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It will be remembered that on 20th May this House attempted to give the Bill its Third Reading without a debate. Without wishing to give offence to those who have contributed to the debate today, I am not sure that the House did not show wisdom on that occasion. The arguments around this Bill have been discussed on several occasions, and they concern two very limited points—the establishment for the first time of a separate National Health Service contribution and the making of an increase in the value of the contribution.
It seems to me, listening to the speeches today, that whereas hon. Members on both sides of the House maintain their belief in the National Health Service, and wish to see its expansion, hon. Members opposite are not prepared to back their belief in the requisite expenditure with the provision of the necessary income. That seems to me to be the great difference between the two sides of the House.
This is an attempt to provide the National Health Service with a stability of income which I would have thought hon. Members opposite who have held office would have welcomed. It is possibly for that reason that the speeches today have been directed not so much to the method of financing proposed in the Bill as to the volume of expenditure on the Health Service. Time and time again we have been told that the Government are not advancing the cause of the National Health Service. That just is not true. As I told the House on Second Reading, during the last five years, even when allowance is made for changes in the Consumer Price Index, there has been an increase in the amount devoted to the Health Service of £65 million in real terms.
Today, the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. W. Griffiths) suggested that from the point of view of staff employed by the National Health Service there had been a worsening of the position. But, as has been said on more than one occasion, that is just not true. So far as I know, in every category in the National Health Service there has been an increase in recent years. The hon. Gentleman cited the case of Manchester. I am glad that he is to look into this and ascertain the facts for himself. I happen to be spending two days in Manchester next week examining exactly the same problem, and I shall be ready for the hon. Gentleman when we return after the Recess.
Can the hon. Gentleman deny that there has been an expansion in the staff of all the Manchester hospitals during this period? He has suggested that the hospital management committee may eventually decide to restrict staff recruitment. That is entirely different from saying that there has been no increase.