I regularly meet the Assembly First Minister to discuss health and funding matters.
In thanking the Secretary of State for that less than full reply, may I ask him whether he agrees that to improve the health service in Wales, he will have to increase its budget? Why, then, has he cut the health budget for the forthcoming year?
The hon. Gentleman says that that comment was an insult to Mickey Mouse. In that case, I withdraw it.
The truth is that the Welsh health budget will have doubled under this Labour Government and compares with the situation in which patients lost treatment from NHS dentists under the last Conservative Government, nurses' jobs were cut, hospital jobs were cut and hospitals were closed. I should have thought that the hon. Lady would have got up to apologise for the dreadful Conservative record and to welcome the doubling of the Welsh health budget.
Will my right hon. Friend bring his Cabinet colleagues to the Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust, whose financial position has allowed us to have a new community hospital in Chepstow, a new day surgery unit in Nevill Hall, a new CT scanner and a new coronary care unit costing £2.5 million? We are also about to start work on a new health and social care facility in Monmouth, as well as a new orthopaedic centre at St. Woolas. Does he agree that the people of Wales want that investment in the health service and not the public expenditure cuts promised by the Tories?
Absolutely—that is why the people of Monmouth will re-elect my hon. Friend as their Member of Parliament on
Can the Secretary of State confirm whether it is true that, according to the Evening Post, Swansea faces debts of up to £15 million, and Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend £10 million each? The fact that the British Medical Association has passed a vote of no confidence in the Assembly clearly shows how badly it feels it has been let down. Given the headline that appears in The Western Mail today, I could sign that motion. Why could not he?
The hon. Gentleman can sign a pledge in the knowledge that it would be totally worthless, because as a result of the spending cuts that the Conservatives intend to introduce, the Welsh health service would be back to the dismal state that it was in when we began to rescue it in 1997.
As for the deficits in the health budgets, this is the third year running in which the deficit has fallen. The Assembly is on target to achieve financial balance by 2008–09, thus eliminating the deficit, including in Swansea.