabled or ill people contacting you about both the welfare reform and the NHS bill.

    For many of those, email is their method of communication due to health problems.

    To not give email equal weight, could be seen as a dereliction of duty surely, under the disability discrimination act?
    Or is the house of lords, and its members, whilst acting in a official capacity, exempt from such legal formalities?

    A quick look at the act where it states
    “(1)This Act applies to an act done by or for purposes of the House of Lords or the House of Commons as it applies to an act done by a private person.”

    seems to clearly indicate any work done for the purposes of the house of lords or commons is meant to comply with the act.

    So unless you know of an exemption, you should not be giving less weight to emails, as that would be disadvantaging people with disabilities.

    Its also a perfectly reasonable adjustment to give equal weight, I cannot see how it would fall under the guise of an unreasonable adjustment to do so.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      14/10/2011 at 6:50 pm

      pleasehelpus: The Act does not refer to individual members who are not acting on behalf of the House. A letter can be more effective in demonstrating one’s commitment, but if anyone writes a persuasive e-mail it can be more effective than a poorly-written letter.

  16. pleasehelpus
    14/10/2011 at 4:28 am

    ps the same would apply to comments via the web, where that is set up as a means of communication, such as when questions are asked to the lords or ladies etc on this blog, where they are currently posting etc.

  17. pleasehelpus
    14/10/2011 at 4:29 am

    Lord Norton, you say your not running away from any questions, but you have not answered my questions that I directed at you?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      14/10/2011 at 6:51 pm

      what questions?

  18. pleasehelpus
    14/10/2011 at 4:30 am

    (ps that is in regards to the welfare bill post, sorry posted it in the wrong section, its late)

  19. pleasehelpus
    14/10/2011 at 4:47 am

    One last point, in light of the admission,
    “though a letter is sometimes a more effective means of ensuring your point is considered.”

    Considering the disability discrimination act, if you check and find what I suspect is true, does that not mean to be democratic and fair, the proceedings of both bills should be ceased, and restarted, once ALL communication has been considered with equal weight, as per the acts expectations?

    Or will it continue, in the full knowledge, many disabled peoples communication may not have been given equal weight, leading to a clear bias in the evidence for the bill?

  20. pleasehelpus
    14/10/2011 at 9:53 pm

    “The Act does not refer to individual members who are not acting on behalf of the House. A letter can be more effective in demonstrating one’s commitment, but if anyone writes a persuasive e-mail it can be more effective than a poorly-written letter.”

    Surely, they are acting on behalf of the house, if they are being sent evidence and correspondance about the debate they are being involved in?

    How can it be said that listening to the views of the public about the bills, reading their evidence etc, is not acting on behalf of the house?

    Im confused?

    Surely it is part of expected duties to take on board public comment? Surely it is part of the service you provide to the public, and the government?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/10/2011 at 10:16 am

      pleaeehelpus: Members receive correspondence as individual members, which is distinct, for example, from the House or an agency of the House, such as a committee, receiving a communication. One can write to a member of a parliamentary committee but that is not the same as the committee receiving the communication. Members may and in my experience do read the correspondence they receive, and may be influenced by it, but they do so on their own judgment. There is a difference between members of the House and those authorised to act in the name of the House.

  21. pleasehelpus
    14/10/2011 at 9:55 pm

    “what questions?”

    the ones on the baroness murphy welfare reform blog post, about if there is a procedure for the public to raise concerns about any members of the house that they feel make have either conflict of interests, or be unsuitable for the task, due to say, past history of lying and unsuitable behaviour on topics highly related to topics central to the bill.

  22. pleasehelpus
    15/10/2011 at 8:56 pm

    Many thanks Lord Norton.

    I noted straight away, this bit on the page

    “Please note that complaints submitted by telephone or email will not be considered. ”

    It seems even the complaints procedure is biased against sick or disabled people whose preferred or only method of communication may be telephone or email.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      16/10/2011 at 2:40 pm

      pleasehelpus: I presume the reason for requiring a letter is that it carries a signature. It may be that if someone was not able to produce a letter, an alternative means may be acceptable, but that would need to be taken up with the commissioner’s office.

  23. pleasehelpus
    15/10/2011 at 9:00 pm

    “Members receive correspondence as individual members, which is distinct, for example, from the House or an agency of the House, such as a committee, receiving a communication. One can write to a member of a parliamentary committee but that is not the same as the committee receiving the communication. Members may and in my experience do read the correspondence they receive, and may be influenced by it, but they do so on their own judgment. There is a difference between members of the House and those authorised to act in the name of the House.”

    thanks, so if people want

    a) it to be official
    b) want to ensure all corespondance is given equal weight, they should contact the committee officially is that correct, as opposed to contacting individual people?
    If the ‘committee’ is contacted, are all members in the committee then given that information to read?

    How does one contact the ‘committee’, for say the welfare debate?
    Can the committee, as it acting officially, be contacted by means other than writing (ie email/telephone/web) etc?

    thanks, sorry for so many questions, but its all so complex and confusing.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      16/10/2011 at 3:01 pm

      pleasehelpus: I’m afraid it depends on the type of committee.

      A Select Committee can, indeed, receive evidence and letters and other submissions can therefore be sent to the clerk of the committee. If submitted as part of an inquiry, the evidence is recorded and circulated as evidence. It will also normally be published when the committee’s report is published (though now most evidence is being published online rather than in paper form). In the Lords, the Select Committees (in addition to domestic committees dealing with internal administration) are those on the European Union (with its seven sub-committees), Science & Technology, Constitution, Economic Affairs, Communications, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, and Merits of Statutory Instruments, along with ad hoc committees (such as that on HIV/AIDS); there is also the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

      However, when a Bill goes into a legislative committee – be it the Committee of the Whole House or a Grand Committee – the committee is not empowered to receive evidence. To place a matter before peers involved in committee deliberations, one needs to write directly to one or more peers to see if they will raise the issue. This, I fear, can be a difficult task for anyone who is not familiar with peers’ interests.

      You will see from another post of mine that I am keen to reform this procedure as it affects Bills. I have long made the case for a Bill to go to a select committee, or other evidence-taking committee, before it begins its normal passage through Committee of the Whole House or Grand Committee. That way, all those organisations and individuals with an interest in the Bill can submit evidence directly to the committee. That evidence is then on the public record and can be considered by the committee before making its report to the House. The House has on rare occasions sent a Bill to a select committee before its normal committee stage – as, for example, the Constitutional Reform Bill – but I would like this to be the norm and not the exception.

      Submitting Bills to pre-legislative scrutiny (that is, sending the draft to Parliament for consideration before it is formally submitted) also enables evidence to be taken from outside bodies and individuals. However, only a minority of Bills are subject to pre-legislative scrutiny – again, I want it to be the norm and not the exception – and mostly by committees in the Commons, though some Bills are sent to joint committees of the two Houses.

      There is a lot more, as I have indicated, that we could do, though the House tends to do a very thorough job in scrutinising Bills – not least since in the Lords all amendments that are tabled are discussed (in the Commons, many are not selected for debate) and, again unlike the Commons, there is no guillotine or programme motion to limit debate. If you can persuade a peer to pursue an issue by tabling an amendment to a Bill, it will be discussed.

      I hope that helps. I am aware that the procedure is complex and, as I have indicated, there are ways in which I would like to see it reformed.

      • DanFilson
        16/10/2011 at 10:40 pm

        I think Lord Norton should be thanked for patiently replying to questions posed and points made in this and other threads. Would that all in Parliament were so conscientious.

        • maude elwes
          17/10/2011 at 2:04 pm

          I second that, DF.

          A man for all seasons.

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