Debates between Lord Crisp and Lord Bethell during the 2019 Parliament

Building Safety Bill

Debate between Lord Crisp and Lord Bethell
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in speaking to Amendment 2, I thank those noble Lords who have added their names to it. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has asked me to inform your Lordships that he cannot be in his place today as he has Covid. I am sure that we send him our best wishes. However, I am delighted that the noble Lords, Lord Bethell and Lord Stunell, are here and I thank them and others who will speak to this amendment. In passing, I also thank the TCPA and other organisations outside your Lordships’ House which very much support this amendment and have provided support and notes to a number of Members.

I emphasise that this is very much a cross-party amendment. I know that there is a lot of support for the principles involved. It is very simple and quite profound. It offers a simple definition of safety: the risk of harm to the health and well-being of an individual. It is a very simple, common-sense notion that applies to safe stairways, electrical wiring, dampness and cold as much as it does to fire.

In Committee, the Minister in effect argued in response that there did not need to be a definition and that definitions were satisfactorily covered in the current arrangements. There is no legal duty in the planning system that deals with human health. For that reason alone, it is important that we have a definition. More widely than that, I think that we need one for both negative and positive reasons. The negative reason is that, unless there is a definition, I believe that a Government of any party will always be in reactive mode. Amendment 8, which I am happy to support, is a perfect example; it lists four specifics related to human health and well-being and to safety and draws them to the House’s attention as of particular concern.

There will be others. One could produce a much longer list and there are things that we have not thought of yet. We could think about subsistence, air pollution and all kinds of areas that might be caught. The Government will need to continue to address all these issues as they come up—tactically, if you like, and on an ad hoc basis. I am quite sure that, as the Bill was being prepared, the Minister and his colleagues will have wanted to ensure that not too many things were added to it. The danger is that they may not be added to the Bill but will be added to parliamentary and government time afterwards.

There is an enormous advantage to being strategic—to setting out a definition that asks the regulator, and therefore everyone else in the system, to pay attention to health and safety, which embraces all these issues. That will help to bring about the cultural change in line with what I believe the Government want from the Bill. It will allow them to get ahead of the game and be ambitious, as the Long Title suggests that the Bill should be about

“safety … in or about buildings”.

There are positive reasons too; I have already talked about being ambitious. With their proposals around levelling up and elsewhere, the Government are undoubtedly seeking to improve the lives of citizens in the country. Housing and the built environment are absolutely at the heart of those ambitions. Covid has reminded us that our homes, if not being our castles, are certainly the foundations of much else in life: they are our sanctuary, a place for education and a place for stability and safety. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, will say more about the impact of Covid and the relationship between health and housing and buildings more generally. We have always known about that link and so have Governments in the past. For something like 50 years, the Secretary of State for Health was also the Secretary of State for Housing; the two were intimately linked. Partly as a result of that, no doubt, we saw the excellent standard of council housing built between the two wars, for example.

These are long and profound links. The way we design and build our homes and the whole built environment matters not only to people but to the Government’s policies around levelling up, around achieving net zero and around health inequality, to mention just three of the things that have been debated in this House in recent times. I would add the importance of preparation for the next pandemic and more generally for securing increased resilience in the country as a whole.

I have not decided whether to press for a vote and I will obviously listen carefully to what is said by the Minister. I will ask him what steps he will take to meet the concerns that the amendment raises and the need for a profound link between health and housing and whether he will meet me and colleagues to discuss these issues further. I believe that he is also the Minister for Levelling Up, so these issues will undoubtedly return in another guise and at another time. The quality of homes, communities and the built environment is fundamental to levelling up our society. I will also listen with great interest to noble Lords who represent the other political parties in the Chamber. I hope that they will support these principles and will similarly consider how, in the longer term, the links between health, housing and the built environment can be developed and taken forward.

My point here is a simple but big one. In wider society, people have made the connection between health and well-being and the built environment, just as they have made it between health and well-being and the natural environment. The issue will keep coming back to your Lordships’ House. It is far better to get ahead and be strategic and ambitious. This is an idea whose time is coming. The built environment, like the natural environment, is crucial to the health and well-being of the population and therefore to the future prosperity of the country.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support Amendment 2. It is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Crisp; he put the arguments for the amendment incredibly well so I will keep my comments as brief as I can.

As Health Minister during the pandemic, I realised how unhealthy our country is. Time and again, one saw from the front line of Covid—through the ICUs and test and trace teams—reports of how connected the spread of the disease was to the housing conditions of the country and how the comorbidities of those arriving in our ICUs were often connected to the environment in which they lived. Housing and illness are inextricably linked; I came face to face with that during the pandemic.

The pandemic led to a huge amount of misery through loss of life and severe disease. It also hit the country’s economy extremely hard; there is no doubt that we had longer and harder lockdowns as a result of the fact that our country is so poorly. However, we cannot ask the NHS and our healthcare system on their own to be responsible for the improvement of our national health. There is a role to be played by education, sports, scientists, civic society—all the parts of our country, including and especially housing. That is why I support the healthy homes principle from the TCPA.

This issue is recognised in the levelling-up White Paper, to which the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, referred. However, it is not clearly recognised in the Bill. The priority that housing should support health and well-being should be fundamental to the underpinnings of this Bill. That is the purpose of this amendment, which is why I put my name to it. I ask the Minister to put on record a commitment that the department will look at ways to augment the Bill’s focus to bear on the health and well-being aspects of housing regulation, and to meet the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, myself and others to discuss how this might be done.

World Health Organization: Pandemics

Debate between Lord Crisp and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 9th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp
- Hansard - -

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to strengthen the role of the World Health Organization to support the management of future pandemics.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK is a strong supporter of the WHO and an advocate of reform to ensure that it further strengthens its ability to respond effectively to health emergencies. The UK is taking a leading role on reform through our seat at the WHO Executive Board and our G7 presidency. We are working with international partners to push for a stronger early warning system, reduced risk of zoonotic diseases through better surveillance and improved compliance with international health regulations.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am delighted that the UK Government are providing support to the World Health Organization, contributing to COVAX and taking this very important role of reform. Further to the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response report, which talked about the World Health Organization being

“underpowered to do the job expected of it”,

will the Government ensure that this is discussed at G7 and that the world will commit to doing whatever it takes to ensure that the WHO is able to respond even more effectively to pandemics in the future?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government are extremely committed to pandemic preparedness. We support the principle of a pandemic preparedness treaty, and we have laid out at UNGA a very clear programme for enhancing global pandemic preparedness. We look forward to the publication of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response report shortly, and I reassure the noble Lord that this is top of the agenda at our G7.

International Year of Health and Care Workers

Debate between Lord Crisp and Lord Bethell
Monday 1st February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp
- Hansard - -

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to celebrate the World Health Organization’s International Year of Health and Care Workers in 2021.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, to celebrate the work of health and care workers, there are symbolic interventions, such as the social care workforce CARE brand for shared identity and our powerful recruitment advertising, which highlights the remarkable contribution of health and care workers. However, the most important celebrations are tangible: the investment in new recruitment, the £30 million fund for those seeking mental and occupational health support, and the people plan, which is addressing the practical and cultural challenges that workers face in the workplace.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for that very positive response and I agree with him about concrete measures. The World Health Organization has adopted the slogan “protect, invest, together”, which is very powerful and sets out the priorities very well for this year. The Minister will no doubt be aware that there is discussion at the World Health Organization and elsewhere about the need for a new societal compact with health and care workers to whom we owe so much, perhaps similar to the military covenant. Would Her Majesty’s Government support the creation of a compact or covenant setting out our responsibilities to health and care workers, which mirror and match their professional responsibilities and duties towards us? If they have not considered this, will they do so?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I applaud the WHO’s values of “protect, invest, together”. One of the commendable things during this awful pandemic has been the way in which British society has reconnected with the values of the healthcare community. It has rediscovered the contribution of nurses, doctors, healthcare workers and those in social care. A new relationship has been forged between civic society and healthcare; this is commendable and we should build on it. On the idea for a compact, it is not something that we are working on at the moment as far as I am aware, but I would be glad to take his idea away and find out whether we can develop it any further.

Covid-19: Vaccinations

Debate between Lord Crisp and Lord Bethell
Wednesday 13th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am enormously grateful for my noble friend’s kind words. I think that, as a Government, we would prefer to be judged at the third act of this important performance, so I think it is probably too early to take too much praise, but I would like to say a massive thanks to the British nation.

In three ways, the nation has really stood up. The amount of collaboration between different groups—I alluded to it in my previous answer—between the Army, industry, the NHS and local authorities has been enormous. At the beginning of this pandemic, there were arthritic elements to the way in which Britain is governed that meant that different parts of our political and administrative machinery did grind into action slightly slowly, but, my goodness, over the vaccine deployment it has been absolutely athletic, and I take my hat off to every part of the machinery of government. On the union, this has been such a strong example of a national solution: all of Britain has come together in order to purchase and deploy the vaccine. Lastly, I would observe the resilience of the British public. It makes me enormously proud that the country puts the elderly and the infirm first and stands by and celebrates the weakest and most vulnerable in our society being put first in the queue. That is a national quality we should all be proud of.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I congratulate everyone concerned in the progress being made with the vaccinations, while recognising that there are issues to be addressed, not least that of accelerating the whole process. In passing, I note that I would be very happy to be vaccinated at 4 am if it sped things up. I will ask about testing and vaccination for a particularly vulnerable group; children excluded from school are the among the most vulnerable in the country, and I pay tribute to the approved alternative education providers and others working with them during the pandemic. I have been contacted by one of the directors of one of these providers, who tells me that, unlike schools, they are not being provided with lateral flow tests to help them protect children in school and staff. If I write to the Minister, will he take the matter up? Can he ensure that all such approved providers receive the tests and that their staff are given a high priority for vaccination—at least as high as that for teachers?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the noble Lord for flagging this important issue. He is entirely right that those who are sometimes overlooked by society and fall between the cracks are often those who either suffer from the disease or are vectors of infection. It is a public health priority to ensure that people such as those excluded from schools are not overlooked or in any way left behind. I would be very grateful if he could write to me with the details.

Social Care Workers

Debate between Lord Crisp and Lord Bethell
Wednesday 7th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I echo the tribute paid by my noble friend to those working in social care during the pandemic. Naturally we have a huge amount of concern about those in social care during the pandemic. However, it is amazing how much hard and committed work those who work in social care have put into the arrangements and how effective many of those arrangements have been. The numbers that she cites are really impressive. I cannot make the commitments that she asks of me right now, because the deal for social care workers has not been written, but I completely acknowledge the suggestions that she makes; those are very much on the wish list and the agenda for any social care reform when it happens.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, is the Minister familiar with the work of the Tribe Project? It was set up by a successful digital entrepreneur and is now being used by six local authorities to predict the needs for care, match people with carers, and, very importantly in this context, support professional carers in setting up independently as microenterprises. This reduces overheads and therefore both improves care income and reduces costs. Does he agree that this approach could be very useful in helping with this crisis, and will he explore it further?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the noble Lord’s recommendation. The project that he describes is incredibly interesting. I am not aware of it today, but I will definitely seek it out and try to find out more. I emphasise the broader point that the noble Lord is making: fresh thinking, digital innovation and the work of entrepreneurs to try to create new ways of working—to pool, for instance, the efforts of teams of people and to use platforms like the one that he describes—can make a massive difference in the area of social care. We are very supportive of digital entrepreneurs bringing fresh thinking to this important area of work.

Covid-19: R Rate and Lockdown Measures

Debate between Lord Crisp and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The work is being undertaken at the moment. Rather than focusing on local lockdowns, we are focusing on local action plans with a wide variety of measures, perhaps including behavioural changes as well as clinical and diagnostic interventions. It is only by working across the piece that local actors, such as local authorities, directors of public health and local infection directors, can implement the right array of measures. That holistic approach is the one we are pursuing.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, many academics are warning of the likelihood of a second wave of the virus, and there is some evidence that it is already happening in other countries. I appreciate that the Government seek to avoid that, but what is their assessment of the likelihood of a second wave, what lessons have they learned from their first experience of lockdown, and what planning are they doing for a second wave nationally and regionally?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The fear of a second wave is profound. We have seen what happened in Singapore and we remain vigilant. However, enormous progress is being made against the epidemic, as the noble Lord will have seen from recent figures. We have put in huge infrastructure to protect ourselves in the winter, which is the moment of greatest anxiety. That includes Europe’s biggest testing programme, stockpiling medicines, upgrading NHS capacity, the recruitment of returning staff to the NHS and—as I mentioned to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton—the implementation of a local action plan regime which will give teeth to our measures on a local basis.