Nick Clegg fielded Prime Minister’s Questions today, during which he noted that Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is “the only man in England who has ever privatised an NHS hospital”. Mr Burham complained that Nick had misled the House of Commons over the issue of Hichingbrooke Hospital, accusing him of “sheer inaccuracy”. The Lib Dem leader lost no time in responding:
I see that you raised a Point of Order in the House of Commons and that you accused me of “sheer inaccuracy”. I am always happy to confirm the accuracy of what I have said.
You said that “when the previous Government left office there was still an NHS bidder in the competition.” That is simply not true.
These are the facts.
On 26 March 2010, that is before the General Election and while you were still Health Secretary, the three organisations shortlisted for the contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital were Circle Health, Ramsay Health Care UK and Serco Health – all of which are non-NHS organisations.
The NAO report of the bidding process published on 8 November 2012 clearly states that in December 2009 there were only 3 bidders left in the process – Circle Health, Ramsay Health Care UK and Serco Health. It says on page 20 that the “the two NHS trusts involved both withdrew at early stages of the process.”
When making your Point of Order, you may have been referring to the fact that the Serco bid included working with the Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust. Given it is clear that the actual bidder was Serco, I suggest that you are stretching the boundaries of accuracy to their very limit.
As you can see, I very much stand by what I said at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons today. You asked if I had inadvertently misled the House of Commons. I would suggest that by misquoting what I said, it may be you who has inadvertently misled the House of Commons. Given that the facts are as I have outlined above, I wonder if you would be prepared to set the record straight yourself?