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Labour Is Committed to Repealing Cameron's NHS Privatisation Plans and Putting the Right Values Back at the Heart of the Health Service

04/05/2015 15:54 BST | Updated 04/05/2016 10:12 BST

The Independent today reports that at the same time as the Tories were drawing up their Health and Social Care Act, which put market values at the heart of the NHS, the lobbying firm run by the Tories' election chief, Lynton Crosby, was advising private health companies how to capitalise on the opportunity.

According to the report, the strategy paper drawn up by Mr Crosby's firm CTF Partners proposed targeting key government figures, including the Prime Minister, to enhance the "size, acceptability and profitability of the private healthcare market" and outlines the best arguments to use "in positively positioning private healthcare against the NHS".

In late 2012, Crosby was hired as David Cameron's election chief. His arrival was followed by some controversial shifts in government policy - such as on standardised tobacco packaging - that raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest with his firm's lobbying work.

On health policy, I can recall the Tory-led Government's approach became even more eye-wateringly pro-privatisation. In early 2013, the Government laid now-notorious NHS procurement regulations before Parliament which were far more market-oriented than Ministers had previously assured MPs during the final stages of the Health and Social Care Act - effectively forcing all services out to tender.

Labour's Freedom of Information requests have since revealed that 40 per cent of NHS contracts have gone to the private sector since 2010. The companies involved in the group that CTF were advising have won at least 200 contracts.

There are of course multiple links between the Tories and private health. Before the last election, the then Chairman of Care UK, Lord John Nash, donated £21,000 to Andrew Lansley - which was described by the Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb as "a staggering conflict of interest". And the Tories have also received over £20million in donations from hedge funds with investments in private healthcare, including over £4.6million in 2014.

But today's Independent report does raise more crucial questions about Lynton Crosby's role and influence. What was the extent of Crosby's involvement in his firm's work for this group of private health companies? Has Crosby's firm been working for any private health companies during the time he has been advising David Cameron? Has Crosby ever discussed the Government's controversial NHS reforms - or any policy relating to private health companies - with David Cameron, Conservative ministers or their advisers? What safeguards have been in place to stop Crosby lobbying on behalf of private health companies during his time advising David Cameron?

It also flags up the need for proper lobbying regulation. Labour is committed to a proper statutory register of lobbyists. And we will put a 'firewall' between the NHS and lobbyists like Crosby by tackling the scandal of the revolving door into government. Anyone doing a senior job for the government of the day who is a professional lobbyist will be declared, and we will ensure that there is proper oversight of conflicts of interests when people take up senior roles in government.

It is hardly surprising that people fear for the future of the NHS under the Tories. Elsewhere, today's Guardian carries a letter from American doctors warning that the David Cameron's reforms have put the NHS on a slippery slope towards a US-style system and pay-as-you-go healthcare.

That is why Labour is committed to repealing David Cameron's NHS privatisation plans and putting the right values back at the heart of the health service.

Andrew Gwynne is a Shadow Health Minister and Labour candidate for Denton and Reddish