02 October 2011

Crossbench peers invited to Downing Street?

Dr Grumble is beginning to move in high circles. Yesterday he learned from two independent sources that the crossbench peers are being invited to Downing Street to discuss Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill.

The problem with parliament, the Commons particularly, is that most MPs just do what they are told. To be fair, MPs are busy. The NHS Bill is just one of very many things they have to do. Reading it, for most, is not an option and failing to follow party orders has dire consequences for an MP's career progression. Doctors in the new NHS know what this is like. Dr Grumble is anonymous because he wants to say what he believes and not what his NHS masters want him to believe.

The Lords is very different from the Commons. While some of the people there are career politicians who have been pensioned off and given a seat in the best day centre in the land, many others have found another route there. Quite often these will have special expertise in one area or another. This, of course, is vital. Dr Grumble is actually a supporter of the House of Lords. He is even a supporter of the only elected members of the Lords, the hereditary peers. It can't be justified. All Grumble can say is that over the years he has met a few MPs and a few lords. Most of the lords he has met have been patients - all NHS patients (including one hereditary peer). He has been impressed by every single one.

Grumble met another peer when he was a civil servant nearly two decades ago. Grumble had to go to a deprived part of the country to open a new facility. It doesn't matter what it was. To say exactly would identify Grumble. Few if any of Grumble's readers would ever have visited one of these places. Grumble, because of his own special expertise, has lost count of the number he has visited including some abroad. Suffice it to say that a private company had been given sweeteners to set up one of these facilities in a deprived part of Teeside. The Minister was to open it but, as ministers do, he cancelled at the very last moment and a lord was sent up from London instead. The occasion was actually exceedingly boring and Grumble and the noble got chatting over the canapes. The lord had taken the train North and he told Grumble that at one stop a whole lot of mentally impaired people got on the train with their minders and sat next to him. At the next stop the minder called them all off leaving the noble alone in the carriage. Then the minder called to Grumble's noble friend and dragged him off too. "No, no, I'm from the House of Lords!" he said.

You can only tell that joke if you are from the House of Lords and it made Grumble chuckle. He has remembered it all those years. It's not really PC but Grumble liked it. He has liked all the lords he has met and he likes the House of Lords.

Now what is the point of all this sycophantic rambling? It is to explain that these people in the House of Lords are nice fair-minded types who have a sense of vocation and dedication. Some of them can be relied upon to look after the NHS, which they too use. Many members of the lords are spoken for. They wear a party badge just like most of those in the Commons. And, mostly, they will do what they are told. But, in the Lords, there is a big group of crossbenchers. These are people will no overt party affiliations who will do what is right according to the evidence. Already they are exerting their influence.

So, if it is true that the crossbench peers have been invited to Downing Street, you can be sure that there is a reason for this. And you can be sure that they will only hear the side of the story that Downing Street wants them to hear. So if you want them to hear what they should be hearing about the NHS Bill, you may need to get in touch will them. You can find out which lords are crossbenchers here along with their email addresses. Get writing now.

With thanks to Baroness Hussein-Ece (actually a Liberal Democrat), who has advised Grumble that brief emails with bullet points are appropriate, and to @UKHouseofLords with their helpful tweet. Yes, peers tweet!


Dr Grumble said...

Not sure where you get the email address from. Perhaps we need some stamps.

Dr Grumble said...

OK. It looks as if the options are:

Telephone a message:

Call the main Parliament switchboard on 020 7219 3000. If the Lord has a listed telephone number, the operator will try to connect you. Or, you can leave a message with the Message Service on 020 7219 5353.

Snail mail:

Letters should be addressed to individual Members at The House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW. Mail is delivered to the Lord in the House or forwarded to another address - be aware of this if you need to get in contact urgently, for example if you are writing about a Bill that has a tight timetable to meet.

Individual faxes:

Faxes for individual Lords go in the internal mail. Faxes should be sent to 020 7219 5979. Bulk faxes for all Peers are not accepted.

I favour buying a few stamps.

Dr Grumble said...

OK. It's a bit complicated. Some have published email addresses and some don't. Could save Grumble a few bob.

Anonymous said...

hope this might be of help, as i have used http://www.goingtowork.org.uk/peers/
to help me email crossbench peers

patient in room 12

Anonymous said...

also 38 Degrees is "planning" to Build a brand new “email a Lord” web tool to make it easier to contact a member of the House of Lords with messages about the NHS

i hope they hurry up

patient in room 12

Dr Grumble said...

Thanks patient in room 12. I agree we have all been too tardy. Even Norman Tebbit is concerned so clearly there is a genuine understanding of the problems inherent in the bill in the Lords even from those who might not be seen as natural supporters of what those in the US refer to disparagingly as socialised medicine.

Let's hope for the best.

Dr No said...

Dr G - Dr No doesn't for a moment think we shouldn't lobby peers - it needs to be done - but he is not over-hopeful of a useful result. He suspects the whole exercise will turn out a bit like the laxative that didn't work...so he thinks we need a Plan B.

DN's proposed Plan B, you will be glad to hear, does not involve manual evacuation, but it may turn out to be equally difficult and possibly just as unpleasant. It involves recognising that the only people who really have the power to tank the bill are rank and file GPs. And the reason it may turn out to be difficult, even unpleasant, to get these GPs to wake up and stand up to the bill is because, as a bunch, our profession is rather inclined to indolence and indifference - as happened with MMC/MTAS. DN just hopes we're not going to make the same mistake again...

PS have dual posted this comment on JT/Dr G's blogs for all the obvious reasons.

PPS Dr G - if the anchor tags in this comment cause it to blow up, as has sometimes happened before, the bare url is http://www.badmed.net/bad-medicine-blog/2011/10/how-tank-bill.html