Health Bill

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Mr. Lansley: On a point of order, Mr. Illsley. May I express our appreciation to you and your fellow Chairmen for the manner in which you have conducted our proceedings? We on the Opposition Benches appreciate the manner in which the Committee has discussed the Bill's provisions—it seems to have been more for elucidation than for argument's sake. We have exposed a range of important issues. In fact, we discussed nearly all the issues in the Bill—about 10 of them—and although one or two may have had greater prominence, I hope that they all will make a contribution to the management of the NHS—and more particularly to the health of the people of this country.

We appreciate the support from which we occasionally benefited that the Minister received from parliamentary counsel and departmental officials. Once again, all members of the Committee are very much in debt to the Clerks, and to the attendants and the police who look after us.

Personally speaking, I should like to express my appreciation to my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison). I may have come and gone from time to time, but I value his work immensely; whenever I have heard it, I appreciated his heavy lifting on the Bill. I say thank you to him, and I conclude my point of order on that note.

Stephen Williams: Further to that point of order, Mr. Illsley. I also thank you for your friendly chairmanship of the Committee and particularly for your liberal attitude to dress code. I wish that gentlemen did not have to wear their jackets at all times in other parts of the House of Commons.

We have had 12 sittings. The smoking part of the Bill occupied us and perhaps involved our most lively discussions, and we shall look for further changes when the Bill comes back to the Floor of the House. None the less, the infection control issue and other aspects of the Bill turned out to be more interesting than I had expected; I have certainly learned a lot in my new role as I have helped the passage of the Bill.

This is the second Standing Committee on which I have served. As I have mentioned a couple of times, my professional background before I came here was in
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tax, so the Liberal Democrat Whips put me on the Finance (No. 2) Bill Committee within two weeks of my arrival at the House of Commons. That was certainly a baptism of fire. However, despite my former profession and my interest in tax, this Committee was much more interesting. Perhaps that will not surprise those who have had or will have the joy of sitting on Finance Bills.

When there have been lapses in concentration—not necessarily during the heavy lifting by the hon. Member for Westbury; maybe at other times as well—I noticed that some Committee members were able to address copious amounts of Christmas cards. One managed to address an entire suitcase-full. Some did crosswords and Sudoku.

Appropriately, I have chosen to wear my glasses today so that I can take one last look at the fine painting of Gladstone's first Cabinet. That was the subject of my undergraduate dissertation, a copy of which I have had at home for the past 17 years. Every time I go home, I shall now be reminded of my enjoyment of my time on this Committee.

Caroline Flint: Further to that point of order, Mr. Illsley. I thank you, Mr. Caton and Lady Winterton for your services to this Committee. There have been occasions on which the rota has been in disarray and we have had to look for our Chairman—you have always come to the fore, Mr. Illsley.

I thank the Clerks, the attendants and the police officers for their management and support of the proceedings and my own officials from the Department, who have been very supportive on a number of occasions. I also thank my hon. Friends who have acted as Parliamentary Private Secretaries. They have passed me many notes, as and when I have needed them. I also thank my right hon. Friend my fellow Minister for her support.

In this Committee, I have crossed swords with the hon. Member for Westbury for the first time. I was not in the Room at the time—my right hon. Friend was involved in the proceedings—but I believe that once, when the hon. Gentleman was making a contribution, he turned round to see whether there were any Committee members on his side, only to find that absolutely nobody was there.

It has been an interesting Committee. One party leader has been anointed, while another—I cannot see any knives in Gladstone's back in the painting mentioned by the hon. Member for Bristol, West—has been given the heave-ho. The Committee has not been without its moments.

We were working very hard on the last day before the Christmas recess. My right hon. Friend and I tried to bring a bit of flavour to the Committee with our lapel decorations, borrowed, I have to say, from the Christmas tree in the Members' Tea Room—and sent back afterwards. I was disappointed that the flashing Christmas tree badge brought in by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron) did not work when required to do so. However, I thank her for all she has done to support all Labour Committee members and for making sure that proceedings have run properly.
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We have covered a huge number of areas. We have had some incisive discussions and debates; I have certainly been put on the spot and challenged, as is right. We have gone through the right process to make sure that all areas are given the scrutiny that they deserve. The Bill covers many aspects of health care, each of which is important in its own right, and it will add to the development of health services in England. I thank all members of the Committee for their contributions.

We learned a lot about individuals. We learned that the hon. Member for Bristol, West is single—I do not know whether he is still single after Christmas—

Stephen Williams: Sadly so.

Caroline Flint: Sadly so, but a Committee always offers an interesting opportunity to get to know hon.
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Members just a little better than we sometimes do on the Floor of the House. I thank everybody for that.

The Chairman: On behalf of my fellow Chairmen, I thank hon. Members for their kind comments. In relation to the comments of the hon. Member for Bristol, West, I did not see anybody signing any Christmas cards. I could well need the optician that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire visited during today's break.

Let me quickly add my thanks to the Clerk, John Benger, who has done my heavy lifting throughout the Committee, and to his assistant, to the Hansard writers, to the attendants and, of course, to the police for their assistance during the Committee stage of the Bill.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at eleven minutes past Seven o'clock.

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Prepared 10 January 2006