All 1 Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon contributions to the Health and Care Act 2022

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Wed 9th Feb 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1

Health and Care Bill

Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage
Wednesday 9th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IX Ninth marshalled list for Committee - (7 Feb 2022)
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 292 and specifically proposed new subsection (5)(c) on the TRIPS waiver.

I was going to make a few points of context but the last two speeches—indeed all the speeches so far—have set the context extraordinarily well. As the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, has just said, Our World in Data tells us that, as of an hour ago, 66% of the world overall has had one dose but only 10% of those are in low-income countries.

When this discussion has been raised before—for example, during Questions on Monday in your Lordships’ House—the Government responded that there were practical problems with the proposal. Indeed, there are practical problems and it is not a magic bullet, but it is a first-class starting point. It is also a point that we then need to follow up with political will. I do not understand why the UK and Europe—with the exception of France, which has just said no to the proposal—have not put forward a counterproposal starting from this point. Why have they not done what some other noble Lords have talked about—something similar to what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has suggested? Why not use this proposal as a starting point to do something for three big reasons?

The first of those reasons is the end game here. The end game is not about intellectual property but about dealing with the next pandemic, and the one after that. It is about having the ability to manufacture and make vaccines available around the world, quickly and rapidly, whenever there is a need for that to happen. That is what we are looking at.

Secondly, the point has already been made that the UK could play a much bigger role here and in the direct interests of the UK population. We are a global power in biomedical science and technology. We have produced some help; I note, for example, during our G7 presidency, the ability to offer some scope to other countries for sequencing variants. However, much more that is being done in this country could be expanded on. I think, for example, of the global pathological analytical service being developed in Oxford, which is basically a database for the sequencing of variants around the world, and is making the data accessible to everyone, free of charge; anyone in the world can send their data to it for analysis to be provided. So there are many things that the UK could be doing and offering as part of the development of a sensible plan for the future that responds to what low and middle-income countries are asking us to do.

The other big point here is that if the UK does not respond, others will. We have already seen the process of vaccine diplomacy during the pandemic, and the positioning of China and Russia in how they have been seeking to make friends and influence people through the use of vaccines. We can also see that countries will start helping themselves, and they in turn will break away from the consensus.

I am reminded of the very different epidemic of HIV/AIDS, more than 20 years ago. It is a very different disease, and the circumstances were very different. However, some of the responses were the same. To quote Dr Peter Mugyenyi, who was head of the HIV/AIDS response in Uganda in 2000,

“despite opposition by branded drugs manufacturers, and threats of punitive reaction, we took a decision to import and use low-cost generic ARVs from … India to save the lives of our patients”.

In a way, that says it all. Countries have that responsibility to their people, and they will go and do things.

Dr Mugyenyi goes on to say in the same article that at that point, the drugs were relatively expensive for Africa, but USAID, the US development agency, would not support their use in Africa because, it said, there was no ability to provide them to the population without the necessary supply chains. In an extraordinarily insulting and racist statement, the head of USAID said in 2001 that Africans could not use ARVs because they told the time by the sun. Two years later, President Bush moved that on, and President Clinton also intervened, with the result that antiretrovirals became cheaper. There is a process that will take place, whether we are a part of it or not. We do not know where this will end, but other countries will take their action.

The really important thing here is that the UK properly engages with this proposal, and puts in the counterproposal, whatever it is. It must be about working together, something along the lines of what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, talked about: licensing it, working with people, learning from each other and building that infrastructure around the world, which, frankly, we need for the people of the UK as well as the people of the world.

I hope that in responding to this the Minister will talk about how he sees that development happening in the longer term and how the UK will have an impact on what we all see as a shameful position where we in our richer countries have been vaccinated if we have chosen to be, but in low-income countries people have not had that opportunity.

Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Portrait Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon (Lab)
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My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. It has been mentioned in your Lordships’ House numerous times that no one is safe until we all are safe. We have heard it many times in today’s debate.

I have voiced my concerns many times about the monopolies upheld by high-income countries that have chosen to retain scientific innovation and expansion by withholding the IP of the Covid vaccine. Low-income countries are in the position where they can manufacture their own vaccines, as there are more than 100 potential mRNA manufacturers across these countries ready to develop a vaccine, if they had access to the IP and the manufacturing know-how.

Too often the agendas of pharmaceutical companies are not aligned with positive public health outcomes. The public health condition aspect of Amendment 292 will help guide the Government to tighter stewardship around public funding to ensure that at the end of the development process, health treatments are both affordable and accessible to all concerned. I stand by the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for this very reason, as its primary objective is to address the barriers that prevent poorer nations having adequate access to medicines at an affordable rate. We have heard many of your Lordships in the Committee today seeking to make the Government understand what is happening in lower-income countries and to support them and to ensure that action is taken when we say that no one is safe until all of us are safe.