09:00 - 18 February 2003
 Westcountry councils have reacted with delight after the House of Lords
defeated the controversial "bed-blocking" Bill. The Government was
beaten in the Lords last night over its plans to tackle hospital bed
blocking, after the peers succeeded in forcing a one-year delay to the
scheme by voting 152 to 133 against it.

The Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Bill, announced by Secretary of
State for Health Alan Milburn, aims to "fine" local authorities which
fail to get elderly patients out of hospital quickly enough, and was due
to come into force from April 2003 ??? but is now postponed until 12
months later.

Last night, Coun Lyn Gear, Devon County Council's adult social service
portfolio holder, said the Lords were "absolutely right" to vote against
the "ridiculous" Bill.

She added: "I get very angry when these Bills are drawn up by someone
who knows nothing about the area they will affect, and I am delighted
this has been defeated.

"It is ridiculous to try and introduce something like this, which will
turn social services and health against one another, when we are working
so very hard ??? and seeing success ??? at having a better relationship.

"We will be lobbying very hard between now and next year to ensure this
Bill is heavily revised, and it is up to Alan Milburn to listen to our

Her counterpart on Cornwall County Council, Mike Nicholls, added: "We
are obviously very pleased, because many of our health colleagues didn't
see the sense behind this proposal. We've hardly got enough beds to deal
with what we've got already."

But Mr Nicholls warned that the Government would use the Parliament Act
to force the Bill through for April 2003.