I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that £126 million would buy one new hospital a year, 45,000 hip operations or 145,000 cataract operations? Would not the Labour party hand that money back to COHSE and NUPE? Should not people tell their grandchildren what it was like under Labour in 1978, when cancer patients who were dying were not allowed admission for treatment? Would not it be a good idea if they took note of the fact that the health service would be a hell service if it were coupled with the name of the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook)?
My hon. Friend is on to a good point. The Labour party is bound by two commitments: first, to abolish competitive tendering, which will cost £126 million; and, secondly, that no more money should be available to the health service. Labour Members must explain to the patients whose treatment would not be possible, despite the fact that that money is being provided to the health service, why they should wait so that the Labour party can discharge its pledges to the trade union movement.
Will the Minister give us the full picture on competitive tendering? What is it costing the Government in terms of social security payments to low-paid national health service workers because private contractors have driven wages down to poverty levels? How many NHS workers are now forced to take on two jobs to make ends meet? Will the Minister also explain the appalling standards of cleanliness in hospital wards because of private contracting?
What I will do is tell the House about the attitude of the general secretary of COHSE, Mr. Hector MacKenzie. He says:
Success depends on the willingness of members …to push for a health service that acts in the interests of its staff.
The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) was at the COHSE conference at the weekend. I hope that he took the opportunity to dissociate the Labour party from those sentiments.
My hon. Friend is on to an important point. Competitive tendering is practised by the NHS in Merseyside, which is clocking up savings of £6 million a year as a result. That is freeing resources which allows Merseyside to have a waiting list record that is second to none. If every other local service in Merseyside were run as efficiently as the health service, many problems would be solved.