I thank the Minister for his brevity. I am sure the House will appreciate the way in which he both took a number of interventions and made his remarks speedily. I will endeavour to copy him. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear”]
I start where the Minister almost concluded, by thanking NHS staff for the work they do day in, day out. He is a relatively new Minister to the post—so new that you gave him a different surname, Madam Deputy Speaker, but we will gloss over that. He inherits his portfolio after a time in which the NHS has suffered the most severe financial squeeze in its 70-year history. At one point under the Conservatives’ spending plans for national health services the money was set to fall on a head-for-head basis, although they have now revised the spending plans. Because of that financial squeeze over many years, he inherits a portfolio where 4.3 million people are on waiting lists and 2,237 people are waiting more than 12 months for treatment, more than 2.9 million people waited more than four hours in an accident and emergency department, and nearly 27,000 people wait two months for cancer treatment. The 18-week referral to treatment target has not been met since February 2016, the cancer target has not been met since December 2015, the diagnostic target has not been met since November 2013, and the A&E target has not been met since July 2015. Those targets are all enshrined in the NHS constitution and in statute, and they were routinely delivered under the last Labour Government. Under this Government, they have, in effect, been abandoned.