Department Manpower

Prayers – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1988.

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Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson 12:00 am, 16th June 1988

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many officials of his Department are responsible for monitoring (a) the social security budget, and (b) other Department of Health and Social Security services.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

There are eight officials currently employed in the Treasury who deal with the social security budget, and 16 officials who deal with other Department of Health and Social Security expenditure.

Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson

Have those officials informed the Chancellor that Britain spends less per head of population than any other European Community country? Are they also advising him how much he will be able to put into the National Health Service? May we have an assurance that he will fight to ensure that we receive adequate and proper funding for the National Health Service in the next round?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

Health Service expenditure for 1988–89 is now £22½ billion, and there will be 9 per cent. more cash in the Health Service this year than last year. That is a dramatic increase.

Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar

Will my right hon. Friend have a word with one of the officials dealing with the health budget in an endeavour to confirm that if the Government have it in mind to bring forward additional resources for health care, one of the least efficient ways of doing so would be to introduce tax relief against private health insurance, as proposed in certain quarters? We should remember that 5 million people and their employers already hold health care policies without such an inducement.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

Health resources will be discussed in the public expenditure round in the autumn.

In answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I have no intention of commenting on such a speculation.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

Will the Chief Secretary tell the House whether those officials have looked into the policy of health authorities that close down small hospitals on the basis that health care will be available in the private sector —albeit funded to a large extent by social security—and, when challenged, say that they have no obligation to take into account public expenditure on that social security? Will he look into the matter urgently?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The hon. Gentleman's substantive point is more a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services than for me. The primary responsibility of the officials of my Department is to discuss with, and advise, me on the level of resources that should go into the health budget.