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Engagements

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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Q1.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

:. This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Will my right hon. Friend reflect today on areas in the north, which suffer from high unemployment and which will give a hearty welcome to the thousands of new jobs that will result from the confidence of Japanese manufacturers in our economy?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the excellent news that Nissan is expanding its investments in the north-east by about £200 million because it is delighted with the work that is done there. That will create another 1,400 jobs. Another Japanese company is expanding in East Kilbride, which again will provide a considerable number of jobs. That displays excellent confidence in the economy and work force of this country.

In an unprecedented action, the Prime Minister has been petitioned today by over 1,000 doctors and consultants, who are alarmed at what they call

"serious reductions in the Health Service … which are endangering patients' lives".
What is the Prime Minister's response to them" Will she say that they are wrong and that the cuts are not really happening, or will she accept that they are right. but tell them that it is really all their fault?

I shall set out the Government's excellent record in providing more resources— about 30 per cent. more in real terms over the past eight years—and in increasing—[Interruption.] As they asked me to make certain that expenditure kept pace with the increasing GNP, I shall point out that when we came in, expenditure on health was 4·8 per cent. of GNP and that it is now 5·5 per cent. after eight years of Tory Government. So we have done better than they requested. I shall also point out that the allocations of the £1·1 billion for England next year will soon be announced.

With her recitations of figures, the Prime Minister is now making a fool of herself. She is showing a complete determination not to respond to what the highest authorities and most expert opinions have called the "crisis" in the Health Service. Will she not heed the words of Sir George Godber, who said:

"it is useless for Ministers to repeat barely relevant multiples of past expenditure, staff employed, or numbers going in and out of hospital doors … What matters is the volume of services not provided or too long delayed".
Will the Prime Minister now make sure that the resources are made available to bring those beds back into use, to fund the pay awards and restructuring and to ensure that she stops the rot in the National Health Service?

As I said to the right hon. Gentleman, the allocations for increases next year -which to the hospital and community services in England alone amount to some £700 million, paid for by the taxpayer—will shortly be made and the regional health authorities will soon have details of them. In the meantime, because it is the treatment of the patient that counts, let me make it quite clear that for every three hip replacement operations in 1978 there are now four, for every two cataract operations which took place under Labour there are now three, and altogether, for every six operations then, there are now seven. That is an expanding Health Service and it will continue to expand.

The House and the country needs to know that, much though the Prime Minister makes of that £700 million, £500 million is already allocated for pay and prices, a further £100 million is already allocated for emergency initiatives, a further £48 million will be necessary only because the Government are putting up electicity prices, and the area health authorities have to find £170 million out of that sum to pay off the debts that they have had to run up because of underfunding this year. Why does not the Prime Minister, instead of constantly hiding behind those figures, understand that, as Sir George Godber says, the principles of equity and of access to care on the basis of need, not the ability to pay, are now seriously under threat, and make not just commendation of the Health Service, but resources available for the Health Service?

I give the right hon. Gentleman the figures because they show that no Government in history have given the Health Service more resources, more doctors, more nurses, or better pay for the nurses, than this one. That is what the right hon. Gentleman does not like.

As the right hon. Gentleman quotes from a previous chief medical officer to the Health Service, let me quote from the Labour party's document "The Way Forward", with a foreword by the noble Lord Ennals, then Secretary of State for Social Services. He gave a very different tale from the right hon. Gentleman when he said:
"Public expectations of the health and social services will frequently outrun supply and sometimes hard decisions will be needed to hold back some services to allow others to be developed."
That is what the Labour Government said when they were in power because they could not provide a fraction of the services that we have provided.

Order. Very occasionally a dispensation is given to the Opposition Front Bench.

Tory Members are only proving their sensitivity, Mr. Speaker.

Following what the right hon. Lady said, the infinity of demand for health care is understood to be a reality—[Interruption.]

Following what the Prime Minister said, the infinity of demand for health care—[Interruption.]

Order. It is no good hon. Members pointing at each other across the Chamber in such a disgraceful way. Mr. Kinnock.

That reaction really does show that the blood is flowing through the bandages that the Tories are trying to wrap around it. The infinity of demand of which the right hon. Lady speaks is well understood. For most Governments, it is accepted as a challenge. With her Government, it is used as an alibi. Will she heed the words of her erstwhile supporter, Mr. Nigel Harris, who said that her policies are ludicrous, deceitful and lead to the degradation of the patients? How can she take pride in that? Why does she not make the proper resources available to stop the crisis?

The doctors' petition this morning asked for the proportion of GDP to be maintained. I therefore repeat that this Government have done better than that. The last—[Interruption.] This Government—

Order. This kind of noise does the reputation of the House no good at all.

This Government have increased the proportion of GDP to 5·5 per cent. The last Labour Government cut it from 5·1 to 4·8 per cent.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this Christmas in England will be the most prosperous Christmas that the country has ever known? Is she further aware that this happy time could be spoilt by certain yobbos, whether on the cricket field, in the boxing ring or in football crowds, whose behaviour falls short of what we expect? Do we not want, with better, prosperous times, more decent behaviour by the mass of the people?

These are the times of the highest standard of living that this country has ever known. So far as I am concerned, if more of us emulated my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), the House would be very much more orderly than it is.

Q2.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave quite some time ago.

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that yesterday in the House I and several colleagues met representatives of the ambulance service in Gwent, who complained bitterly about cuts and reorganisation which have now reached the stage when life is being endangered? Will the Prime Minister tell the House what response I should make to this dedicated group of people who have served the community so well over many years?

Let me make two points. First, expenditure on the National Health Service in Wales has risen in real terms by a third. People may want more, but they should be very grateful that, under this Tory Government, expenditure goes up to levels which it could not possibly have reached under Labour. Secondly, in respect of the increased allocations for next year, paid for by the taxpayer, an average family this year pays £1,500 to the Health Service. Next year, to pay for the increased expenditure on the Health Service, the average expenditure per family will go up to £1,600 a year. The allocations resulting from that expenditure in Wales and elsewhere will shortly be announced.

Q3.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the implications for the Government service of the harassment and intimidation currently going on in the CPSA and say whether that union should continue to have time and Government money to carry on its activities?

We condemn harassment and intimidation wherever they arise. Of course, the Employment Bill is concerned with the rights of trade union members, not with harassment and intimidation. The alleged harassment and intimidation is a matter for the police. It is now being investigated, so my hon. Friend will not expect me to say anything further at this moment.

Q4.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

Since we are now approaching the coldest period of the year, and since many of my hon. Friends and I have been the object of a co-ordinated campaign by the opponents of the expansion of nuclear power, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to study and emphasise the strength of the British electricity generating industry, based on a variety of sources of supply? Will she contrast its happy position with the position in Romania, where the domestic ration is enough only to run one small electric heater for one hour each day?

I agree that the generation of electricity needs to come from a number of different sources, including nuclear. Nuclear supplies are now approaching some 20 per cent. of our generating capacity. As my hon. Friend knows, we need a considerable programme of investment in power stations, transmission and distribution. This Government are about to embark on such a programme.