Capital Finance

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th June 1991.

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Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover 12:00 am, 18th June 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on capital expenditure in the health service between 1971–72 and 1991–92.

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the level of capital investment in the national health service in 1991–92; and what was the figure in 1978–79.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

Capital expenditure in the national health service in 1991–92 is planned to be 60 per cent. higher in real terms than in 1971–72 and 68 per cent. higher than in 1978–79.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that capital expenditure today is almost double what it fell to when Labour cut expenditure in 1977–78? Does he agree that there is much more machinery, equipment and electronics in the health service than there was before, and that we now have lithotripters and magnetic resonance imaging equipment, none of which existed under Labour in 1979?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

One of the most disgraceful aspects of the previous Labour Government's record was their catastrophic cut in spending on the health service after the International Monetary Fund arrived in this country. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) usually says he voted against that, but in fact, as we discovered, he abstained. For example, we now have MRI scanners, lithotripters and mammography equipment, and defibrillators are present in every front-line ambulance. We have a better-equipped health service.

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

Does my right hon. Friend have on file a Trades Union Congress report criticising the Government for hospital closures and cuts in the NHS capital investment programme? Will he contrast that report, which was published in 1978 under the last Labour Government, with more recent news of more than 500 major hospital building projects being undertaken, millions more patients being treated and almost £33,000 million to spend on patient care this year?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I confirm that that is so. On the 30th anniversary of the health service, the TUC made a tremendous but justifiable attack on the then Labour Government. Now, however, the hon. Member for Livingston, by nods and winks—by going to the BMA, by saying yes to every pressure group and by promising expenditure that he knows, if he took on my job, he would not be able to honour—is building up the same explosion of resentment and failed expectations as that which occurred under the last Labour Government, causing the winter of discontent and bringing catastrophe to the health service.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Returning to the comments of Mr. Hector MacKenzie, in the context of this question does the Secretary of State think that the national health service should act against the interests of its own staff?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

Of course not. I know that the hon. Gentleman, who is sponsored by COHSE, would not believe that to be so, but it is an extraordinary statement not to put first that the national health service should act, above all, in the interests of patients.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

If everything has been so good with the national health service during the course of this Tory Government's 12 years, why are wards and hospitals closing, beds being shut down and more than a million people on waiting lists, and why are GP fundholders at a practice in north Derbyshire able to get their patients into hospital six weeks before others who are not GP fund holders?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman may have missed the agreement that was made with the profession last week, which laid to rest such scare stories. I make no apology for the policy of closing hospitals that are no longer needed; in saying that, I am quoting the Secretary of State for Health under the last—and I mean last—Labour Government.