Public Expenditure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:29 pm on 24th February 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend 8:29 pm, 24th February 1988

Having listened to the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), one wonders in which world he is living. The problems that we see every day on our doorstep result from the underfunding of the Health Service and they are a daily reminder of the desperate need for more resources to be made available to the NHS.

The hon. Member for Talton wanted such under-funding to be quantified and there are a number of ways to do that. For example, let us consider my constituency's area health authority, Mid Glamorgan. It has worked out a budget for the coming financial year that tried to take account of inflation and the possible costs of pay awards to nurses and other Health Service workers. It came up with a figure that was some £3 million less than the amount then allocated by the Welsh Office. The Welsh Office thought it had done that health authority proud because the increase in funds was 5.1 per cent. more than last year's spending.

We are well aware that the increases in pay for the nurses and other hospital workers will be much more than the sum allocated by the Welsh Office, yet the Government have given us no guarantee that they will completely fund that pay award. The major problems faced by the Health Service in the past few years have been due to the underfunding of nationally negotiated pay awards.

Let us consider another example of underfunding in the Mid Glamorgan health authority that occurred two years ago, yet the effects are still being felt. In July 1986 the Mid Glamorgan health authority had a guideline for capital expenditure. However, in January 1987 the Welsh Office cut its allocation by more than £9 million. At a stroke, the authority had to revise its capital expenditure programme under which it was planned to provide the facilities that the area was sadly lacking.

Bridgend has a splendid new district general hospital that is providing effective and efficient services. It is just about the cheapest hospital in which to be treated in Wales. However, instead of the second phase of its development being started in 1991—at the moment it is a split-site hospital that costs hundreds of thousands of pounds extra to run a year—it may be 1994, 1995, or never before it is stated. It depends on the amount of money that the Government are prepared to give to fund the cost of the pay awards in the Health Service.

The Government say that money is available, and they appear to be committed to tax cuts. However, that money could be used to help fund the Health Service. We are not suggesting — as the hon. Member for Tatton tried to make out—that we should ask people to pay more money. It is a simple request to hold back on major tax cuts and to use the money to fund the Health Service.

At the start of the financial year—not in the ninth month of the financial year and not as a result of bad management — the Mid Glamorgan health authority already knows that, on the basis of the money allocated by the Welsh Office, it will have to find £5 million to make up for the cuts — on top of cuts already carried out. Despite the fine record of Health Service staff in treating more patients, the unpalatable fact for Conservative Members is that there are longer waiting lists and there is a crisis in the Health Service. The Government can throw as many statistics as they like at us about the wonderful extra funding. However, the plain fact is that there are more unwell people who need treatment and there are more people dying who need care.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) spoke about the economic recovery that has been engineered by the Government. However, it has resulted in a level of unemployment which is still more than double the 1979 level. Even if the present rate of reduction in unemployment continues, it will be 1992 or 1993 before we get back to the 1979 level of unemployment. What a wonderful economic recovery.

Let us consider what the Government have done with regional spending. Let us consider some of the facts and figures behind the British economy. Today in Wales, compared with 1979, there are about 100,000 men and 40,000 women who are no longer in full-time employment. Regional spending in Wales has been reduced from £265 million in 1979 to £149 million in 1987. The public expenditure White Paper proposes further cuts in future years.