Orders of the Day — Liverpool Area Health Authority (Budget)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:21 pm on 9th November 1983.

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Photo of Mr Robert Kilroy-Silk Mr Robert Kilroy-Silk , Knowsley North 7:21 pm, 9th November 1983

I am sorry, but I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Other people may oppose the cuts, but they are not doing so as effectively or vociferously as Labour Members both in the House and outside. The hon. Gentleman is saying that one should understand the difficulties in which the chairman has been placed by having to impose these cuts. I am sorry, but the problems he faces in imposing the cuts decided by his friends in Whitehall and Westminster are nothing compared with the problems that confront my constituents, who will be in pain, distress, end up disabled and die while still on the waiting lists because the chairman of the regional health authority has been embarrassed. My god, we should be talking about something more important than the slight embarrassment of a Tory chairman of a regional health authority.

We are talking about the health and lives of our constituents, for whom it is our duty and obligation to fight. Whatever his political point of view, one would have expected a regional health authority chairman to have taken the same view and to have been prepared to fight to sustain these services. He has at his fingertips a clear picture of the demands that are made and the lack of resources to meet them. He must know better than anyone how irrelevant these cuts are and how damaging they will be to the Health Service on Merseyside and the welfare of the people there.

Not only are we damaging the Health Service, but jobs are being lost. The regional health authority estimates 500, but according to every other informed estimate, including the trade unions, the figure is 900 to 1,000. That is a disgrace. It is a scandal that at a time when 37,000 people are on the waiting lists, thousands of whom are awaiting urgent surgery, we should as a deliberate act of policy put nurses and doctors on the dole. What kind of society is that?

Any reasonable or sensible community would admit that on Merseyside there is a horrendous problem of mass unemployment, yet there are empty hospitals, unused beds and people in pain and distress on the waiting lists. It is only sense to put the doctors and nurses to work in those hospitals and to use the beds for the alleviation of the distress and suffering of those individuals.

As we heard in the previous debate, the Government are receiving £8,000 million more a year in the tax take from oil revenues than the Labour Government received when in office. With that money they could pay the entire salaries of every person in the health and social services. They could pay for every doctor, nurse, ancillary worker, home help and physiotherapist. That is the amount the Government received in 1982–83 from North sea oil revenue taxes over and above what the Labour Government received in their last year of office.

That is the scale of the problem and the size of the resources at their disposal, yet they spend £17,000 million a year to keep people in idleness on the dole and on bombs and weapons of destruction both here and abroad. That shows the disgrace of the Government's health priorities as well as their general economic and industrial policies. The way in which they have treated Merseyside and the rest of our people who depend on the NHS is nothing less than criminal.

Nowhere is that better demonstrated than in the priority, support and sustenance that they are giving to the development of private medical practice and their opposition, which they manifest on every occasion, to the NHS. They are not content just to snub it and treat it with contempt, like the Prime Minister who constantly goes out of her way to belittle its achievements and efficiency. They are doing everything possible to create a crisis of confidence in the NHS so that more people will take out private medical insurance.

That is not an accident. It is a deliberate policy of trying to convey an impression that the Health Service is being dismantled and destroyed so that as a consequence frightened people will financially support the private medical sector. It is no accident that the NHS is declining at the same time as private medical practice is increasing.