Tony Greaves was on Radio 4's Westminster hour pondering out loud whether he was going to support the Health Bill in the House of Lords this week. You can listen to it here for the next 6 days.
I must admit I was not persuaded by Tony's objection to alternative providers being engaged in the provision of services. Tony appeared to have a very minimalist approach to the contribution that can be made-restricted to specialist services and innovation on the margins.
As a Liberal I have always been uncomfortable with monopolies. I do not change my mind because it is a state owned monopoly. A plurality of providers and -with the introduction of individual health budgets-a plurality of purchasers is broadly to be welcomed.
Where I do have real concerns is over the issue of ownership. I know that this is one of the issues that Will Hutton's Ownership Commission is examining. I do believe that after Southern Cross et al we should look to see whether there are forms of ownership that are inappropriate for health and social care. The venture capitalist and hedge fund with there driven emphasis on return on capital may be just plain wrong for this sector which should be the preserve of not for profit charities and mutuals.
The whole area of ownership has -to the shame of Liberals-slipped off the agenda and we need to raise its profile once more not just in relation to health and social care but in the wider economy. I shall return to this issue