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. This evening, I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen. Later, I shall have talks with President Roh of South Korea, who is on an official visit to this country.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed, following a 45 per cent. increase in real terms in spending on the National Health Service since 1979, that next year, for the first time in British history, spending on health by central Government will exceed spending on defence? Does she agree that this is very timely, in the light of recent international developments, and that it makes absolutely clear which party in the House is genuinely concerned about improving the National Health Service?
I agree with my hon. Friend. Next year spending on health in real terms will very nearly have doubled since we came to power. There are more doctors and more nurses, and more patients are being treated. It is a most excellent record, as is our record on defence. I noticed an article in a newspaper yesterday by a doctor who had not been of our political persuasion, but who said of our health reforms:
An examination of each aspect of the reforms would lead most intelligent and informed people to see that they make sense.
He also said:
On health, Mr. Kinnock and his colleagues have nothing to offer.
Apart from the year in which it sold Jaguar, Rover had not made a profit since 1976. To privatise that company successfully was a major achievement and the Government struck the best deal that they believed possible in all the circumstances of the sale.
Does the Prime Minister not recall that it is the second time in two years that the Government have short-changed the British public by selling off assets? 1 t happened with Royal Ordnance, it is happening with Rover and tomorrow it will happen on a monstrous scale with the sell-off of water. When are the Government going to stop asset-stripping the country?
No, Mr. Speaker. Rover-Leyland had not made a profit at all except in the year when it sold Jaguar. It was able to carry on only because of Government guarantees to trade creditors and to the banks. The liability mounting up on the British taxpayer was enormous. It was a good thing to privatise Rover under those circumstances.
Does the Prime Minister think that that excuses in any way selling off a company for £60 million less than it was worth?
Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that, although I was listed as one of the Tory rebels by the Radio 4 programme and have the honour to represent he constituency once represented by the distinguished Member who was the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), I, my constituents and the British people demand that she remains—[Interruption.]