Before I was so kindly interrupted by a former adviser to former Treasury Ministers—people such as the unlamented prospective Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough—I was about to say that at the last general election we promised to give a high priority to the national health service. Last week, we backed up that promise with money—a lot of money. We announced a £2.5 billion programme to make a start on modernising the national health service and getting it into shape to meet the needs of patients in the new century. We announced £1.2 billion extra cash for patient services £1 billion for England alone—together with a £1.3 billion hospital building programme. The NHS certainly needed that injection of funds.
Under the previous Government, 59 of the 100 health authorities entered this financial year in debt, as did 128 of the 429 NHS trusts. Capital investment has fallen for four successive years and is at its lowest for a decade.
The previous Government's private finance initiative plans to get private finance into the NHS had failed to finance a single hospital, but had cost more than £30 million in fees paid out to financial and legal advisers and consultants. Vast sums of money were being squandered. Instead of being used on patient care, millions of pounds were being used to meet the costs of the paperwork of the internal market introduced by the previous Government.