Health Spending

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 5 February 1997.

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Photo of Mr David Congdon Mr David Congdon , Croydon North East 1:47, 5 February 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the level of health spending per head in Scotland relative to that elsewhere in the United Kingdom. [12881]

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Next year, we are planning to spend £883 per head in Scotland—£153 more than in England.

Photo of Mr David Congdon Mr David Congdon , Croydon North East

If there were a Scottish Parliament, how could I justify the significant extra amount that is spent on health in Scotland to my constituents in Croydon when I would have no vote on Scottish health matters or funding?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

First, higher spending on health is justified at present because, for a variety of reasons, health spending need is greater. People who live in Scotland have a higher incidence of heart disease and cancer, and there is a greater need for dental treatment. However, my hon. Friend makes a valid point. Members of Parliament are traditionally reluctant to vote funds if they have no say over how they should be spent. A further tax-raising parliament would inevitably raise questions about the size of the Scottish block and, frankly, it is a gamble that we Conservatives are not prepared to take.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe , Cunninghame South

Is it possible that the additional expenditure on health in Scotland is to line the pockets of the private sector? In my constituency, most geriatric beds are being transferred to the private sector, where excess profits are being made. Is that not another example to show that the national health service is not safe in Tory hands?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

No. Whether a person remains in hospital is a matter for clinical decision, and that is where it should remain. It is not a matter for political decision. The recent Tayside inspector's report made it absolutely clear that for comparable care there could have been huge savings—well in excess of £2 million or £3 million—if the private sector had been used more.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give some idea of capital expenditure on the health service in Scotland during the past five years? Will he reaffirm our commitment to spend more on the health service year on year? Does he not find it astounding that the Labour party cannot give the same assurance?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have given a commitment to increase spending for the health service year on year in real terms—a commitment that the Labour party has failed to match. In Scotland, net expenditure in 1997–98 is planned to be £4.375 billion, an increase of £148 million—or 3.5 per cent.—over the 1996–97 expected outturn. If we had adopted the Opposition's line on local government finance, less would have gone to the NHS.