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Volume 589: debated on Wednesday 10 December 2014

Q13. What does the Deputy Prime Minister think of the fact that under his Government if he now needed an operation in Devon, he would be denied it because he smokes, as would the Communities and Local Government Secretary because of his size? (906556)

That’s a bit harsh. I do not think anyone would disagree with clinicians in Devon and elsewhere urging patients to look after themselves and prepare themselves for operation. My understanding is that the decision—or the announcement mooted—in Devon is about patients preparing for operations, but of course I disagree with the idea of, in effect, rationing in this way, which is one of the reasons we have announced, in total, £3 billion of extra money for our beloved NHS.

On 13 November, the people of Switzerland voted overwhelmingly to retain freedom of movement with the European Union, because their politicians talked about the economic benefits of being in the single market. Will the Deputy Prime Minister continue to do what the City, the CBI and companies in my constituency want, which is to talk about those benefits for the UK and reject the politics of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing?

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend that freedom of movement, which is a privilege and entitlement that more than 1.5 million British citizens benefit from across the European Union, is something we should defend. But freedom of movement is not the same as, and is not synonymous with, the freedom to claim, which is why there is now a very healthy debate about how we ensure that freedom of movement can be protected while the rules on access to benefits can be changed.