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My hon. Friend has anticipated my argument—I could probably sit down now that he has put it so eloquently, but I shall plough on while I have the indulgence of the House.
I was saying that the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire had said that the cuts might lead to some 3,000 community pharmacies closing. Then, of course, the right hon. Gentleman left his post in the Department of Health, which we are all very sad about. Now we have a new Minister, and we are delighted to welcome David Mowat to his place—not least because in one of his first interventions when he was allowed out, he visited the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual conference in September and said he was delaying the cuts. He said:
“I think it is right that we spend the time, particularly me as an incoming minister, to make sure that we are making the correct decision”.
He continued by saying that
“what we do is going to be right for you, is going to be right for the NHS and right for the public more generally.”
Well, if the Minister had left it there—with that U-turn—he would have won the praise of Labour Members.
Unfortunately, we then had a U-turn on the U-turn from the Minister. When the Minister came before the House last month we found out that, far from having listened, taken account of various consultations and decided to do what was best for the NHS, he intended to impose a 12% cut on current levels to pharmacy budgets for the remainder of this financial year—giving pharmacists just six weeks’ notice—and a 7% cut the year after that.