Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Health plans 'show coalition value'

The Lib Dems have refused to endorse NHS reforms, in a blow to Nick Clegg's leadership

Nick Clegg insists that controversial health reforms have proven the "value" of the coalition despite fresh turmoil within the Liberal Democrats over the plans.

Activists at the party's spring conference in Gateshead refused to fully endorse the NHS shake-up by voting out a crucial clause in a pro-health bill motion.

The move showed Mr Clegg remains at odds with many of his rank and file on the emotive issue and prompted senior figures to suggest more changes to the Health and Social Care Bill could be made.

During his keynote conference speech the Deputy Prime Minister conceded that the shake-up was "controversial" and "difficult" but the "value of the coalition has been proven" because of it.

"The health Bill was stopped in its tracks and rewritten because this is a coalition Government," he said.

"Competition will be the servant of health care not the master, because this is a coalition Government. This is a Bill for patients, not profits.

"It is not a Liberal Democrat health Bill but it is a better Bill because of the Liberal Democrats."

Activists blocked a bid to vote on making "killing" the Health and Social Care Bill party policy on Saturday, instead opting to debate the pro-reform "Shirley Williams motion".

That saved the party leader from being in the potentially explosive position of pushing through legislation while presiding over a party that formally demanded its withdrawal.

But members voted to remove a crucial line in the motion that called for peers to back the final stages of the Bill.

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