Thursday, 5 June 2014

My Queen's speech.

On the 4th June the Queen read out the programme of Bills that David Cameron has lined up for the next few months. There were not many of them so perhaps he needs some help with his planning. This is the Bill that I would like to see discussed at Westminster.........

Given free reign to propose a bill for the Queen’s speech, I would like to choose something that would be a vote of confidence for the scientists, medics, engineers and manufacturers of the UK. Technical professions such as these are not generally well paid in the UK and there has long been a drain of our talent, particularly to the US. Our research and development ability is second only to the US and it is a crying shame that we do not value these people, their skills and knowledge as much as they deserve. There have been many examples over the years of our universities and hospitals developing new treatments or medical breakthroughs only for a private company to snap it up, register the patent, then sell the product back to the NHS at great expense.

For too long the direction of knowledge development and technical innovation has been skewed by the private sector. For example the pharmaceutical companies put great effort into developing drugs for chronic conditions in order to ensure a steady, long term income from their efforts. That is, after all, the purpose of a private company, to make a reliable profit. However, ideally, as a government, we would commission research in a more methodical way, to ensure our priorities are met and not just rely on the vagueries of the market. There are complex and life threatening conditions and diseases that are under researched  and that we need to find treatments and medications for.

My bill would create a Medical Science, Technology and Engineering Foundation. It’s role would be to commission research and development for new treatments, new medication, new bionic prosthetics and other new medical technologies. Centres of excellence around the country would be commissioned to perform the research and ultimately to work alongside manufacturers in order to bring certain products to completion. Not only would this benefit each special area of expertise but it would also create long term economic growth and specialist manufacturing in each of the regions.

In the case of the scientific or medical development, the Patent would belong to the Foundation and over time this would provide an income for the Foundation. This income would not be the only financial benefit to the UK tax payer: The new treatments, medications and technologies would only be cost price for the NHS and they would also help to ensure a happier, healthier and therefore more productive population making fewer demands on the NHS. Now wouldn’t that be a bill to smile about?

This blog was also published by the centre left think tank Progress 4-6-2014
Photo taken in Ed Milliband's office on 4-6-2014