Politics

Steve Barclay: How the new health secretary has voted on abortion, assisted dying and the NHS

He's the new health secretary after Sajid Javid's resignation, but what does Steve Barclay's record tell us about what to expect?

Steve Barclay

Barclay played rugby 'relatively seriously' until realising he wasn't 'good enough'.

Steve Barclay has become the new health secretary following the sensational resignation of Sajid Javid.

Of course, with Boris Johnson’s premiership in peril, it remains to be seen how long he’ll remain in post, which he takes up having served as Johnson’s chief of staff and with a track record as a loyal Tory MP.

He’s held past posts as Brexit Secretary, and as a health minister. We’ve picked out a few notable incidents that may give clues to his tenure.

Steve Barclay voted in favour of a law against abortions on the grounds of sex

In 2014, Barclay voted in favour of the Abortion (Sex Selection) bill. This bill, but forward by MP Fiona Bruce, did not introduce anything new – but would simply have clarified that “nothing in section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 allows a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child”.

The vote had a low turnout – Barclay was one of just 182 MPs to vote. In the end, the bill went nowhere.

More recently, Barclay abstained on a vote in June 2022 which would have improved access to abortion in Northern Ireland.

He also voted against assisted dying

Steve Barclay’s record isn’t full of remarkable votes. But in 2015 he voted against assisted dying – one of the most emotive debates around healthcare to this day. Most Tory MPs, however, voted the same way.

The issue is back in the political agenda – a petition was debated on Monday July 4, with the government saying any relaxation in law is “a matter for parliament to decide”.

In 2020, Barclay appeared not to understand how Covid testing stats worked

In an appearance on Question Time in May 2020, Barclay was corrected by host Fiona Bruce over his understanding of Covid testing stats.

Barclay boasted that 127,000 tests had been carried out in a day, meaning 127,000 people had been tested. But he forgot about people taking more than one test in a day.

Bruce reminded him that: “I think you’ll find it’s 76,000 people were actually tested, 127,000 tests were carried out.”

He was a rugby fanatic in his youth but admitted ‘ultimately I didn’t think I was good enough’

Born in Lancashire, Steve Barclay grew up playing rugby nearly every day. He told the BBC’s Nick Robinson that despite playing “relatively seriously” he ultimately “didn’t think I was good enough”.

From there, he became a second lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers before studying at Cambridge – where he said he was never involved in politics.

A career in finance followed. He even worked for Barclays, admitting “it was quite funny on the business card”.

His first attempt to become an MP, in Manchester in 1997, resulted in a “good kicking” as a candidate.

But he successfully became the MP for North East Cambridgeshire in 2010.

He’s held a number of ministerial posts since then

Barclay has served in a range of front bench posts. He became a minister of state for health under Theresa May in 2018, then Brexit secretary, and until now was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Johnson’s chief of staff.

He was brought in as Johnson’s chief of staff as a steady hand to stem the flow of scandals. But it was the scandal over Johnson’s handling of sexual assault allegations this month that sparked Javid’s resignation, creating the vacancy for Barclay’s new job.

He’s consistently voted against restricting privatisation in the NHS

Back in 2011 and 2012, Barclay consistently voted against restricting the NHS’ ability to serve private patients – and to make money from them.

In a series of votes, he voted the same way as most Tory MPs – in fitting with his pattern of loyalty.

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