Part of Health and Care Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 4:22 pm on 23rd March 2022.

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Photo of Lord Kamall Lord Kamall The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:22 pm, 23rd March 2022

As noble Lords know, I am still learning. I will take a moment to mark the end of the Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House. Its size reflects the Government’s ambitious agenda for change and the NHS’s requests to help to deliver this change. The Bill intends to strip out needless bureaucracy, improve accountability and enhance integration, and it will form the bedrock for the NHS to build on in years to come.

I will express some words of gratitude. In many ways, the many meetings, the debates and even the late nights during the passage of the Bill have, I believe, shown this House at its best—informed, collaborative and considered. I am grateful to all noble Lords for their intense scrutiny over the nine days of Committee and four days of Report.

I pay tribute to the willingness of noble Lords, right across the House, on all Benches, to engage with me and my officials to find ways to improve the Bill. As well as being grateful to the Labour and Liberal Democrat Front Benches for at times challenging us and at other times agreeing and co-operating, I thank a number of Cross-Bench Peers, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, Lady Watkins of Tavistock and Lady Hollins, and the noble Lords, Lord Stevens of Birmingham and Lord Patel—who sends his apologies—for their always constructive contributions. I should perhaps also thank noble Lords on the Benches behind me and reflect that the challenge was sometimes from them.

As a relatively new Minister, thrown in at the deep end—your Lordships can see how new I still am from my asking, “Am I on yet?”—I also thank my colleagues on the Government Benches, who have assisted, advised and, I have to admit, consoled me at times throughout the passage of the Bill. I pay tribute to the kind support and advice of my noble friends Lord Howe, Lady Penn and Lady Chisholm of Owlpen.

I also put on record my thanks to the wide range of stakeholders which have engaged with me and many noble Lords, including the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers, the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Local Government Association, for their sustained and constructive engagement over several years. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that the Bill is better for all their work.

It would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to the work of colleagues across the NHS, government and the devolved Administrations, who have worked so hard behind the scenes. In particular, I thank my fantastic Bill team and the departmental policy teams supporting them, all of whom have been assiduous, helpful and uncomplaining at all times, despite very long hours. Perhaps I should give a special shout-out to 10 month-old Teddy Povey, son of the Bill team manager. You say that you are getting old when the policemen look younger, but I must say that I felt very old on seeing that the policy officials are getting younger. I pay a special tribute there, on his early introduction to politics.

I thank officials across government, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Education, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Ministry of Justice, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. That shows the sort of cross-government dimension to this Bill.

There is no doubt that your Lordships have improved the Bill. I hope that noble Lords across the Chamber will recognise that the Government have listened, considered and responded positively to suggestions where we were able to. However, I also recognise that there are some areas still to be resolved and where, to use my oft-used phrase one more time, we were unable to close the gap between our positions, including on social care, workforce planning and reconfigurations, on which the House of Commons will want to make its voice heard—and to which we may return in debate. But the areas of disagreement should not overshadow the improvement that all noble Lords have made to the Bill. Together, as a House, we have banned hymenoplasty; introduced a power to create a licensing regime for non-surgical cosmetic procedures; extended the gamete and embryo storage limits; made important commitments to safeguarding children; and strengthened the NHS’s commitment to net zero. On a subject close to my heart and that of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, we have included specific references to tackling inequalities.

We send to the other place a Health and Care Bill that is improved with its three underpinning principles reinforced: embedding integration, cutting bureaucracy and boosting accountability. I beg to move.