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Restoring Nature and Climate Change — [Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:58 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick Conservative, Bosworth 4:58 pm, 28th October 2019

I certainly would. Representing Bosworth, a hosiery and knitwear constituency in the midlands, I have spent much of the last 30 years in the House—not quite as long as the hon. Gentleman, I think, from memory—looking at the problem of phosphorescent dyes, which are very popular in the clothing industry, getting into sewage works and water streams. Of course I would be happy to become involved in that.

I turn to the importance of the UK’s having a sustainable healthcare policy. At the moment, one third of the world’s population already has, in part, a sustainable healthcare system. The two most populous countries in the world are, colleagues will recall, China and India; China has a population of 1.4 billion and India has a population of 1.3 billion. I say to my right hon. Friend the Minister that the challenge for us in this country is to develop—or to take forward from their small base—zero-carbon medicines and healthcare. We cannot ignore this subject.

China has 65,000 hospitals that use zero-carbon treatments in the shape of acupuncture. They also use traditional Chinese herbal medicine, which has a carbon footprint close to zero. I have to say to my right hon. Friend that India is light years ahead. Not only does it have a family health Ministry; it has the Ministry of AYUSH—the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, which is a sustainable health Ministry that is very much supported by Prime Minister Modi, who has just been elected for another five years. The Ministry has seen its budget increase four times in the last six years.

I say to my right hon. Friend that it is a mystery to me why the authorities in this country—the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NHS England and, to a certain extent, the Department of Health and Social Care—do not look far afield beyond our country and take note of what is happening in other parts of the world. NICE decided to query the effectiveness of acupuncture, a zero-carbon treatment, for lower back pain. In January, I asked its chief executive, Sir Andrew Dillon, whether he had looked at evidence from China. He said no, on cost grounds; admittedly, NICE’s budget has been reduced. However, that is a mistake; we should look further afield.

Today, the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, made a blanket attack on homeopaths over the issue of vaccinations. I personally support the Daily Mail campaign for vaccinations, which is a good campaign. What I think is mistaken is to attack a movement. Again, we need to look abroad, at what happens in India, bearing in mind that homeopathy—I will not dwell on it for long—is a zero-carbon treatment. Some would say that there is nothing there in homeopathy, but in Delhi there are 6,000 homeopathy clinics and 15,000 registered practitioners; 80% are doctors with five years’ training. I went to a clinic in Calcutta that is treating 2,000 patients a day in the off-season, with 100 doctors on duty each day. I really think that we should look at this.

I will finish on homeopathy on this point. In the whole of India, there are 300,000 homeopathic practitioners, a quarter of a million of whom are doctors with five years’ training. How can it be that at a time of environmental crisis and the shocking carbon footprint of the health service, we are not taking this, the second largest medical system in the world, seriously? I have to say that I think the head of our health service, Simon Stevens, has been very badly advised, and I say the same to Andrew Dillon. I think they have been badly advised. They should get out there and see what is happening in the rest of the world and bury their prejudices.

I met and would like to thank Shripad Naik, the Minister in charge of AYUSH; Dr Rajesh Kotecha, his Secretary; and Pramod Pathak, the Additional Secretary, for the courtesy extended to me when I visited the Ministry on a week-long tour of facilities in India. I am most grateful to them and I wish them well as they look after their 700,000 practitioners, 700 teaching institutions and 200 postgraduate institutions; manage an annual intake on degree courses of 46,000 students and an annual intake on postgrad courses of 6,000; and look after 28,000 dispensaries and 9,000 Government manufacturing units. They provide six practitioners per 10,000 of population. That is what we should be looking at.

Colleagues wish to speak, and I certainly do not want to monopolise the time this afternoon. I suggest that we have to broaden the scope of our environmental thinking to look at the whole issue of healthcare. I have seen this elsewhere and I do think that we need to think about zero-carbon treatments and zero-carbon medicines. They are out there, used by one third of the world’s population. We need to wise up, as my kids say—“Daddy, wise up.” We need to take note that three babies a day are born addicted to opioid drugs. We need to realise that the new antibiotics that we need are not coming online fast enough. We have to go back to the future, if I may quote Alvin Toffler—I think it was him—and look for new solutions in 4,000-year-old medical systems. If we do, we will have a happier, healthier world, with a better carbon footprint.