NHS Spending

Part of EU Nationals in the Uk – in the House of Commons at 7:07 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 7:07 pm, 6th July 2016

I agree that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston is not in the Government, but she was in the Vote Leave campaign and made those promises.

Going back to “More or Less”, Tim Hanford said:

“If we left the EU we wouldn’t have an extra £350 million to spend on the NHS.”

He also talked about the amount of money that we pay to the EU in comparison with the amount that comes back and said that the

“rebate is about £85 million a week. Unless you think we’d continue to get the EU rebate after we left the EU, it’s impossible to make the claim that there would be £350 million a week to spend on the NHS.”

He went on to say:

“We reckon that in the year 2014 the UK paid £280 million a week to the EU and received back £90 million a week in contributions to farmers and poorer regions and another £50 million in spending on British companies.”

Therefore, the most that could possibly have been available is £140 million, and there was no way that anybody in the leave campaign was ever going to spend all that money on the NHS.

It is not unusual, however, for people to be disingenuous. The people of Scotland are actually quite used to people telling untruths during referendums. The article below the now-famous headline, “The Vow”, stated:

“People want to see change.”

Well, they certainly delivered that. The article also said:

“We will honour those principles and values not only before the referendum but after.”

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservative party in Scotland, said on 2 September 2014:

“No means we stay in” the EU. The Conservatives have completely failed to deliver on the promise they made to the people of Scotland. They are trying to drag Scotland out of the EU against our will.

This Conservative Government have a terrible record of making disastrous pledges, mostly because I think they did not expect to have a majority. They thought that they could write anything they wanted into their manifesto and then backslide on it because they were not going to have a majority. They had the fiscal charter, which was disastrous and condemned us to austerity. They had the removal of the subsidy for onshore wind, which was also disastrous. They had the pledge to have an EU referendum and they thought that they could avoid that one because they would not get a majority, but now look at what has happened.

There was also the disastrous, awful, horrendous migration cap. I am faced with constituents most weeks who sit in my office and explain to me what they do for their community and the work that they do in local government or the NHS. They talk about their volunteering and say to me, “Why does this Government want to send me back to another country?” The only answer that I can possibly give them is that this Government signed up to a migration cap and are therefore trying to reduce the number of people here based not on how hard they work, how much they give to their community or how much they put into NHS services, for example, but on trying to reduce the headcount. The Government’s behaviour is absolutely ridiculous.

What does that mean for the future of political campaigning? People across the UK are looking at the pledges, such as the one that is still on the Vote Leave Twitter page saying that £350 million should be spent on the NHS, and their trust in politics and politicians is being eroded further than ever before. If we want to try to bring things back, we are going to have to work incredibly hard and be incredibly truthful. Our campaigning is going to have to be incredibly positive. The fear factor inspires nobody, and we are losing the trust of so much of the population. They do not believe what we say because we constantly present them with fear, which is not good.

The Health Secretary spoke earlier about having to be careful in what he said in case he further damaged the British economy. He did not want to talk down the economy, which I understand, but I hope that that does not mean that the Conservative Government will refuse to be positive about the benefits of migration. The people who come to this country to work in our NHS and in other services provide a huge economic benefit to the UK as a whole and Scotland in particular. It is important to our country’s economy that people are willing to come here. If the Government are scared about damaging the economy and their ability to use people as bargaining chips and are unwilling to talk about the benefits to the British economy of migration, that is a major issue. Things are bad enough already; we do not want to make them any worse.

I want to mention a few other things that people have said. Boris Johnson said that people would value NHS services more if they had to pay for them. He then said that the £350 million should go to the NHS. Those two things are mutually incompatible. It is a shame that such points were not highlighted a bit more during the campaign.

So many Westminster Governments over so many years, and indeed decades, have been unwilling to do anything other than take part in short-term politics, focusing on what will be of benefit in the next five years in order to try to win elections. The NHS is a prime example, because some of the health measures put in place by the Conservative Government avoid touching on some of the thorniest issues. For example, breast feeding counselling and support, access to which is being reduced, costs money now but will result in a financial benefit—a return to the Treasury—many years later. It would be good if the Government were willing to take such decisions, which may mean they have a smaller budget now, in order to give people health benefits in 20 years’ time.

Earlier this week we had the main debate on the estimates. NHS and health budgets regularly go against HM Treasury guidance by transferring capital to revenue spend, which other Departments are not allowed to do. What I want to know is why that money is not being spent on capital projects. What capital projects on which the money should be spent are being avoided? Why are the Government not funding the NHS revenue spend to the levels they should be? Why does the NHS have to make these transfers between capital and revenue, rather than being adequately funded?

Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you for your indulgence in allowing me to speak in this debate. I really appreciate it.