Every couple of years, a rumour circulates suggesting the government is about to “privatise” the National Health Service. This is followed by campaigns, protests and increasingly desperate claims that a piece of legislation or the outcome of an election will absolutely end the NHS. The legislation passes or the election result comes about - and the NHS continues. Things go quiet for a year or two, then the whole thing starts again…This trend goes back to 1987 but with the rise of social media, “NHS will be privatised” stories have become more frequent. Anyone with a few minutes to spare should Google “privatise the NHS” for different years to see what I mean.
With the Covid-19 pandemic under control, one thing just about everyone can agree on is the courage, compassion and dedication of our fantastic NHS staff. The Queen has rightly recognised this by awarding the George Cross to the entire NHS. Sadly, some people have seen an opportunity to spread fear by running yet another spurious campaign. Privatising or selling-off the NHS is, of course, untrue and would be a completely insane thing to do. I would not serve in any government which wanted to privatise the NHS, and neither would any of my colleagues. The government I proudly serve as a Wales Office minister hugely supports the NHS and would never, ever privatise or sell-off this wonderful institution. I hope my answer is clear enough.
The right to protest is an important principle held dear in British society. But recently we have seen protestors abusing this freedom by blocking streets in major cities, preventing members of the public from getting to work, collecting children, or even getting into hospitals. This abuse of an important freedom is being tackled by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will enable the police to set start and finish times to protests so disruption cannot be carried out for days on end. The aim is not to impede protests but to ensure protests do not impede people from their right to go about their business.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 7 July 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 8 July 2021*