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?
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.
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.
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.
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?