[Hugh Bayley in the Chair] — Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:20 pm on 12th November 2009.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 4:20 pm, 12th November 2009

And I have no doubt that some people probably did much more manual labour, as well. Our lifestyle has changed significantly in my lifetime, and those are the reasons why. That is what we have to address.

I wish briefly to deal with two more things. I agree with what has been said about capitation fees. My dilemma is that last year the target got higher because of a reassessment, so Rotherham was well under, but I would not argue that money should be taken from primary care trusts that are over their target. We must remember that although Rotherham is underfunded on the new calculation which may get rid of the historical calculation and bring in a more sensible one, the issue is about actual needs based on assessment of communities.

We are still building things like the Rotherham Institute for Obesity, and still doing things on the ground with overweight and young people, including sending them to Carnegie college up in Leeds. We will be running Carnegie weight loss colleges for schoolchildren in our community centres. Although this is happening, we have not reached the target. It is about more than just reaching targets and saying, "We've got this money now." However, I would not advocate that money be taken out of communities: if I am in Parliament in 12 months-I do not know who will be sat in the Minister's chair then-I will be arguing for money for communities like mine to carry on improving their health.

Finally, on tobacco policy, in a sense the answer to the question by Mike Penning about what happened in respect of the vending machine debate, and the good decision taken in the Health Bill, is that the Government, at the eleventh hour, decided to let the House have a free vote, allowing Members of Parliament to exercise their own judgment, as they did on smoking in public places. We would be a lot better as legislators if we did it ourselves, because party politically we are frightened to death of the nanny state, but as individuals we can see the need for intervention in all our communities-in respect of different age and gender groups and everything else-and we can defend those decisions on the ground.

My hon. Friend the Minister used to be in the Whips Office at one time. We ought to get the message through to all parties in Parliament and to the usual channels that parliamentarians, on many occasions, can take the right decisions without having to respond to Whips, who are sensitive about arguments that I think are quite old-fashioned. Members of Parliament are sent to the House because our constituents want a representative of the state. That is the whole point of the exercise and why we are sent to Westminster, whether we are in government or opposition, or whatever. We are the state's representative in our constituencies and we should not be frightened of taking decisions on behalf of our constituents, because that is to the general good.

You will be pleased to know that I will not go any further, Mr. Bayley. I thank hon. Members for their interventions and comments in relation to our report on health inequalities. As I said at the start, I hope that this is not the end of the debate on health inequalities in this country. Lifestyles will be the big public health issue in the 21st century and this report is designed to start the debate, not end it.


Kaihsu Tai
Posted on 17 Nov 2009 11:40 pm (Report this annotation)

Perhaps Mr Barron meant to say "the MPs are the constituencies' representatives to the state" when he said "We are the state's representative in our constituencies [...]".