NHS and Social Care Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health) 4:45 pm, 28th January 2016

After your intervention on the Minister, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will ensure that I keep my remarks extremely brief. For those who have been here throughout the duration of the debate, it is probably time to have something to eat.

This has been an extraordinarily good debate and we have heard very well informed contributions. I absolutely agree with Dr Murrison that we should be ambitious and that we should have the mindset that what happens at the moment is not good enough. We should aspire to have the best health and care system imaginable and in comparison with other European countries.

I suppose that what is behind my plea for a commission, which I will continue to make, is the brutal truth that our political process has let people down. Liz Kendall made the point that an elderly person who does not get the care they need suffers when the political process fails. In a way, partisan politics has ducked the big issues, despite what some hon. Members have said about big political issues being determined in a partisan way. That has failed and let the people of this country down.

The shadow Secretary of State, Heidi Alexander, in many ways gave a thoughtful speech, much of which I completely agreed with. She had a little go at me about social care funding, but the truth is that none of the political parties confronted the funding needs of social care at the general election. There was a bit of a race over health funding, but social care was neglected, as it has been again and again. Until we confront that, people in this country will continue to be let down.

Opposition Members can choose to say, “It is all the Government’s responsibility.” The Minister clearly wants to keep it that way, and we could just attack for the next five years. When things get really difficult, we can go for the failures of the system. Alternatively, we could adopt a different approach and recognise that these are profound issues that, in a way, have not been thought about comprehensively since the foundation of the system back in 1948. In ’48, there was a process that garnered cross-party support, despite what the shadow Secretary of State said about that being impossible.

Sometimes, this country needs to reach big decisions together, whether it is about pensions or climate change, as my right hon. Friend Mr Clegg was saying, or about how we cope with an ageing population. I believe that this is the moment when it is necessary for us to come together to confront those issues. It is in the Government’s interest to think again and embrace the proposal. It is foolhardy to reject it, because I suspect that, with the projections that we all know about, during this Parliament, things will get very messy.

I will continue to campaign and I am very grateful to Members on both sides of the House for supporting that proposition. I thank all hon. Members for their contributions to the debate this afternoon.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House calls for the establishment of an independent, non-partisan Commission on the future of the NHS and social care which would engage with the public, the NHS and care workforces, experts and civic society, sitting for a defined period with the aim of establishing a long-term settlement for the NHS and social care.