Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 2:58 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Ceidwadwyr, South Cambridgeshire 2:58, 26 Mawrth 2015

As ever, the right hon. Gentleman is very kind. Just as the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich mentioned that he shared an alma mater with my right hon. Friend Sir John Stanley, the right hon. Member for Blackburn and I share an alma mater. I followed him there and I followed him here, albeit with a slightly bigger time lag.

I want to make some remarks from my heart. First, I want to thank my constituents. I hope they agree with many of the things for which I fought on their behalf in the constituency—infrastructure, the A14, the rebuilding of Papworth hospital, broadband infrastructure, the planning, maintaining our quality of life, supporting research and development and science, and making it the best place in the world for life sciences investment and one of the best in the world for any kind of scientific or high-tech investment. We talk about the Cambridge phenomenon, and a great part of it is in South Cambridgeshire; we can honestly say that we are the eastern powerhouse. I hope it is not hubris to say that I leave my constituency in extremely good shape and with a quality of life among the best in the country.

I also want to say a big thank you to Michael Howard and to the Prime Minister. They gave me the chance to be the Conservativesshadow Health Secretary for seven years—contrary to what the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich said, I had a long tenure in that post—and then the privilege of serving as Secretary of State for Health. Supporting the NHS and improving the health of the people of this country has been my passionate commitment in Parliament. In opposition, we fought for safer care and, in government, we got it. In opposition, we secured the highest ever level of public trust in the Conservative party’s policies for the NHS. In government, we delivered on our commitment to increase the NHS budget in real terms and to safeguard the NHS in tough times. I know that commitment will be sustained by a Conservative Government in the years to come.

I was determined to do more—to achieve the reforms in the NHS that virtually all recent Secretaries of State knew were needed but had not been secured. Many say that I implemented a reorganisation of the NHS that I promised not to do. That is not true. The Conservative manifesto had no reference to “no top-down reorganisation”. I was elected on the Conservative manifesto and I delivered it, including rising real NHS resources; getting rid of political targets; using information and choice to drive better outcomes; creating a strong, independent NHS voice, with GPs at the heart of commissioning; creating Healthwatch to represent patients; cutting administration costs by a third to increase front-line staffing; commissioning a 24/7 service, with GP access from 8 to 8; setting up the 111 service; virtually eliminating the longest waits for operations; cutting infections to record lows; abolishing mixed-sex accommodation; more than 1 million more people getting NHS dentistry; establishing the cancer drugs fund, with 60,000 benefiting from access to the latest treatments; and reforming social care so that people no longer have to sell their homes to pay for their care.

We did that and more. With our Liberal Democrat colleagues, we established health and wellbeing boards, with public health responsibilities and the capacity to integrate health and care. It was not easy and it was not popular, but public service reform is not a popularity contest. It must and will survive. It needs to survive because it will make a big difference in the future. My Back-Bench colleagues were robust, solid and consistent in their support, and I thank them and the Prime Minister for backing reform. The reality will show through in the years ahead, as we have seen in recent announcements, not least from NHS England.

I had a career before coming here and I will have a career after leaving, but I will always remain proud of what we have done here, as well as thankful for the comradeship of colleagues, those with whom I have worked, the staff of the House, the staff in my office and so many across my constituency.

When we are here, we trade blows and we take a lot of blows, but it is probably our families who feel them the most. They cannot go into the arena and fight back, but they feel the pain at least as much as ever we do. I want to say a big thank you to Sally and my family.

I would like to conclude, if I may, with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, who said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds”.

I have always striven to leave my constituency and the country better for my efforts. I may have erred, but I have always cared deeply for my constituency and my causes, and I will continue to do so. Time will be my judge. I am content to have been a man in the arena.