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Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 12 November 1997

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Q7. [14143]

I welcome the Chancellor's announcement of an extra £300 million for health services this winter and my right hon. Friend's comments today. When will we know how much of that money will be available for the Worcestershire area? In the light of local concerns about health authority reviews, can my right hon. Friend reassure my constituents that extra money made available by this Government will be targeted directly on patient care and not used to prop up the inefficiencies of the previous Government's internal market?

My hon. Friend will be delighted to know that her local health authority in Worcestershire is receiving an extra £1.5 million, which will go directly into improving patient care this winter. That is part of £300 million more than the Conservative Government were willing to give the national health service.

That is not all we are doing for the national health service. As a result of getting rid of the discredited Conservative internal market, a further £100 million has already been saved for the health service. That is extra money going not into bureaucrats, but into patient care

Given the importance that the Neill committee has attached to the Government being seen to behave properly, not merely behaving properly, will the Prime Minister undertake to publish the minutes of the meeting that he had with Mr. Ecclestone on 16 October?

What we have done was set out clearly in reply to an earlier question. There was never any favour, sought or given. The decision is the right decision, taken for the right reasons. If the hon. Gentleman is asking about the Neill committee, he might ask why his own party, despite the promise of its leader four months ago, has still not published any information about its own donations.

Q8. [14144]

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, when the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life was established—as long ago as 1995—he, on behalf of the Labour party, pressed immediately for the issue of party funding to be referred to that committee, but the Conservative Government refused to make that referral because they were terrified about what it would reveal? Taking up the points raised on both sides of the House, does he accept that there is an anomaly between the restriction on party spending at constituency level and the lack of restriction at national level? As a matter of principle, is it not the case that, the cheaper our politics becomes, the cleaner it will become?

I agree entirely with the sentiments that my hon. Friend has just expressed. We did ask for the Nolan committee, as it then was, to be able to look at party funding. I raised the matter several times when I was Leader of the Opposition; I was refused every time. The Conservatives have still not disclosed the names of the people who funded the last election campaign for them. When will they disclose that information, as they promised some months ago?

Does the Prime Minister agree that the perception of wrong-doing can be as damaging to public confidence as the wrong-doing itself? Have we slain one dragon only to have another take its place, with a red rose in its mouth?

That is precisely why we sought the advice of Sir Patrick Neill. He gave that advice. We followed it to the letter. When Sir Patrick Neill reports, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in making sure that we can get the proper restrictions on party donations for all political parties, including, for the first time, the Conservative party.

Q9. [14145]

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a relatively obscure Australian called Rolf Harris caused gridlock in my constituency at the weekend because the hugely popular Merry Hill shopping centre has massive traffic problems, which the previous Government did nothing about? Will he ensure that the Government's new integrated transport policy improves rail access and relieves local congestion so that we can have the balanced transport system that the people of the west midlands want?

My hon. Friend is exactly right. That is precisely why we will publish a paper on the subject shortly. I know that it will provide great assistance to his constituents and to others throughout the country.

Q10. [14146]

I return the Prime Minister to his meeting on 16 October. Why did he not refer the result of that meeting to the Nolan committee as soon he could?

I shall reply directly: it is for the exact reason that I gave earlier. No decisions were made on 16 October. At that point in time, a number of different options were under discussion. For example, one of those options was that the national principle of subsidiarity should apply, so there would be a broad directive and then national legislation. Another option was that there should be a derogation for a long period, with a review break for all sport. It was only at the beginning of last week that the specific exemption for formula one was decided upon. The moment that happened, we took action.

Q11. [14147]

Might I change the subject and ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that I recently visited Southern Derbyshire health authority to discuss preparations for the winter crisis in health and the appalling state of the health service in my area? Will he tell the House how much Southern Derbyshire health authority has been allocated from the £300 million that has been set aside? [Laughter.]

Conservative Members may laugh, but getting more money into the health service is precisely what this country wants—and we are delivering it. One of the reasons the people turned the Tories out at the election is the damage they did to the national health service. At long last the people again have a Government who believe in the national health service.