I thank Norman Lamb and pay tribute to him, particularly for his work as a Minister in the coalition Government and for his personal commitment to mental health services. I welcome his call for real focus and cross-party agreement on this long-standing problem. We need that if we are to solve the problem and create a health and social care service that is fit for purpose for the next century.
I would sound one note of caution. I am very relieved that the right hon. Gentleman is not calling for a royal commission, as there is no shortage of commissions in this place. We are just a year from the Barker commission, the highly respected independent commission set up by the King’s Fund, which very clearly laid out the problems we face and suggested a number of options. Hard choices will have to be made if we are to raise the share of our GDP that we spend on health and social care to 11%, which I know many Members would support.
We know the options. The difficulty is a political one. I question whether we need a commission, and would ask whether we do not in fact need a commitment from the leaders of all political parties in England to come together to look at the proposals seriously, and get away from the endless bickering in this place about the choices before us and the pretence that this is somehow not going to happen. Unless we make such changes, we will have to start thinking rapidly about plan B as an alternative.
What will be the consequences for all our constituents if we fail to reach a political agreement about the challenges we face?