National Health Service (Investment)

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th January 2001.

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Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North 12:00 am, 25th January 2001

What discussions he has tad with ministerial colleagues on plans for public investment in the NHS over the next four years. [145795]

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Following discussions with colleagues, I announced in the spending review the average annual real-terms growth in cash of 6.1 per cent. a year, over the four years to 2003–04—the biggest sustained growth of any four-year period in the NHS.

Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. May I tell him how much my constituents already benefit from the Government's new investment in the NHS in Bury, especially because of the establishment of the health action zone and NHS Direct, the modernisation of GPs and dentists surgeries, and the multimillion pound improvements at Fairfield hospital? Can he tell the House what would be the impact on the NHS in Bury of the Conservative party's plans to cut £16 billion from public services? [Interruption.]

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Conservative Members do not want to hear this fact, but, in addition to meeting our election commitment on waiting lists, there are more doctors and nurses—and more are in training; 38 new hospital developments; more in-patients receiving treatment; more admissions being met; and more out-patient attendances than when we came into power. The whole country shares my hon. Friend's concern that the Conservatives' proposals for partial privatisation of the NHS would damage the very fabric of a service that is valued by every citizen.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that he was being disingenuous when he said in his Budget statement that the extra yield from an increase in tobacco tax would go to help the national health service? We know that this year, because of his ludicrous policies, the yield from tobacco tax is £900 million less than it was in the Government's first year of office.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

If the hon. Gentleman had looked at what I said in the Budget, he would have seen that I set aside the money, which has been paid into the national health service—[Interruption.] This is another example of the Conservatives' attitude. They refused to vote for the rise in tobacco duty and, had they been successful, that money would not have gone to the national health service and would, in effect, have been cut from its budget. We have put in the money over the course of the year.

As for the impact of that money, in 1996–97 there were 4,780,000 routine admissions; under Labour, because of new investment, there were 5.4 million routine admissions in the last year for which figures were available. That shows that the national health service is able to do more as a result of having more. The hon. Gentleman has just given an example of where the Conservatives would cut money from the NHS budget.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour/Co-operative, Basildon

My right hon. Friend will be aware that investment in the health service in the past four years has been very welcome, and improvements have been made. Nevertheless, does he accept that the extra investment that he has announced for the next four years is essential if we are to have the improvements that we need in hospitals such as Basildon and Orsett in my constituency? Does he recognise that those Labour Members who regularly approach him want him to ensure that we have extra resources for our hospitals and local health services? What representations has he received from Conservative Members to spend less in their constituencies?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I agree with my hon. Friend. The extra investment will allow us to improve the national health service in the next few years. Additional hospitals are being built, accident and emergency units are being modernised in every part of the country, 50 new magnetic resonance imaging cancer scanners have been put into many hospitals, and many extra investments have been made. There are 7,500 more consultants, 2,000 more GPs, and we plan for 20,000 extra nurses. Conservative Members complain about what is happening in their constituencies, but they will not face up to the fact that their policies would cut the NHS budget and that the shadow Chancellor has announced a policy for privatisation in the health service. They should go back to their constituents this weekend and ask them what they think, because they want the new investment and do not want the cuts or privatisation.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

Is it any wonder that Labour Members are asking about investment in the NHS for the next four years when investment in the NHS during this Parliament has been less than it was under the previous Government? Does the Chancellor regret that the three years of delays in providing funding for the NHS has led to a shortage of doctors and nurses, a breakdown in the NHS and a lengthening of waiting lists?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The hon. Lady is wrong: she is wrong on her first point and wrong on her second point. The share of national income we are spending on health is rising, as was announced in the public spending review. As regards the Liberal Democrat party, its election manifesto said that it would spend £500 million more a year. We are spending £5,000 million more a year—10 times as much.