LAST Monday was the first proper day back in Parliament, at last seeing people in the flesh and meeting colleagues I hadn’t spent any time with at all for 18 months.

It was a fantastic reminder of the privilege it is to be there to represent you. It was also a reminder of ‘normal’ Parliamentary life. Gone are the days of lists of when to speak and for how long, and the certainty of being called upon. Now we are back to the old tradition of catching the Speaker’s eye. This all too often involves meticulous planning for a speech, but then not being invited to give it.

The headline topic has been the Government’s proposals to overhaul the Health and Social Care provisions. During the pandemic, doctors, nurses, care workers and beyond made concerted and Herculean efforts to keep the community safe, and to treat those made seriously ill by Covid. Something had to give, of course, and those waiting for routine and other procedures paid the price. The impact is now hitting home: the NHS is hugely overstretched. There is a real risk that if we do nothing now, then in a few years’ time there will be 13 million people on the waiting list – one person in every family. That is unsustainable, will break the NHS, its workers, and the social care system, as all are inextricably linked.

As a Conservative, it goes against the grain to propose a tax rise, but no political party had a global pandemic in its manifesto. Unfamiliar times demand unfamiliar measures. We must clear the healthcare backlog, and put social care on a sustainable footing. It is vital to ensure that support is available to the elderly and individuals with learning or physical disabilities or other needs, without expecting the NHS to carry the can. It is for this that the Government proposes a new Health and Social Care Levy from 2023. Certainly it is a fundamental change in approach, and I am listening carefully to constituents and to health and care leaders in the community. But we have to do something, and fast.

On Friday, I was in Westminster rather than in Furness, to promote the Second Reading of my Private Members Bill on the Wellbeing of Future Generations. The aim is to embed long-termism, prevention, and the interests of future generations in all Government policymaking. Lord Bird, founder of The Big Issue is my co-conspirator in the House of Lords. Given the post-pandemic focus on social care, now is the time for this important change. Other countries – including Scotland – are already doing so. We need to ensure that we too legislate not only for now, but for our future.