NHS: Lansley faces the Commons

By politics.co.uk staff

The health secretary has been forced to take Commons questions on his healthcare reforms today, as debate over the issue reaches a climax.

Mr Lansley has cut an increasingly isolated figure recently, as his brief was publicly snatched by Nick Clegg and David Cameron in a bid to minimise damage to the reforms.

Mr Lansley confidently defended his proposals against attacks from the Labour benches, but a speech minutes earlier by Mr Cameron effectively pulled the rug from under him by offering major concessions on his bill.

Mr Cameron also offered five guarantees on NHS reform, including opposition to privatisation in the health service.

“He hasn’t mentioned the prime minister’s five guarantees,” shadow health secretary John Healey said, mockingly.

“He shakes his head as if they don’t matter. Maybe he wasn’t briefed.”

Mr Lansley commented: “We’re not intending that there should an regulated market, a free market. We are very clear that competition is a means to an end.”

While his Commons performances have been assured and he maintains the vocal support of Conservative backbenchers, parliamentary observers have been left unimpressed by Mr Lansley’s attempts to sell his NHS reforms to the wider public.

With the issue still prompting controversy and the prime minister increasingly defending it for him, the health secretary is widely tipped to be moved in the next Cabinet reshuffle.