You may have seen/heard that in response to an Urgent Question from Andy Burnham today, Norman Lamb confirmed that the Government is intending to re-write the section 75 regulations.  Due to Parliamentary procedures this means that amended regulations are tabled which override the current ones (as opposed to withdrawing these).  However, for all intents and purposes and for ease of public consumption, the Government will replace these regulations with amended ones.

Lamb gave explicit assurances in answer to questions that the regulations would not result in full competitive tendering of services and that Monitor would not be able to compel Clinical Commissioning Groups to put services to tender.  He stated that the amended regulations will meet the assurances given by Ministers to the Lords and through correspondence to Clinical Commissioning Groups and other professionals.

He also indicated that the amended regulations will be tabled in the ‘next few days’.   Tabling  the amended regulations restarts the 40 day period during which they can be opposed.

As soon as the amended section 75 regulations are tabled we will let everyone know.  The Labour Party will need to secure a legal opinion on the amended regulations.  As the primary purpose of the Act was to extend competition across the NHS it seems unlikely that the Government will completely u-turn on this key plank of policy.  It is therefore likely that the regs will be re-written in an attempt to persuade Liberal Democrat MPs and peers to support them and to reassure the professions.  But the re-written regs may still extend competition, and encourage putting out far greater numbers of services to tender and driving competition and privatisation through the NHS, but we will need legal opinion as well as political rhetoric to demonstrate this.

Once we have considered the impact of the amended regulations we will then need to consider our response.  The battle in Parliament and outside is certainly not won or over.  Pressure needs to be maintained on Liberal Democrat MPs and Peers and cross-benchers to ensure that the regulations do properly implement the assurances given so that we are in a position of strength when they return to make our case against.

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