The epetition that “Calls on the Government to drop its Health and Social Care Bill.” is well past the 100,000 mark. In fact it is on 164,000+. Sadly, the Backbench Business Committee (BBCom) has decided las Tuesday not to debate it. But they are obliged to take further arguments from MPs.
Time is short. The Government intends to end all debate on the Bill on March 20th.
We can press our MPs to lobby the BBCom debate dropping the HSC Bill, and we can also bring pressure directly on the Backbench Business Committee by emailing and phoning. Here they are.
This is what I wrote to the Chair:
Dear Ms Engel
I write as a retired GP who is concerned that the NHS in which I was privileged to serve is facing a real and serious threat from the Health and Social Care Bill.
Like many other citizens, I was deeply disappointed by the decision of your committee not to allocate time to debate the proposal that the Government should drop the Bill.
The e-petition calling for this now stands at 164,410.
I appreciate that there is limited time for debates, but you have 35 slots in the current session, so this is not an absolute block.
I appreciate that the Health Bill has been debated before. Its Second Reading was given one day.
However the Bill is complex - three times as long as the Bill which set up the NHS - and the specific call to drop the Bill outright has not been debated before.
Therefore the argument that the Bill has been debated already has no merit.
The call to drop the HSC Bill satisfies the BBCom criteria of being "topical and relevant".
I have read that the Committee did not think there was wide support for the debate among members.
If so, this would indicate a serious disconnect between the opinions of MPs and feeling in the country.
It is true that the public is singularly ill-informed about the implications of the Bill, because the newspapers genrally have not given it the salience it deserves.
Even so, support in the general population for pressing ahead with the NHS reforms stands at only 33%, as against 52% who believe that the Bill should be dropped.
You do not need me to remind you that the professional bodies who are well informed are overwhelmingly against it, and even Conservative commentators and Cabinet Ministers are calling for it to be dropped.
This is an urgent matter, as the Government today has indicated that they wish to end debate on March 20th.
I hope therefore that the Backbench Business Committee will listen carefully and sympathetically to MPs' further representations at later meetings of Committee to argue the case for the subject of the e-petition to be debated.
Dr Richard Lawson MB BS, MRCPsych