In 1981–82 my Department carried out a survey of the various approaches to financing health care in other, comparable, countries to see whether there were any ideas worth considering further for adoption here. However, as I announced to the House on 30 July, the Government decided to continue with tile present system of financing the NHS largely from taxation. That remains our policy. We shall continue to examine ways of improving the efficiency of the NHS to provide better services for patients and to promote a developing partnership with the voluntary and private sectors.
May we then assume that a strong Health Service financed principally from taxation remains the Government's policy and that we can discount suggestions of any idea of moving towards a compulsory insurance scheme with subsidies payable on behalf of the less well off, which in the opinion of many of us would be a retrograde step?
There is a lingering doubt only in the hon. Gentleman's mind. I doubt whether any publication will ever take away the lingering doubts that the hon. Gentleman seems to harbour.
I agree that the National Health Service should continue to be financed out of public funds, but does my right hon. Friend agree that people who spend their own money on private medical insurance help the National Health Service? Will my right hon. Friend consider giving fiscal advantages or incentives to those who want to insure privately for health care?
As my hon. Friend fully realises, that is an issue for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. On my hon. Friend's first point, the Conservative party believes that the individual has the right to have private health insurance. We support that right and will continue to do so.
If by that the hon. Lady means the introduction of hospital charges, hotel charges and general practitioner consultation charges, both the Prime Minister and I have made it absolutely clear that we do not intend to introduce such charges.