Queen’s Speech — Debate (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:37 pm on 14th May 2013.

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Photo of Lord Patel Lord Patel Crossbench 4:37 pm, 14th May 2013

My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to be asked to speak after the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. Most noble Lords may not know that this is his third attempt to make his maiden speech. It is also the third time that I have been placed to speak after him. On the previous two occasions, the debates were cancelled. Therefore, he is lucky today and we are lucky to hear him.

Today, the noble Viscount spoke about energy but he could have spoken equally well on literature, political philosophy, the economy, science and even banking. Of course, he is the latest recruit to the Eton and Oxford club, which is growing in the Houses of Parliament. However, to me he is well known for the books that he has written, including those on science, particularly genomics. He has produced well written theses on genes and chromosomes, which people can follow easily.

The noble Viscount’s books have sold millions of copies and have been translated into 30 languages. They have won many awards, including the New York Times award for the 10 best books of the year. So far his TED lecture has had more than 2 million followers. It beats the records of other lecturers such as Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall and many Nobel Prize winners. I wonder why his TED lecture has had more than 2 million followers. The subject of his lecture was “When ideas have sex”; I wonder if it is the word “sex” that is attracting them.

We look forward to many more contributions from the noble Viscount. It was a pleasure to listen to him and I congratulate him on his maiden speech.

I turn now to my meagre contribution to the debate on the gracious Speech and I will briefly speak about the Care Bill. I congratulate the Government on bringing it forward, on their ambition to create a system in which everyone can get the care they need and on including in the Bill rights for carers. It is landmark legislation on the path to a fairer system. I say “on the path to a fairer system” because the proposals alone will not solve the serious challenges of funding social care and the growing gap between funding and increased demand. Similarly, I wonder whether the Government think that the £150 million allocated to support the rights of carers is likely to meet their needs.

There is also a need to address a gap in the support that currently exists, for instance, for patients with cancers. While the Bill places a duty, and quite rightly so, on local authorities to identify the needs of carers, for cancer patients such responsibility also needs to include health bodies, both to meet the needs of carers and to achieve integrated care, which I know is the Government’s ambition. I ask the Minister whether it remains the Government’s commitment to implement free social care at the end of life, a time that a person with cancer is most aware of. While they need healthcare, they also need social care but are not themselves aware of which care they need. Healthcare is free while social care has to be paid for. Any assessment that a person is required to undergo will cause delay and therefore deny them the care. No doubt, as we enter the legislative period next week on the Care Bill, we will have an opportunity to debate and discuss these and other issues. I look forward to that.

I now turn briefly to my disappointment at what is not in the gracious Speech. As other noble Lords have mentioned, the Government have missed an opportunity to introduce legislation on public health issues, particularly in relation to the plain packaging of cigarettes and tobacco material and the minimum pricing of alcohol. I add to that any strategy for the reduction of obesity. One-third of children in our country under the age of nine are now obese, and nearly a quarter of adults are obese. We need a strategy, including for food labelling, that will reduce the consumption of sugar, fat and salt. I am disappointed that there is no strategy in any legislation referred to in the gracious Speech on public health matters. Can the Minister say whether the Government intend to bring forward legislation relating to public health issues in the future?