The public health white paper, originally due for the autumn, is now likely to be published in in the new year. According the Financial Times, an official explained that the plan was to launch it before Christmas, 'but we felt it was a bit nannying to tell people about cutting back on food and drink in the festive season. We think of it as more of a New Year's resolution white paper.'

Also delayed is a draft Freedom of Information bill, originally planned for this Autumn. Tony Blair promised in 1996 that such a bill would 'bring our politics up to date' and deliver 'more open, effective and efficient government for the future.' A draft bill, now undergoing 'fundamental reappraisal,' is expected in early 1999, which effectively removes it from next year's legislative programme.

The right wing Tory MP for Southend West, David Amess, has been appointed to the House of Commons health select committee. He replaces Andrew Lansley. Mr Amess, who was MP for Basildon from 1983 to 1997, was formerly parliamentary private secretary to Michael Portillo. Like the shadow health secretary Ann Widdecombe, Mr Amess is a hard line anti-abortionist.

Trade unions have had a strong presence in the development of Labour health policy, the party's 1998 annual report reveals. For 1997-98, four of the nine-strong policy commission were union officials: Margaret Wall of MSF, Mary Turner of the GMB, Brenda Etchells of the AEEU and Unison's Hector McKenzie. Other members include Toby Harris, former director of the Association of CHCs in England and Wales, now Lord Harris of Harringay, and ministers Dobson, Milburn and Jowell.

The architects of the recent Lib Dem health policy review on the other hand, belong much more to the NHS and social policy establishment. Former trust medical director Lord Alderdyce, ex-HEA director Spencer Hagard, GP Miranda Whitehead, and Age Concern director Gordon Lishman were on hand to advise health spokesperson Simon Hughes.