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Let us hope Grahame Morris’s 10-minute rule motion – on the unfair advantages enjoyed by private healthcare firms working in the NHS – does not get swamped by the coverage of the Transparency of Lobbying Bill that resumes its unwelcome journey through the Parliamentary process after it.

Vox Political does not have the exact wording of the motion, but it seems likely it will follow a similar line to the Private Members’ Bill that Mr Morris put down last December, winning the support of 111 fellow MPs.

You will notice that it is relevant to the Lobbying Bill in several ways. Here is the wording of the Private Members’ Bill:

That this House notes

  • that the most significant development that has followed from the Government’s healthcare reforms has been the £7 billion worth of new contracts being made available to the private health sector;
  • further notes that at least five former advisers to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are now working for lobbying firms with private healthcare clients;
  • recalls the Prime Minister’s own reported remarks prior to the general election when he described lobbying as `the next big scandal waiting to happen’;
  • recognises the growing scandal of the procurement model that favours the private health sector over the NHS, by allowing private companies to hide behind commercial confidentiality and which compromises the best practice aspirations of the public sector;
  • condemns the practice of revolving doors, whereby Government health advisers move to lucrative contracts in the private healthcare sector, especially at a time when the privatisation of the NHS is proceeding by stealth;
  • is deeply concerned at the unfair advantages being handed to private healthcare companies;
  • and demands that in future all private healthcare companies be subject to freedom of information requests under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in the same way as existing NHS public sector organisations.

The active part is at the end – that private healthcare companies be subject to FoI requests in the same way as existing NHS public sector organisations. That’s why this 10-minute rule motion is entitled Freedom of Information (Private Healthcare Companies).

The aim is to have a level playing field for both private and public organisations providing NHS services. Do you remember the level playing field? The Tories were constantly banging on about having a level playing field, back in the 1980s and 90s when they were privatising left, right and centre, but they don’t seem to be quite as interested in it any more.

The other parts of the original bill are just as interesting in relation to the Transparency of Lobbying Bill. What will it do about people who are employed by the government but who take all available opportunities to push forward a particular private company’s interests (above those of the taxpayer?) and then quit to take a position with that company once their work is done? Nothing, most likely.

The sad part is that this 10-minute motion is unlikely to get very far. Here’s how they work (taken from Wikipedia, which we can use as a reliable source on this subject):

“Whichever MP has reserved the slot presents their bill and is entitled to speak for 10 minutes to convince the house of its merit. After the 10 minutes have passed, another MP may speak for a further 10 minutes to oppose the bill. The Speaker then calls a voice vote to decide whether the bill should be allowed a second reading, which is when the bill is debated at a later date. The Speaker will divide the house for a recorded count of votes if there is some opposition. However, the majority of Ten Minute Rule motions are not objected to,[2] and are allowed to proceed without any debate at this stage. This is because MPs have not yet had time to review the bill’s content.

“When a Ten Minute Rule motion passes, the bill is added to the register of parliamentary business. It is scheduled for debate along with the other Private Member’s Bills, but at a lower priority. The MP presenting the bill must tell the Speaker the date for this second reading debate. The bill is generally printed and published shortly before the second reading.

“Bills introduced under the Ten Minute Rule rarely progress much further, since the Government usually opposes Private Member’s Bills in the later stages and, given their low priority in the schedule, there is often insufficient time for the debate to be completed. Most Ten Minute Rule introductions are instead used to stimulate publicity for a cause, especially as the debate follows the media-popular question time and is usually broadcast live on BBC Parliament, or to gauge the opinion of the house on an issue which may later be introduced in another bill.”

“To stimulate publicity for a cause”. Let us hope that this one does not get swamped by coverage of the Lobbying Bill.