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Waiting Lists

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 19 November 1997

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Q12.

When he expects the Government's commitment to reduce waiting lists to the levels of 1 May to be achieved. [15132]

The appalling situation that we inherited from the previous Government, who consistently undermined the national health service, means that we will have to make progress as quickly as we possibly can. The extra £300 million that will be provided over and above what was allocated by the previous Government will be of enormous assistance in doing so.

Although I agree that the health service inherited problems, is the Prime Minister aware what a disappointment his answer will be to sick and elderly people in Oxford, West and Abingdon and elsewhere? Whereas it will take five years to implement an early pledge to cut waiting lists, as a first step, funds seem to be available to achieve the long-term aim of cutting taxes for the well-off. Is it not time that the Government governed, rather than merely acting opportunistically on their pre-election pledges?

We will fulfil our pre-election pledge. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Opposition Members shout out, "When?", but they are the people who put up the waiting lists. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] They deny responsibility. It was nothing to do with them, was it? As I told the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), in the next two years, we will put more money into the national health service than the Liberal Democrats wanted us to before the general election.

Waiting lists have increased because of the situation that we inherited. Our pledge is that, at the next general election—when we again stand before the British people—we will have reduced waiting lists by 100,000 or more. We will deliver on that pledge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"] As for Opposition Members, they are the people who undermined the health service. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, they are. This week marks the 100th anniversary of Nye Bevan's birthday. We established the national health service, in the teeth of Tory opposition, and we will rebuild the national health service, after 18 years of Tory disgrace.