NHS and Social Care Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Minister of State, Department of Health 4:19 pm, 28th January 2016

I accept that. I was not in this post in the period from 2012 to 2015. I am certainly ensuring that we are progressing. I am glad that we have sorted that out. The coalition’s involvement with and commitment to this issue have been immense, and I am very proud to carry that on in the way I am doing.

My hon. Friend Maria Caulfield brought her experience to this debate. She spoke about the integration of budgets for social care and for local authority expenditure in the national health service, which is absolutely crucial. For me, integration is not about getting two groups of people to sit down in the same room every few months or so to have a discussion. It really cannot be done without a combined budget. So long as there are perverse incentives for one budget or another, it will not work.

We are making progress on that and have clear plans to get it done by 2020. We will follow our progress with a scorecard to find out where we are. We have spoken for too long about finding the holy grail, but we are further towards it than anyone has been before. That is not a bad place to be, but we must ensure that we make progress. A lot of this is about relationships; it is not just about organisations being in the same room. Unless people really talk to each other and have a real sense of what can be done collectively, we will not get anywhere.

My hon. Friend made the heartfelt plea, “Leave us be from time to time.” That would certainly be echoed by virtually everybody I have ever been involved with in the public sector during the past 30 years. They just wish we would decide what is to be done and let them get on with it for a while before changing it again. I am quite sure that this Government have absolutely absorbed that lesson.

The hon. Member for Don Valley[Interruption.] Will she forgive me? Once I have been in the House for a few years, I will get all such distinctions right. Caroline Flint speaks from a position of great experience and great success. She spoke about the successes and the failures in the system, which we all know about, and about how the commission could look at them. Again, I am not quite sure that it could bear the weight of doing so.

The right hon. Lady addressed the political issues and how difficult some of them are. If she will forgive me for saying so, she made an intervention on Debbie Abrahams that exemplified the point. There are difficult political challenges within parties as well as between parties across the Floor of the House, and I noticed the little challenge that was made.

I must say to the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth, who spoke with great passion about her party’s commitment to a publicly funded or taxpayer-funded NHS with no deviation from the line, that that is simply not true. It suits her to say it, but it is not true. Let me quote from an article from the New Statesman of 27 January 2015, under the headline “Labour can’t escape its Blairite past on the NHS, so it should stop crying ‘privatisation’.” It said that Alan Milburn

“serves as one of many reminders that not so long ago, during the New Labour years, the Labour party was driving through dramatic reforms in the NHS and did not shy away from private money in doing so.”

There are variations on a theme, even for the hon. Lady, and she perhaps protested about the public nature of the NHS a little too much.