‘Peers with private healthcare links vote for NHS privatisation’ says Unite
- Published on Wednesday, 02 November 2011 12:51
- Posted by Scott Buckler
‘Backwoodsmen’ peers with poor voting records, but with strong links to the private healthcare industry, are supporting the government’s bid to push through its controversial ‘pro-privatisation’ health bill
Research by Unite, the UK largest union, has revealed the extent to which the government is relying on normally non-working peers with private sector health interests to ram through the Health and Social Care bill.
The research comes as the House of Lords discusses the bill in its committee stage today (Wednesday 2 November).
Unite national officer for health Rachael Maskell said: ”It is a indelible stain on parliamentary democracy that, while the vast majority of the electorate don’t want their NHS privatised, a cabal of unelected peers, riddled with vested financial self-interest, can be mobilised to thwart the wishes of voters.
”It is clear that democracy is being hijacked for the financial benefit of the private healthcare companies, many of whom have made large contributions to the Tory party since David Cameron became its leader in 2005.
”Shirley Williams has said that it’s wrong to play politics with the NHS - but here is stark evidence to the contrary. Now is the time for Lady Williams and her fellow Liberal Democrat and cross-bench peers to reinforce the independence of the House of Lords and show the country that the peers are not in the pockets of big business.“
The second reading of the bill saw a record turnout for the modern House of Lords, with the largest numbers of peers voting since the 1993 Maastricht Treaty debate.
But an examination of the division lists shows that many of those who turned up to vote through the bill worked for companies that stand to directly benefit financially from the bill or work as lobbyists, and do not routinely attend House of Lords votes.
The so-called ‘backwoodsmen’ - Tory peers, often hereditary, who do not normally attend parliament but can be turned out occasionally to pass controversial legislation, such as the poll tax - were historically criticised as one of the most unacceptable features of the unelected upper chamber.
The passage of the bill suggests that the government is now resorting to Thatcher's old tactics again - but with big business interests also playing a role.
Criticism will be fuelled by the revelation that the peers identified did not stay to vote on the Localism bill, which was debated immediately after the health bill and voted on before 6.00pm on the same day.