NHS Bill: Nick Clegg Should Tell Lib Dem Peers To Kill Health Reforms, Says Harriet Harman

14/03/2012 14:06

Nick Clegg has defended the coalition's controversial NHS Bill during fiery exchanges with Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman in the Commons.

Standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, the Lib Dem deputy prime minister said Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill would deliver a "more equal" NHS.

But Harman said Clegg should tell Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords to vote against the legislation on Monday in order to make sure it did not become law.

"People are still against this bill because it hasn't changed one bit," she said. "It's still a top down reorganisation."

She told MPs: "He could stop the bill but he wont. He says the Lib Dems make a difference but they don't. What has happend to that fine liberal tradition? They must be turning in their graves."

The Labour Party has been strongly lobbying to get the government to scrap its controversial health reforms which they say are too expensive and introduce too much private competition.

Harman said that Clegg was refusing to "stand up for the NHS" as "the only thing he stands up for is when the prime minister walks in the room".

Clegg hit back by accusing Labour of creating "sweetheart deals" for private sector providers in the NHS while in power, which the coalition was now scrapping.

"The shadow health secretary says it is irresponsible to increase NHS spending. They don't believe in more money for the NHS, we do," he said.

"They presided over inequality in the NHS which again we are making a statutory obligation in this bill to deliver a more equal outcome."

He added: "The Labour Party used to believe in reform, now they believe in starving the NHS of cash and failing to provide reform."

Clegg also dismissed accusations that his party had failed to influence the direction of the Bill.

"Some of her colleagues must think the Lib Dems make a difference because they were handing out leaflets in the conference in Gateshead while her leader was throwing a sickie and going to watch Hull City instead," he said.

Ed Miliband was recently criticised for saying he could not attend a rally on health care because he was ill but then deciding to go to a football match.

14/03/2012 12:31 GMT

Clegg did well to survive the Tory backbenchers...

@ TimMontgomerie :

Hostile #PMQs to Clegg from Tory backbenchers: Redwood on regulations, Lilley on Lords reform, @DouglasCarswell on child benefit

14/03/2012 12:30 GMT

@JananGanesh is to the point on Clegg's success

@ JananGanesh :

Clegg won that

14/03/2012 12:30 GMT

The Tories are backing Clegg...

@ JoeMurphyLondon :

Also interesting how many Tories are tweeting praise of Clegg #pmqt

14/03/2012 12:28 GMT

Harman and Clegg certainly went at it...

@ trsmith87 :

Best PMQs for a while. Proper knock about. #pmqs

14/03/2012 12:26 GMT

Dylan Sharpe thinks it was a no-score draw

@ dylsharpe :

Unmemorable #PMQs. Clegg did well to repel the qus, when not angry. Harman good at condemning, but may regret tactic of slaughtering the LDs

14/03/2012 12:22 GMT

Clegg's evasion of Skinner's question wasn't hard to miss...

@ Lobbydog :

Clegg doesn't even pretend to sidestep the NI question from Skinner. Just completely ignores it. #pmqs

14/03/2012 12:22 GMT

Dennis Skinner was especially calm today...

@ jamesrbuk :

An unusually even-tempered intervention from Dennis Skinner there. Or not. #pmqs

14/03/2012 12:20 GMT

Tim Farron thinks his leader trounced Harman

@ timfarron :

6-0 to Nick Clegg at #pmqs

14/03/2012 12:19 GMT

George Eaton picks up on Nick Clegg subtly disagreeing with the coalition

@ georgeeaton :

Clegg says boundary changes are a cause close to the Tories' heart. Hint that it's not close to his? #PMQs

14/03/2012 12:18 GMT

Clegg has been getting riled by Harman

@ AnushkaAsthana :

Harriet Harman says only thing Clegg stands up for is when the PM walks into the room. BOOM BOOM! #PMQs (Clegg getting angry - love it!)

Suggest a correction