Ed Miliband suggested last week that David Cameron’s NHS reforms could be his ‘poll tax’, a reference to the local authority tax introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1988-9 which effectively destroyed her premiership. Whether this is accurate or overblown rhetoric remains to be seen, but the government’s NHS reforms throw up a number of issues. Here, let us explore the role of Parliament in the passage of the Bill.
The current passage of the NHS reforms through Parliament illustrates the important role the legislature can play during the passage of a Bill. The NHS reforms return to the House of Lords this week, having already suffered two defeats and a number of amendments. An major role Parliament plays is to scrutinise government and legislation, and to ensure that laws are both legitimate and well-made. Parliament doesn’t generally defeat government, and is there to support it, though with the current difficulties, the present government might not be feeling this right now.
The NHS reforms are very good example of how Parliament can be effective at getting government to think again about its proposals. The House of Lords is particularly wee-placed to achieve this as no party has overall control of the second chamber, and it is less disciplined (and perhaps rigid) than the Commons. As The Guardian points out, the government’s previous parliamentary difficulties with its NHS reform Bill has made ministers rethink how they are approaching future parliamentary battles.
Using such examples is a great way to ensure your exam answers are illustrated with up-to-date details, something your examiners will approve of!