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I can only agree with my hon. Friend. I urge him and other hon. Members with constituencies whose local authorities are in the bottom 40 of the funding league table to continue to argue for complete reform of local government finance. Perhaps they should argue specifically for the use of the DETR index of social deprivation as the main tool for the allocation of education funding.
I turn now to the question of health. Again, my constituents are delighted with the new health spending that has been announced already. After many years of neglect, it has helped us finally to merge our two hospitals on to one site, and to modernise our accident and emergency unit.
However, my reservation is that far more money could be squeezed out of the total health budget if we completed the modernisation of the structure of the national health service and moved away from the internal market, which reproduced bureaucracy as if there were no tomorrow. I urge the Government to build on the new investment allocated to health by continuing the process of merging trusts and reconfiguring health authorities, which is taking place in the context of establishing primary care trusts and primary care groups. Far too much money in the NHS is tied up in duplication and bureaucracy.
Even so, I must tell the House that the nurses and midwives who have lobbied me recently about levels of understaffing and recruitment problems will be delighted with the new investment announced today. The general practitioners who have been talking to me for two and a half years about the need for higher funding will also be delighted, as will those patients in Bury still on waiting lists—although I must note that those lists have fallen dramatically in the past two years.