Wales politics

Labour blocks Ann Clwyd assembly committee appearance

Ann Clwyd Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption Opposition AMs say Labour is in denial about Ann Clwyd's criticisms of the Welsh NHS

Opposition parties have condemned Labour AMs for preventing Labour MP Ann Clwyd from being invited to appear before the assembly's health committee.

Labour committee members voted to ensure a Plaid Cymru proposal to call her to discuss her concerns about the Welsh NHS was rejected.

Opposition AMs called their action "outrageous", "cynical" and "disgraceful". But Labour said it was "constitutionally inappropriate" for the committee to interview backbench MPs on devolved matters.

Last week, First Minister Carwyn Jones said Ms Clwyd had "no evidence" to back up her criticisms of the service.

He said material provided by Ms Clwyd had not enabled it or the NHS to investigate her allegations of poor care.

But she has insisted she provided Mr Jones with a comprehensive summary of complaints raised about Welsh hospitals while she was leading a UK government-commissioned inquiry on how NHS hospitals in England handle complaints.

David Cameron asked the Cynon Valley MP to lead the investigation after she said her husband spent 27 hours on a trolley before dying in 2012.

On Wednesday, after Labour AMs' successful move to prevent Ms Clwyd being given the chance to be scrutinised by the health committee in Cardiff Bay, Plaid Cymru accused the governing party of "shutting down debate".

Plaid health spokeswoman Elin Jones said: "It is outrageous that a Labour block vote has shut down the opportunity for the committee to scrutinise this work.

"Ann Clwyd has gained valuable information on the Welsh NHS from a patient perspective from the work that she has done.

"This could have been an important opportunity to share her conclusions and would have allowed the committee to scrutinise her work in terms of the information that she has gathered from Welsh patients."

'Closing ranks'

Conservatives accused Labour of putting "narrow party political interests" before "getting to the bottom of the problems in the Welsh NHS".

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said: "Inviting Ann Clwyd to give evidence to the assembly would provide AMs with an opportunity to hear her valuable insight into hospital death rates, along with the experiences of patients whose evidence she has received.

"The Labour Party is closing ranks and trying to shut down scrutiny of its disastrous handling of the Welsh NHS, which has seen dangerously high death rates, emergency and waiting time targets missed regularly, and cancer medicines denied to patients.

"This is a cynical attempt by Labour politicians to brush evidence about underperformance and failure in the Welsh NHS under the carpet."

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said it was "disgraceful" that Labour AMs would "refuse to listen to Ann Clwyd's concerns".

She said: "Welsh Labour need to stop taking Ms Clwyd's criticisms personally and should instead pledge to improve our struggling health service.

"The contrast in responses to Ann Clwyd's harrowing story couldn't be starker.

"While the UK coalition asked her to lead an inquiry, the Welsh Labour government, who were responsible for her husband's care, instead stick their collective heads in the sand."

Labour AM and health committee member Leighton Andrews said: "Ann Clwyd is in contact with the first minister and the health minister [Mark Drakeford] and has provided them with the information she has to hand.

"As Ann herself has stated, most of the information she has collated relates to England and the info relating to Wales is anonymised and absent of detail.

"Ann Clwyd was asked by the prime minister to look at NHS complaints in England - her remit did not extend to Wales.

"Opposition members are fully aware that it would be constitutionally inappropriate for the health committee to interview backbench MPs on their views around devolved matters - just as we wouldn't expect backbench AMs to be giving evidence to select committees in Parliament.

"Rather than trying to manufacture rows in this way, the opposition focus should be on using the committee's time to make sure the NHS is delivering the best possible care for the whole of Wales."

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