Welfare State

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 27th June 1983.

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Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Health and Social Security 3:52 pm, 27th June 1983

The hon. Lady is again leading with her chin. I have made it clear that the Government have rejected any proposal relating to compulsory private health insurance. That viewpoint has been expressed by me by my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health and by the Prime Minister. The hon. Lady must stop trailing round the country saying and pretending that the Government are intent on following a policy that we have specifically rejected.

The hon. Lady has again illustrated the sort of campaign that the Labour party ran throughout the election. The Labour party's campaign can be described only as one of sustained hysteria, which piled untruth upon untruth, invention upon invention and fear upon fear. At national level, it published a leaflet which asked: Are you going to vote for the death of the health service? At local level we had a candidate, Mr. Tony Williams, in Hendon, North who said: If you cannot afford private health insurance you could go bankrupt like they do in America. I am glad to say that Mr. Williams rightly came third in the election.

At the same time, burrowing ever deeper and lower was the hon. Lady who, for the time being at any rate, is the Labour party's health spokesman. This is what the hon. Lady told the north-west region of the Labour party in Warrington at the end of April: If we as a nation do not act now, the next four years will see the National Health Service blasted out of existence. Make no mistake, the Tories plan to close down the Health Service after the next election … Since 1979 the Tories have forced through a four-stage plan in preparation for their own final solution to the problems of the sick and the elderly. I suggest to the hon. Lady that even the language of political debate cannot justify the casual tastelessness of phrases such as the "final solution". Even the language of political debate cannot justify a politician who seeks to make such a comparison with the indescribable real horror of what took place 40 years ago.

An even more fundamental point has emerged from the campaign over the past two months. I refer to the arrogance and irrelevance of Labour's charges. The charges are overwhelmingly arrogant because they amount to a claim that the Labour party can be, and is, the only defender of the welfare state. It makes its claim as though rhetoric was enough and as though words will provide the resources necessary for health, social security or education. Yet the economic policies to which the Labour party is committed would inevitably lead to financial crisis and inflation which, equally inevitably, would undermine, not sustain, the welfare state.

hy was it that the previous Labour Government cut back the capital programme inside the Health Service by 35 per cent.? They did not want to do that. The cuts were the biggest capital cuts in the history of the National Health Service. They made them because inflation was going through the roof and the economy was in chaos. The cuts in the welfare state were forced upon them by their lack of economic policy, and all their words and protestations of good intent could not prevent them.

The Government are restoring the capital programme. There has been a 17 per cent. increase since 1978–79 in the capital programme of the NHS. Planned capital spending stands at over £1,100 million and over 140 major new hospital projects are being designed or are under construction in England alone.