'No pompous windbaggery was going to stop him'

Speaker John Bercow Image copyright HOC
Image caption Speaker John Bercow praised Aneurin Bevan's indefatigability, bloody-mindedness and irascibility.

Their political backgrounds are rather different. But John Bercow used the 70th anniversary of the NHS to heap praise on its founder, Aneurin Bevan.

The Speaker hosted a reception to mark the occasion. John Bercow cut his political teeth on the right of the Conservative party; Bevan was on the left of Labour.

John Bercow praised Bevan as one of the relatively few people to combine a great ministerial career with being a great parliamentarian. (He namechecked a few others - Kenneth Clarke and Robin Cook among them).

"Somebody had to come up with the idea, somebody had to have the vision, somebody had to have, dare I say it, the sheer indefatigability, the robustness, the bloody-mindedness, perhaps event sometimes the irascibility with people who tried to get in the way to insist up with that he will not put.

"He was absolutely determined that this great institution was going to be in the interests of the people and would be created and no amount of pompous windbaggery from vested interests was going to stop him delivering on that goal."

John Bercow said he had once had private medical insurance through a private company he worked for but believed and had since always used the NHS and rejected the United States approach to healthcare. He said the US system was still fundamentally about one question: "Can you cough up? Money, I'm afraid"

Bevan's great-niece Nygaire presented Mr Bercow with a miner's lamp from Tredegar.

It was very much a celebration of the creation of a system that offered universal healthcare based on clinical need rather than ability to pay.

But the 70th anniversary has not stopped awkward questions about the NHS's performance.

The BBC's Nick Robinson hopes that the 70th anniversary will be marked by "a healthier national conversation focused on how to help those who care for us, and help more people live longer, healthier lives."

He wroted: "The gift the health service needs is an open, honest, clear-headed diagnosis of its strengths and, yes, its weaknesses, too. That and a national conversation."

He highlighted, among other issues, cancer survival rates. It is had to compare figures across the four nations of the UK but international comparisons have suggested that the UK's cancer survival rates do not compare favourably with other countries.

'Complaints'

Labour MP Ann Clwyd was among the guests at Speaker's House. The previous evening she had led a special Commons debate on "something that has been on my mind for a long time". It was a debate entitled "NHS complaints system: Wales".

The background to the debate is the death of her husband, Owen Edwards, almost six years ago at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Ms Clwyd filed 31 complaints about the way he was treated. Most were rejected but she has criticised the independence of the inquiry and its conclusions and what she called a "cover-up mentality".

Wales Office Minister Stuart Andrew replied to the debate for the government - a difficult task as he has very little responsibility for the NHS in Wales and even less for the way it handles complaints. He has promised to send Welsh Health Secretary Vaughan Gething a transcript of the debate.