This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the continuing strength of British industry not only reflects the success of her Government's economic policies but generates the resources that enable tax to be cut at the same time as spending on public services is being increased?
Yes. The Government's policies of sound finance and incentives for enterprise have led to seven years of successive growth and, now, falling unemployment. The prospects for the coming year, with the continuation of the same policies, are good.
When consultants in every area of medicine report that they are failing to meet urgent patient need, and when parents in so many cases are desperate because of the delays in urgent treatment needed by their children, will the Prime Minister tell us whether she thinks that the crisis of underfunding in the National Health Service is now over?
As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, an extra £100 million was announced just before Christmas, which brings the extra spending this year up to about £870 million, and there will be further extra spending on the Health Service next year. The Health Service on the whole has had greatly expanding resources. Indeed, it has expanded by 30 per cent. over and above inflation during the lifetime of the Government.
Life or death operations are being postponed, staff levels are dangerously low in many areas, and beds and theatres are being closed. What is the matter with this woman—[Interruption.]—that she does not make the response that is necessary for the parents, children and patients of this country? Can the Prime Minister not see, or will she not see, that her figures are absolutely useless to parents who are distracted by worry at having to wait for urgent treatment for their children? I ask her now whether she will commit the resources necessary to clear the deficit this year to prevent a crisis next year. Does she not care that people have to wait in pain without hope and without help?
The Health Service is expanding with extra resources, over 30 per cent. over and above inflation. The medical staff is expanding in numbers. The number of patients treated is expanding. The number of treatments is expanding. Operations are taking place that would have been impossible in the past few years. The right hon. Gentleman is referring to problems in the west midlands. He will have seen that a special statement was put out this afternoon by the chairman of the area health authority. May I also remind the right hon. Gentleman that the resources provided in his constituency area have greatly increased during the lifetime of the Conservative Government.
Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the appalling revelation in the press that certain doctors have been taking bribes from Asian women in order to carry out tests to establish the sex of the child, and, if it is a girl, arranging an abortion? While this is undoubtedly illegal, does my right hon. Friend agree that revolting practices of this kind, which are close to abortion on demand, should be denounced?
As my right hon. Friend is aware, the Abortion Act does not permit abortions on the ground of the sex of the foetus alone. Any evidence provided to my right hon. Friend should go to the Secretary of State for Social Services. It will be examined and acted upon, because allegations of this kind are and must be taken very seriously indeed.
That is correct, up to the first year. There has been an enormous increase in the number of babies saved immediately at birth and during the first month after birth. We do not know the reason for that particular figure. It may well be that it is a statistical error. If the hon. Lady will look at the report of the Health Service, she will find a fantastic number of improvements in the Health Service that have taken place over this period.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that all the signs are that in 1987 Britain was top of the growth league among major economies and that a recent poll showed that 97 per cent. of leading industrialists believe that the Government's policies will lead to continuing economic improvement? If we continue to grasp the excalibur of enterprise, can we not continue to be one of the most successful economies in the world, with all the attendant political influence that that gives to the country?
I agree with my hon. Friend that our policies have gained the confidence not only of domestic investors but of overseas investors, who are anxious to come to the country. The growth, and the way in which we have tackled our problems, have meant that we have had far more influence abroad since the Government has been in power. It will continue to increase because of the way in which we have tackled our problems at home.
Does the Prime Minister recollect that in March last year she officially opened the Ysbyty Gwynedd, albeit the hospital had already been opened three years previously? Is she now aware that the authority is labouring under an accumulated underfunding of £2 million? What is she telling us, as Members of Parliament for that authority, to tell the people of Gwynedd, who are faced with substantially reduced services under the control of her Welsh Office?
I remember the visit very well. The hospital was working extremely well and both patients and medical staff were extremely happy with it. I do not recognise what the hon. Member is saying. Vastly increased resources for the Health Service have been provided for Wales, because under the policies of the Government we have had growth which has enabled us to have both tax cuts and increased resources for the Health Service.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether she believes, in the light of what occurred yesterday afternoon, that the salaries payable under the order can possibly be justified?
The salaries under the order have passed through the House and no one has any power, short of there being another motion, to change them. I agree with the spirit behind my hon. Friend's question. As this is the mother of Parliaments, we in this House have a very heavy responsibility for the way in which we conduct our proceedings, and a heavy responsibility always to support Mr. Speaker in the excellent way that he carries out his task.
Will the Prime Minister take time in what remains of today to consider whether her Ministers may have inadvertently misled Parliament in 1982 when they reported to the House that the inquiry by Sir George Terry in relation to the Kincora boys' home would be fair and impartial? In order to do so, will she ask to see the confidential Sussex police files concerning investigated allegations linking Anthony Blunt with several promiment figures in Northern Ireland, who escaped prosecution for their crimes because, had a prosecution been brought, it would have revealed the immunity granted to Anthony Blunt? Were her Ministers aware when they appointed Sir George Terry, who was chief constable of Sussex, that his officers had been involved in this cover-up?
Prosecution is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the prosecuting authorities. If the hon. Gentleman has any new evidence, he should present it to them.
In the light of the many cases of alleged child abuse, will my right hon. Friend base her social policies firmly on the need to strengthen family life and to educate young people for parenthood, rather than give greater control of children to social workers and doctors? While retaining penalties for those who mistreat children, will my right hon. Friend recognise that the upbringing of children is a matter for parents?
I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of family life and the lessons that are learnt at home. He links his question to child abuse, but he will be the first to know that this presents very sensitive problems to social workers and other people who have to decide when to go into a home because they think that a child is being abused, neglected or ill-treated. It is not an easy question for anyone to answer, but it is supremely important and involves social workers, legislators and neighbours.
I am sure that the Prime Minister will want to assure the House that she is concerned about the protection of public health standards, particularly in relation to the prevention of AIDS and cervical cancer. Will she therefore assure us that she will not allow the back-door privatisation of pathology laboratories in order to save money, and that she will make sure that the protection of standards is the most important, indeed the only, issue that she is prepared to consider?
The protection of standards applies equally to the public and private sectors. It is the protection of standards that is important, not whether things are carried out in the public or private sector. If they can be carried out with better value for money in the private sector, that releases more money for more health care.
During the course of the day, will my right hon. Friend take time to consider material that she will have gathered from her highly successful tour of Africa? Is she aware that the vibes coming to those of us who recently visited Kenya suggest that it was an enormously valuable visit in assisting President Moi to deal with the difficult problems of containing racism and tribalism?
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. It was an extremely interesting and valuable visit. Kenya and this country have a very friendly relationship. We give considerable aid to Kenya, something of the order of £50 million. One was able to see the excellent use to which that was put and the very good way in which that country is run.