With Matthew Collier critical, Matthew Mulhall and Adrian Woolford of Coventry still waiting, when the parents of the 90 bairns in the Midlands desperately waiting for life-saving heart surgery come to London on Monday afternoon to present to No. 10 petitions with over 50,000 signatures, will the Prime Minister meet them personally, or will she be too frightened to explain to them which children will live and which will not?
I shall not meet them personally. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame"] I remind the hon. Gentleman that that particular hospital was designated a supra-regional centre only in 1984, under a Tory Government, and since then over 560 open heart operations have been performed. There are vastly more open heart operations performed now than there used to be, and some 3,000 babies survive now who would not have survived eight years ago.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the first phase of the new Bournemouth general hospital in my constituency is due to be opened later this year? Is she also aware that that hospital was planned to be built 10 years ago but that, like so many others, it was a victim of Labour's incompetence in government, which brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy? Should we not be reminded more frequently of the chaos and cuts in the NHS under the Labour Government?
Yes. The Labour Government not only cut the capital programme for hospitals, but, as I have said, cut nurses' and doctors' pay in real terms. The NHS has expanded enormously under us, as has the capital programme, and the number of nurses, the number of patients treated, both in-patients and out-patients, and the number of treatments have gone up.
For the reasons that have already been given in the House and elsewhere, because of the great complexity of the matter, because of the Government's responsibility for such matters and because we are considering a White Paper with a view to bringing forward a Bill. It is vital that this matter is dealt with by a Government measure.
Is not it obvious that the Prime Minister's case is weak and that is why she has to Whip? In any case, the Prime Minister knows very well that the full facilities of the Government could so easily be put at the disposal of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills as he takes the Bill through the House, so her excuses are absurd. When even her right hon. and hon. Friends describe her attitude to and tactics on the Bill as "monstrous", "dangerous", "a political SAS" and as the tactics of the gulag, is it not obvious that her response has nothing to do with state security, and everything to do with a shallow, spiteful and spurious attitude?
We believe that a private Member's Bill is not the appropriate way to secure changes in this difficult and sensitive area affecting the nation's security, especially when a revisionary Bill affecting section 2 of the Official Secrets Act started its journey in the other place in 1979 but did not secure passage there. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we need no lessons in security from him.
Will my right hon. Friend today confirm that the purpose of the National Health Service is not to further the interests or feather the nests of COHSE and NUPE? Will she further confirm that the purpose of open tendering is to secure more resources for the Health Service to devote to patient care? Will she therefore condemn these foolish strikes?
I obviously confirm what my hon. Friend has said. The purpose of the National Health Service is to bring more care to the patient. We are enabling treatments to be brought to the patient which were not available some years ago. We all regret any strikes. They are strikes at the expense of the patients, and I hope they will be condemned on both sides of the House.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that the Manchester royal infirmary is facing its greatest crisis in 200 years? It is having to issue warnings to its employees that it may not be able to pay their wages. Why does she continue to suggest that the only solution to this problem lies in increasing income tax, when she knows very well that her right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has billions of pounds in his pocket ready to be paid out in income tax cuts? A fraction of those cuts placed at the disposal of the National Health Service would remove fears from people, young and old, who are concerned for the future.
My right hon. Friend has already made more resources available to the National Health Service this year, and next year about £1·1 billion extra will be made available out of the taxpayers' pocket. Next year, the average family will pay £1,600 to the National Health Service. That is a considerable amount. We are trying to see that full value for money is obtained from that.
There are vast differences in efficiency between hospitals and between the ways in which the money is used, and our duty is to get the best value for money out of the resources that go into the Health Service.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Conservative party remains the only party firmly committed to the modernisation of the British nuclear deterrent through Trident, given that the commitment of the Social and Liberal Democrats to that lasted all of three hours?
I confirm that we are firmly committed to modernising the independent nuclear deterrent with Trident. For one fleeting moment, I thought that we might be joined by another party, but apparently, as soon as it had a policy, it withdrew it.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor made a statement this week on his attitude to using the golden share in Britoil. That statement stands.
When my right hon. Friend next meets or talks to her colleagues who are Heads of European Governments and receives their congratulations on becoming the longest-serving Prime Minister this century, will she remind them, as diplomatically as only she knows how, that she would certainly not have remained Prime Minister for so long, or even have become Prime Minister, if she had proposed as loopy a suggestion as that we should tax the clothes we give our children, the books they read and the food that we give them to eat? Will she remind them that one would need to have monumental hubris to expect to survive in political life by proposing such measures?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The undertakings that we gave on this matter during the election — not putting VAT on food or children's clothing — stand in full, of course. Again, for one moment, I thought that another party might have a policy like that, but I quickly understood that it had not.
That file was withheld in accordance with rules which are understood by the whole House and in precise accordance with some of those rules. It has been withheld for those reasons. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Why?"]
During her busy day, will my right hon. Friend take time to consider the situation in my constituency? Does she agree that parents of children in Cleveland are no different from parents in any other part of the country and that consequently, although at the end of the inquiry we may take individual measures, we should seek to reform the law relating to children and parents generally?
Does the Prime Minister recall the famous words in which she suggested that the National Health Service was safe in her hands? In view of the perpetual crisis in the service over recent months and the tragic cases that have been highlighted in the press, will she now recognise that many people throughout the country believe that she has blood on those hands?
I am happy to inform the hon. Gentleman that for every five in-patient cases treated in 1979, six were treated this year. For every 10 out-patient cases, 11 have been treated this year. For every one heart bypass operation in 1978, there have been three this year. For every three hip replacement operations in 1978. there have been four this year. For every two cataract operations in 1978, there have been three this year. For every two cervical smear tests in 1978, there have been three this year. For every two chronic renal failure treatments in 1978, there have been five this year. 'That is a splendid record of success.