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Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Kent area health authority has published contingency plans for a 2 per cent, cut, based on the possibility of underfunding of the amount in the coming year? Does he agree that the authority is being unduly alarmist? Does he also agree, however, that it emphasises the importance of moderate wage settlements within the cash limits?
It is always wise for treasurers to make reasonable provisions, because the future cannot be known with certainty. I certainly agree that when we set the cash limits it will be most important that settlements are made within the cash limit factor, because otherwise the money will have to come out of services for patients.
In the context of financial planning, has my right hon. Friend met with any success in dealing with the well-documented suggestions that there is fairly wide-scale abuse by hospital staff, particularly in the pilfering of hospital equipment and food and the making of false claims for overtime by maintenance and ancillary staff? Is he aware that it is said that the cost to the NHS is at least £50 million a year? Will he comment on that?
If my hon. Friend has any evidence to support those allegations, they should be investigated by local health authorities, which are maintaining tight security on such matters. If it is suspected that pilfering is going on, it is right that they should do that.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the financial position of the Trent regional authority, which has been the Cinderella authority for a considerable time? Is he making any provision in the financial arrangements to enable the Trent authority to catch up with the others?
The hon. Gentleman knows that in the current year the increase in the volume allocation to the Trent authority was twice that of the four Thames regions.