In the short time I have to speak, I would like to comment generally on the Bill and specifically on one part of it. This is a Second Reading debate, and I see much merit in many of the provisions of this Bill, and the general thrust and direction of it. I understand much of the thinking behind it, as it is a real opportunity to improve the overall performance of our health service, remove some of the unnecessary bureaucracy that has grown up around it and rationalise some of the geography through the ICSs—a very relevant issue to Cumbria—as well as to improve the decision-making process through the boards and encourage collaboration within the health service, although we must still be open and transparent. These are all very welcome changes that have broad support, including from the health professionals in my community with whom I have already had discussions. This will be on top of the additional financial commitment to the health service that this Government have already made, and of the commitment to more doctors and nurses, all of which is very welcome.
I would, however, like to focus on an area of the Bill where I have some concerns. Clause 125 and schedule 16 relate to advertising, and they have the potential to adversely affect our food and drink sector. I remind the Minister that that is the largest manufacturing sector in the country. It employs a significant number of people up and down the country, it makes a huge contribution to our economy and our exports and—this is a key point—it is an innovative sector with considerable research and development and investment. It has already done a huge amount of reformulation to take sugar and salt out of our foods and it continues to do much on this.
I fully appreciate that obesity is a major concern for our society, and rightly so. Everybody wants the UK to be a fit and healthy country, but we have to tackle this issue in a sensible and proportionate manner. I am not convinced that schedule 16 in its present form will achieve very much. What it will do is reduce investment, resulting in fewer products coming to the market, including fewer healthy products—and those are what we want to see those. There would be less incentive to innovate and ultimately fewer jobs and less money in our economy, and all for very little gain in many respects. Also, as an aside, we need to remember that our own health and wellbeing are our own responsibility. I shall therefore be supporting the Second Reading of the Bill today, but in Committee and on Report, I and I am sure other hon. Members will seek amendments to schedule 16. That is so we get the right balance between our health agenda, the food sector and our individual freedoms and responsibilities.