My right hon. Friend eloquently makes the point I made at the beginning of the debate: people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes, who depend utterly on the NHS have a right to know whether there is any risk to the continuity or integration of the care they receive. I understand that representatives of patient groups, who perhaps have not been heard enough in this debate, made that point directly to the Prime Minister on Monday. It is absolutely essential that their voice is heard. They say that the Bill represents a danger to the integrated care that they receive and depend upon. It seems pretty clear to me that the Government are not following their own policy—[Interruption.]
Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
It really does not matter what vote the Government Whips are able to secure tonight, because the truth is that the Government have lost the argument. The Secretary of State has squandered whatever political capital the Prime Minister was able to accumulate on the NHS and lost the trust and confidence of the public and professions with this Bill. There cannot be a single person in the country who does not understand that there is secret information, pertinent to the passage of the Bill, that he is determined to withhold from Parliament and the public. That is the position we are in.
The vote does not matter, but I would not like to be a Government Back Bencher having to go back and explain the matter to my constituents. I certainly would not like to be one of the Lib-Dem Members having to do so, because whatever the arguments and posturing here in the Chamber today, they will not cut any ice with a public who know that the facts are being withheld and feel they are being conned over a measure that they were promised would never be introduced by this Secretary of State.
I do not say this with any malice, but I think that it is too late to restore the Secretary of State’s reputation. Even at this late stage he could agree to release the information, but more importantly he should pause again and, this time, really listen to what people are saying about the NHS. He is probably not keen to take advice from me, but I have consulted my constituents in Selly Oak quite extensively on the Bill, and it is important that he knows that 76% of the people whom I consulted said that it is the wrong priority at the wrong time. Their concerns are about faster diagnosis and treatment and shorter waiting times.
The Secretary of State cited waiting times earlier in his speech, and he will know that the 18-week waiting time in south Birmingham is rising steadily. In fact, I think it has gone up—