It is good to see you restored your place, Mr Deputy Speaker, and a particular privilege to take part in today’s debate on the Gracious Speech, with a particular focus on our precious NHS. It is also good to see the emphasis in the Government’s programme on funding, innovative medicines, safety and mental health, so that we can improve the services that our NHS delivers and improve the lives of those who needs its care.
The timing of today’s debate has some particular poignancy for me. I was struck by the comments of my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt about the ups and downs of politics. It is almost exactly two years to the day that I had surgery to remove the top part of my right lung and the cancerous tumour contained within it, but I am pleased to say that, in the immortal lyrics of Sir Elton John, “I’m still standing.” [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I count my blessings each day, and today provides me with a further opportunity to pay tribute to the incredible people in our NHS who saved my life and continue to save the lives of countless people up and down the country every single day.
I have learned so much over the past two years, and I am determined to use my experiences to act as an advocate for change, especially for less survivable cancers such as lung cancer. I have been heartened by the encouragement of colleagues across the House—even the colleague who upon my return to the Members’ Tea Room after surgery said, “Didn’t expect to see you back.” To this day, I am quite sure that the omission of the words “so speedily” was simply an unconscious oversight.
Over half of us will get cancer at some stage in our lives. That is why we need to be more open about and change the nature of the conversation around the disease. For many people, cancer is becoming the treatment of a chronic condition, and more and more people are living well with or beyond cancer.