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Lords Diary: Lord Lansley

Lord Lansley

Lord Lansley

4 min read

From celebrating NHS champions at Downing Street, to meetings on new plant genomic techniques at the European Parliament

The fourth of July may be Independence Day, but here we are in Downing Street celebrating local NHS champions. This is what the NHS is really about: dedicated staff. So I was disappointed to read endless articles discussing whether the NHS can survive. Of course it can – because it must. And if we have the collective will to do it, there is nothing inherently “unsustainable” about tax-funded free universal healthcare. I also thought, if I were 75 (not yet), I wouldn’t consider it much of a celebration to be greeted with debate over how long I can survive!

In the European Parliament for a meeting to discuss the EU’s plan for legislation on “new genomic techniques” for plants. Coincidentally, at Westminster, we have passed the Precision Breeding Act. It will be critical in ensuring food security and sustainability. We had a clear consensus that it was right to take plant precision breeding out of GMO regulation, where this uses gene-editing techniques to achieve varieties which could be bred conventionally. The benefits in terms of reducing pesticide use, increasing drought resistance, or reduced allergenic effects are all really positive. I hope the debate in the EP reflects those benefits and the scientific evidence, but the fault lines of opposition to GM (mutagenesis as well as transgenesis) in some EU countries go deep.

Later in the week, a meeting on the Procurement Bill: we sent it off to the Commons with a sub-clause which said the policy statement on procurement should include, as priorities, our environmental commitments, achieving social value, and promoting innovation. The Commons took them out. I seem to spend a lot of time trying to persuade our ministers to do things which are obviously right and should not be controversial. As a former leader of the Commons, I suspect that is largely because officials always say “resist” to all other amendments, even while tabling hundreds of their own to poorly drafted bills. We are a revising Chamber. Ministers should be much more accepting of the possibilities that our amendments can improve their bills.

I seem to spend a lot of time trying to persuade our ministers to do things which are obviously right

Weekend dominated by post A-level leavers’ events for our youngest. I have had at least one child in school since the last century. What, I wonder, will it feel like? No "empty nest" yet. We’ve made a lot of friends through meeting other parents. It’s the end of an era, and not just for the youngsters. He’s planning to go to university to study games design; a degree course in a subject that didn’t exist when I was at college. But the UK games industry is a world leader and it’s a sector bigger than the film industry. So credit to him for choosing it.

But time for tennis on Sunday. Isn’t it wonderful how enthusiastic we get for tennis for the Wimbledon fortnight and a few weeks thereafter; and for buying ex-Wimbledon tennis balls?

Start the new week meeting Kemi Badenoch. Well done to Kemi for taking an interest in the Upper House. The India trade deal is high on the agenda. The key word is "deal". We have to accept that access for our services must mean parallel access for Indian skilled workers. And why not? We want the "brightest and best".

Long hours of work over the preceding fortnight on amendments for the Levelling-up Bill and now we start the report stage. I lead the group on levelling-up mission statements. My amendment would give Parliament the right to reject the mission statements – not to rewrite them. Government should propose, but Parliament should dispose. Otherwise what is the point of this part of the bill? To give government the power to say what its objectives are? It has that already. But if missions are to be a key piece of public policy (and they should be) then surely Parliament should have a say. Six more days of levelling-up ahead: hoorah!

Lord Lansley is Conservative peer and former health secretary

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