All Calm on the Westminster Front

Baroness Murphy

Murphy at sea

Were you wondering where I’d gone? Well I’m back now from Central America and the Caribbean and mightily pleased I missed all that cold weather. I was in some remote spots and got news from Britain only intermittently. But the health bill figured in almost every bulletin. Turmoil, Coalition falling apart, political storms at Westminster, doctors and nurses noisily opposing the reforms and a beleaguered Andrew Lansley on the brink of being sacked. Or so ‘twas said.

So the moment I landed I got out Hansard on line and read through the debates in the Lords that I’d missed. No political storms, no significant challenge, Earl Howe working away negotiating some sensible changes and generously responding to amendments. Of the 6 votes so far, only the minor first amendment was lost by a 4 votes. The rest were won by the Government with a very comfortable majority, which means there were few Lib Dem or Conservative rebels (the maximum number of coalition rebels for any one vote was 4 and that occurred only once) and the crossbenchers largely supported the Coalition. The turn-outs were good.

The week I returned was recess but Earl Howe asked if he could meet me with the bill team that week. He’d been pondering over an amendment that Lord Warner and I had spoken to in Committee and were due to speak to again at Report. We wanted a mechanism to ensure that the Secretary of State could ensure that NHS monies could be transferred to Social Care, or Housing or indeed other organisations if it was in the best interest of patients. There are mechanisms in place at grass roots level but they are rarely, indeed insufficiently used. The bill team came up with the idea of inserting a Secretary of State’s direction to that effect in Schedule 4, which addressed my concerns perfectly, and I was able to table it in time for the debate on Monday. We also had a good discussion about how to achieve a satisfactory process to monitor and intervene in failing hospitals before they get to crisis point. By Wednesday Earl Howe had produced a mechanism which Lord Warner and I felt was an excellent solution.

So in spite of the media hype, in spite of the apparent opposition generated by sackfuls of misinformed briefings and letters, so far the Lords have been listening more carefully to the arguments in the Chamber than the barrage outside. This may not last…we are getting to some controversial bits of the Bill next week  and after all the duty of the Opposition is to oppose.


12 comments for “All Calm on the Westminster Front

  1. Bedd Gelert
    03/03/2012 at 12:14 pm

    Interesting article from Suzanne Moore..

    Shame you missed her while you were on your travels, but maybe you will meet up again if she is ennobled as Baroness Suzanne..

    Stranger things have happened.

  2. maude elwes
    03/03/2012 at 3:11 pm

    @Baroness Murphy:

    So, the enticing Earl made it through in the end, did he? Mmm…. which was more exciting the breathtakingly beautiful yacht, or, returning to the lure of the Health Bill?

    This may be a reminder of your voyage.

  3. MilesJSD
    03/03/2012 at 9:34 pm

    “Murphy At Sea”, in such a magnificent sailing-ship of the human-spirit challenging-and-educating ‘Onedin Line’ design, is a ‘seller’;

    but this time such diversional ‘glory’ sadly does not wash with me

    not least because the baroness is oceans ahead, of the likes of JSDM, with her ‘parliamentary’ or ‘academic-reading-and-responding’ speeds and skills;
    and with her ability, and willingness, to critically read right through all the many hours of discussion and debating that had taken place during her days-away;

    and then to have also promptly focused down, so quickly regardless of ‘jetlag’ and whatever stressors, upon the brief ‘window’ imminently about to open in Parliament itself, and to have adequately filled it with a considered written legislative-input;

    all of that bespeaks at least a superior workload efficiency.
    So my task appears to be complementary; just to remind you:

    1. The NHS needs to be re-named, and re-structured fit-for-purpose, as the Illnesses Sector of Britain;
    whilst non-medical sectors need to cooperatively get together* and found and establish a wholly “sustainworthy wellbeing service”
    providing a distinctly separate and non-medical Individual Human Development & Health-&-Wellbeing maintenance-and-improvement Service.

    (* such cooperativity was clearly intended by the 1978 UN Declaration of Primary Health Care, quite distinctly from the role of the already-established Medical Services).

  4. Lord Blagger
    05/03/2012 at 11:38 am

    I don’t know. I see lots of signs of revolt

    One peer told Lord Brabazon of Tara, the Lords’ Chairman of Committees, he wanted a refund after the food served in one of Parliament’s finest restaurants had left him humiliated in front of a eminent friend.

    Another wrote: “I am aware that one noble Lord was served ‘gone off’ smoked salmon in the Bishops’ bar the other day. The S salmon in my sandwich today was awful. I hope something can be done.”
    Lord Naseby, the chairman of the London wine society Cofradia del Vino Chileno, wrote: “I was disappointed to discover when I had a guest from Chile the Peers’ Dining Room does not offer any Chilean Red.

    The House of Lords catering service received a state subsidy of £1.44m last year

    It meant for every £10 a peer or their staff spent on lunch, the taxpayer added a top-up of £10.73.

    In the Barry Room, peers can enjoy a terrine of foie gras with toasted brioche, amaretto jelly and a tomato and thyme dressing for £7.50 or a Trompette mushroom risotto with truffles, champagne and double cream for £8.50.

    No doubt the rest of us will have to put up with cake.

    • maude elwes
      05/03/2012 at 3:17 pm


      Trouble is, I don’t eat cake.

      But, I could certainly enjoy a sample of that foie gras, with toasted brioche, et al, for an all in price of £7.50.

      My goodness, Le Gavroche owners, Roux, would do a cartwheel at the sight of those prices. Heh’ Heh! What larks they have going there. The barefaced audacity of it. No wonder they don’t want to face reform. Neither would I.

  5. Sharon Morgan
    06/03/2012 at 9:06 am

    I must admit you have to laugh at the cheek of it. The age old comment our mothers and fathers used to tell us comes to mind, ‘there are people starving in the world..’

    I also had a chuckle at the two fisticuffing in the bar that was in the news. It left me thinking though, why on earth do they need a bar in the house? What is going on? No wonder all these health and welfare bills are not fit for purpose!

    @Baroness. There’s plenty of time for the Coalition to destroy themselves and anarchy to hit. All we, the peons have to do is sit back and watch the drama. It’s better than Eastenders these days… all the childish bickering and trying to out do each other at Prime Minister’s question time.

    Who knows though, one day you’ll have to listen to “the barrage outside” to make any sense of that privat… I mean reform of the NHS bill.

    You all live in a totally different world to the rest of us..

    • Lord Blagger
      06/03/2012 at 2:41 pm

      Legal to Drink and Legislate, and you pay them a subsidy to do so.

      Illegal to Drink and Drive.

  6. baronessmurphy
    06/03/2012 at 11:41 am

    Bedd Gelert, I was there when Suzanne Moore was…makes one feel slightly invisible..but that may be good. Maude Elwes, the pleasure of the debating Chamber are rarely enticing and even if the Minister were George Clooney I’d probably prefer to be somewhere else. And JSDMiles you are right the jetlag was a bit grim and reading Hansard even grimmer. But you are not the only one who thinks the NHS should be renamed the Illness Service. Personally I think that would be more honest and now we are planning to move public health responsibilities to local authorities it’s even nore won’t change of course.
    LB, the food in the guest restaurants is not subsidized; you give the price of the small starters not main courses. But I’d agree that we shouldn’t have the other cafes and canteens subsidized, although they are no more subsidized than most canteens in public authorities and private companies and are used by all staff.
    Sharon, who is ‘you all?’

  7. maude elwes
    06/03/2012 at 1:14 pm

    I saw this recently and wondered if the ‘fascinating’ Earl Howe was another of the Lords looking for a pay off from the privatisation of our NHS to the yanks?

    If the Labour peers are on the take to the tune of £799,000 from US private health giants, is it at all plausible to think a Conservative hereditary is offerred anything less? I doubt it strongly. Didn’t he attend private meetings in St James’s with an American pharmacist group?

    Their mantra is, ‘competition leads to fresh ideas.’ Oh, does it? Then where are those ideas? The Tory’s have been throbbing with excitement for years over the prospect of private health pots of gold waiting for their heavy breathing lungs to inhale the pungent odour. Just like this fat face hunk with his sausage fingered hands already in the bag in this article below.

    Hard to believe this is the only Peer on the take in this gravy train, isn’t it?

    Which brings me to how these changes are going to affect all of us. Lords don’t have to worry too much as they all have some kind of Private Health Insurance package. Until, of course, that runs out once they need to use the system. Then they will wake up with a bang. Once they are handed the bill of thousands bringing them in line for a life on benefits. That day you will see a change of attitude.

    And if they think that is a large invoice, for little treatment, wait until the yanks get in in force. That way they will see our health bill treble in a trice.

    And why are we bringing in the Americans to supply our health system when they rob the system they already set up in that bankrupt country where they feel nothing is left to exploit? Globalization is the mantra there.

    I would really like to have some answers about that. As to me, it appears we have become another US state. Having no say in the matter or in their fake elections, yet suffering US policies being forced on us unmercifully. Who gave them the ability to do this? And why is it accepted by our politicians without one word in opposition? Wasn’t it that ‘socialist’ Tony Blair who was at the back of it? Now why would this government be following in the same trench as that liar?

    Oh, could it be the millions of dollars he’s made as a result of his treason?

    This health bill is a sell out and many are already feeling the result of it. Denial of medication and phoney letters to patients suggesting that the product they have been receiving for years is no longer considered ‘safe.’ The list is endless. And it’s only just begun.

    We have to start pressing for accountability to bring both chambers into line. At least ten years a piece for those who fiddle figures or defraud the public in any way at all.

    Want to see that joint start jumping once that kind of democracy really takes hold.

    But wait, I forget, they now want trial in secret. You cannot know what you are charged with or pose a defence. That way they can cover all their duplicity and call, evidence, do you have evidence?

    Alice in Wonderland and the Queen in the parlour. ‘Off with their heads, off with their heads.’

  8. Lord Blagger
    06/03/2012 at 2:39 pm

    LB, the food in the guest restaurants is not subsidized; you give the price of the small starters not main courses. But I’d agree that we shouldn’t have the other cafes and canteens subsidized, although they are no more subsidized than most canteens in public authorities and private companies and are used by all staff.


    So lets.

    It’s ok for the Peers to be subsidised.

    It’s not ok for the people who pay 2,700 a day, per peer, to be subsidised.

    Shows quite clearly the priorities of the Peers.

  9. MilesJSD
    07/03/2012 at 3:24 am

    This matter is set in the whole bigger field of Individual and Collective Human Development.

    The GCSE Revision Guide that most engages and ’empowers’, currently turns out to be “Religion and Society” ISBN 978 1 84762 303 4
    which informs me that in choosing Religious Studies I might have to “do” twice as much as I thought (for such a charitable kind of exam subject)
    in that I now need to
    1. Understand and memorise all the authoritative Facts set forth;
    2. Form my own “world-view” and “mind” about all of that, and become able to say “why” I am of that mind;
    3. Engage with others, or otherwise learn, “why” they do or might disagree with me and/or with my stated world-view.

    Other books, including on Religion, also instruct (advise) me to
    “first appreciate every point of view and argument”.
    I put this forward because neither the Medical & “Health” nor other Science authorities require the above disciplining of their members and students;

    nor do they require expertise, nor even mere competency, in the application of the three principles of good-communication & honest-argumentation;

    nor do any of them nurture the sevenfold innate human-eneries.

    And I raise it here mainly because it appears that no-one in Parliament is taking-to-task either the Religions or the Sciences or the Educatio sector, over this major neglect,

    so I believe that people need to
    flag the Matter,
    and to now keep on flagging it
    because the new Legislation avoids these basic and primary necessities;
    and because none of the Upper House “amenders” are publicising it either.

  10. MilesJSD
    07/03/2012 at 10:12 am

    (formality corrections)
    nor do any of them nurture the sevenfold innate human-energies.

    (no-one is taking-to-task…)
    the Education sector, over this major neglect…

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