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

Into the Commons

The Medical Innovation Bill was sent to the House of Commons following its Third Reading in the House of Lords on 23 January 2015.

The Third Reading followed the usual format for these debates: more politeness and deference but not very much real scrutiny and analysis.

There were just two amendments proposed: one by Lords Winston and Saatchi and one by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Baroness Wheeler, Baroness Masham of Ilton, Lord Turnberg and Lord Saatchi. The first was withdrawn but the second was agreed.

At Report Stage, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said:

However, doctors are saying that there will be greater confusion as a result of the Bill and, therefore, they will not use it in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, wants it to be used. There is no meeting of minds. The noble Lord has said that he will talk to my noble friend Lord Winston between now and Third Reading, which I very much welcome, but he surely has to engage again with the bodies he met with the Secretary of State to try to find a way through. We support what the noble Lord wants to do and the need for innovation, but my judgment at the moment is that even if he gets his Bill it will not be used, except by the kind of doctors my noble friend Lord Winston referred to—the kind we do not want to use the provisions.

It is not known when this further meeting was held nor what the outcome was.

The debate can be watched here:

(Go to Parliament TV for other viewing options.)

The full transcript can be read here.

The Bill was then sent to the House of Commons on 26 January and had its First Reading there the following day. This is a formality and it is scheduled to have its Second Reading on 27 February. The Bill that will be presented can be read here.

In its passage through the Commons, it is being sponsored by Michael Ellis MP, who had previously attempted to get the Bill through the House of Commons as a Private Members’ Bill.

For this attempt, Ellis has produced some notes, “in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it.” Although that was perhaps the intention, they simply pose more questions that they answer.

We hope that the Bill will be given far greater scrutiny by MPs that it has hitherto had.


HoC Second Reading Stage

If the Bill is amended in the Commons, the Lords must consider them and either agree or disagree to the amendments or make alternative proposals.

Given that Parliament dissolves on 30 March (when business in both Houses comes to an end), there isn’t much time for the Bill to complete its progress.

Meanwhile, the Bill has been discussed in the Welsh Assembly and given short shrift.