My Lords, I will begin by making an appeal to those who arrange these matters in this House. A three-minute time limit in a debate such as this is absurd, and it is certainly absurd to allow a maiden speaker—we heard a very good one this morning—only three minutes. When times are allocated, a little could be taken off the Front-Benchers to give a little more for a maiden speech. I also endorse the plea made by my noble friend Lord Lansley for a proper annual debate—I do not refer to the Queen’s Speech—on the National Health Service.
Time allows me to make just two points. The National Health Service may indeed be the best in the world. If it is, that is because it is the creation of all political parties, and it is very wrong for any politician to seek to make a political football out of it. Your Lordships’ House sets a much better example than the other place when it comes to debating the NHS.
My second point is very simple. My noble friend Lord Fowler made an eloquent plea for a royal commission. I was privileged to take part in a debate that was instituted by the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, just over a year ago, when I made for the third time a plea for a commission or an inquiry. I repeat that plea again today and endorse what my noble friend Lord Fowler said. It is important not only that we take the NHS out of the party political arena but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said in her excellent speech, we have to look to the future because the health service is in crisis. A sticking plaster is not the solution. To lurch from one financial crisis to another does not only the NHS but the whole nation a disservice in the process. As I have said before, we must have a plurality of funding. Whether that comes from taxation—hypothecated or not—compulsory insurance, extra charges such as penalties for those who do not keep appointments or from a combination of all three, we must have a plurality of funding and take away this continual crisis.
We are all beneficiaries of the National Health Service and we will all depend on it in the future. I therefore urge the Minister to give some indication that he has sympathy for the idea of a commission and, at the very least, I should like some sympathy for my noble friend Lord Mawhinney’s plea for a body to be set up in this House, where there is a greater accumulation of expertise on this subject than anywhere else in the country.