Stop the Saatchi Bill

Driven by an extraordinary two-year PR campaign on social media and a supportive newspaper partner, this all started as Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, metamorphosed through several versions, and was resurrected under a new name by Chris Heaton-Harris, before finally clearing its last hurdle in the Lords this week to become the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Act.
Pretty much the only thing they share is the word 'Innovation' in the title.

One day, it may be possible for politicians to ask the people who actually work in the medical field: what are the problems you face, and how can we help you overcome them?

One day, politicians may actually listen to the answers they receive, and thus try to tackle genuine problems rather than imagined ones.

One day, politicians, medics, researchers, lawyers, patient groups, charities, and the public, may work together to overcome the barriers to the development and provision of new treatments.

But it is not this day.

Read more: Not this day

The Money Resolution: Part 1 – Massively the same

The Money Resolution for Chris Heaton-Harris’s version of Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill (AMTIB) took place on 03 November 2015.

The debate can be watched here:

The Hansard record of the debate can be read here, continued here.

The Resolution was passed by 281 votes to 227, giving a total of 508 MPs voting, although little more than a dozen MPs actually attended the debate.

This was a massive turnout to vote, particularly when compared to the 51 MPs who voted at Second Reading.

Just before the debate, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP voiced her concerns on Twitter:

3-line whip

That might explain the high turnout.

Debate

But what was said in the debate? This post is the first of several looking at key issues of the debate and will look at the claims by both George Freeman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences and Chris Heaton-Harris about the relationship between this Bill and Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill (emphasis added).

Freeman:

I want to stress that this Bill, which has a very different structure from the original Bill introduced by Lord Saatchi, has nothing to do with research at all. (Source)

Several colleagues have expressed their concerns about the Bill, as the Opposition spokesman has just done. I must say to them, and to the Association of Medical Research Charities and other bodies, that many of the briefings seem to relate to the previous iteration of the Saatchi Bill that went through three Readings in the other place and have not been changed for this Bill, even though this Bill is massively different from that brought forward by Lord Saatchi in the House of Lords. (Source)

Heaton-Harris:

My Bill has massively evolved from Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill from which many of the criticisms levelled against it come. (Source)

Does this Bill have ‘a very different structure’ to the MIB? Is it ‘massively different’? Has it really ‘massively evolved’ from the MIB?

Bar a few minor tweaks and typo corrections, Heaton-Harris (or rather, the drafters at the Department of Health) have taken Saatchi’s Bill and dropped in section 2, empowering the Secretary of State to instruct the Health and Social Care Information Centre to establish a database — a power the SoS already has by virtue of section 254 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, as was pointed out in the debate by Justin Madders during this debate and three times by Heidi Alexander during Second Reading. All Freeman had to say in reply was:

The hon. Lady might be surprised to know I do not have that section right in front of me, but I will happily come back to her. (Source)

It really is surprising that neither the drafters of the Bill nor Freeman knew what powers were already available to the HSCIC.

But remove that superfluous section 2 of Heaton-Harris’s Bill and what are you left with?

We have already looked at the two Bills side by side, but the Bill as introduced had an additional sub-paragraph 4(3) added, so here is the side-by-side comparison of the current Bills (with s.2 removed) so you can decide for yourself:

Essentially, the Saatchi Bill. Not massively different in the slightest.