Whatever one’s position on Brexit, an issue I hope we can all agree on is the health of our citizens. That is why I have tabled a cross-party ‘Do No Harm’ amendment to protect the public’s health in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19. The amendment is supported by the Labour and Liberal Democrat frontbench health spokespeople, Lord Hunt and Baroness Jolly, and crossbench Peer Lord Patel. A growing number of cross-party Peers have also joined me in support of the amendment, including Lord Crisp who spoke in favour of it at Second Reading. It is also supported by 17 medical Royal Colleges, Faculties and societies.
The amendment reads as follows:
Insert the following new clause – “public health
In carrying out their duties and functions arising by virtue of this Act, a Minister of the Crown or a public authority must have regard to the principle that a high level of human health protection must be ensured in the definition and implementation of all policies and activities.”
The public health amendment commits this and future UK and devolved governments, and public authorities, to ensuring that the public’s health and wellbeing continues to be of the highest priority after the UK leaves the EU.
While it may be argued that the Secretary of State for Health already has these powers, this amendment places the duty to ‘do no harm’ on the whole government. It also places the duty on other public authorities, including the devolved nations (with repatriated health competencies) and a wide range of ‘arms-length’ public authorities who play a key role in determining health standards.
With this amendment, we do not seek to bind future governments to existing laws; UK law, of course, will change and evolve. We do however want to acknowledge that we have made huge progress in public health during our time in the EU and ensure that, as we leave, this and future governments are committed to ensure we don’t roll back from that progress.
This amendment will offer the Government an opportunity to reassure the public that the health of the nation is of paramount importance, and is a chance to unite Parliament.
Fellow Peers: please join Lord Hunt, Baroness Jolly and Lord Patel and I in supporting the cross-party ‘do no harm’ amendment after Clause 9 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19, when it’s debated at Committee Stage next week. If successful, it could protect the health of future generations.