Lawyers working on behalf of Junior Doctors have received disclosure from Government Lawyers which is sure to raise questions over Jeremy Hunt’s legal position on the Junior Doctors contract dispute.
Bindmans, the firm representing the Justice for Health Group of five Junior Doctors, has received a letter from Department of Health Lawyers which claim that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, plans to “introduce” new contract terms to the Junior Doctors contract as opposed to the “imposition” of a new contract. This is significant as it calls into question to legality of Jeremy Hunt’s position and whether or not he has the legal right to impose the Junior Doctors contract as previously stated.
This small change in wording and subsequent confirmations from Department of Health spokespeople provide a glimmer of hope to the Junior Doctors who have taken unprecedented action when faced with the actions of the Government and Jeremy Hunt.
The Justice for Health Group feel that their case has been strengthened by this change of wording ahead of their High Court battle which starts today. Saimo Chahal QC has criticised the Government’s actions and stated that the Jeremy Hunt is clinging to the fiction that he has the legal power to impose a contract on Junior Doctors.
Junior Doctors feel that they have been forced into action by the actions of the Government who sought to change their working conditions. Doctors are feeling aggrieved by the treatment that they are getting and Jeremy Hunt’s actions will not be making the situation any better.
As well as strengthening the Junior Doctors case there is also the matter of whether or not the Health Secretary has misled Parliament. Jeremy Hunt came to Parliament and led the House to believe that it was his legal right to impose a contract on Junior Doctors.
As I write Heidi Alexander, the Shadow Health Secretary, has secured an urgent question in the House of Commons. The Health Secretary has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the House several times now and this is his opportunity to put the record straight. The Health Secretary needs to answer whether or not he is imposing a contract.
It is only when Labour drags the Health Secretary to the Commons that we ever get any answers from him. We shall see today if the Government and Jeremy Hunt have wilfully deceived the public and the Junior Doctors in the name of spin as well as putting patient safety at risk. Many will be listening intently to see if there is any change in legal position from the Health Secretary.
Jeremy Hunt’s claims to be able to impose a new contract are the subject to legal challenge and as such it is now a matter for the Courts to decide on the legality.
Here’s the thing. Either Jeremy Hunt has deliberately misled Parliament, and the Country, to provoke a reaction to force Junior Doctors to take industrial action or he simply does not know what he is doing.
Either way Jeremy Hunt is acting irresponsibly which is dangerous to all our health.