:: Thursday, January 26, 2006 ::

Labour and their Lib-Dem and Tory Pals Bottle It

I wanted to get down to the parliament yesterday to take part in the lobby for the bill to scrap prescription charges, but I was feeling a bit under the weather. Unsurprisingly, Colin Fox's Bill to scrap prescription charges won the debate but lost the vote. New Labour's only argument seemed to revolve around their opposition to the principle of universality, although they would never question this in education or the NHS (just gently erode it.) The executive have been forced to compromise however, and more people will have free prescriptions than before. So something to be proud of, as was Colin's skilled steering of the bill through parliament.

Some extracts from the debate I liked:

Colin Fox's opening speech:

"Finally, I want to touch on the party politicking that is going on in the chamber on the question of prescription charges. Scottish Socialist Party policy is to support the abolition of prescription charges and to support the bill, and that is the position of the Greens and the Scottish National Party. The Liberal Democrats will go into the 2007 Holyrood election calling for the abolition of prescription charges, but they will not vote for it today. The Labour Party policy in Wales was to abolish prescription charges, which, much to its credit, it did in 2003. However, the Labour Party in Scotland refuses to abolish charges—it hasnae got the bottle.

Some cynics have suggested that Labour would back the bill if it had come from a Labour member, but I could not possibly comment. Labour MSPs intend to vote against the bill, while the Labour Party in Wales championed the abolition of prescription charges. The Scottish Executive offers vague propositions in a consultation that begins today, yet there is a bill before the Parliament that would abolish prescription charges and introduce fairness and equality in the national health service. That is the choice for Labour back benchers. Members should support the bill, which I have pleasure in commending to the Parliament."

An intervention from Alex Neil (SNP):

"I found it incredible that Frank McAveety had the cheek and audacity to quote Nye Bevan. If Nye Bevan had been sitting in the public gallery listening to the speeches that have been made by the new Labour members in the debate, he would have been disgusted. It was Nye Bevan, a Labour minister, who introduced the principle of free prescription charges. If those new Labour people had been in the House of Commons in 1945 they would have said to Nye, "You cannae introduce a free health service, because it will help the rich." Is the logic of that that the rich should not get access to a free hospital bed, a general practitioner service, a free operation or child benefit because they are rich? Have Labour MSPs never heard of the principle of universality for certain key services so that we can create a society not just in Scotland but in the rest of the United Kingdom in which we have genuine equality?"

:: Alister | 11:15 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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