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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Defence) 6:00 pm, 23rd October 2019

Wales is leading the way in many areas in health. Despite the bluff and bluster that we hear from the Conservatives, the Welsh NHS has many positive attributes. We must continue to be vigilant to ensure that our NHS is not subject to the vagaries of a Trump-style trade deal with the US. The Welsh Labour Government have stated emphatically that our NHS is not for sale, and that should be the case right across the UK.

At this point, I make a plea for the Government to do more to find a solution between the NHS and the pharmaceutical companies with regard to Orkambi—a drug for cystic fibrosis sufferers, including eight-year-old Sofia from my constituency. We need progress on this issue across the UK. I appreciate that progress made by this Government will apply in England, but any attempts to break the deadlock, wherever it is in the UK, will help CF sufferers right across the UK.

We all know that not only health, but public services generally have been under pressure for a decade due to hard Tory austerity. The Tories are certainly not the party of the NHS, as they claim to be, and the neglect shown by the Government in the Queen’s Speech to other areas, including social care, mental health and education, is a real cause for concern. The Queen’s Speech was a missed opportunity by this Government to tackle the hardship felt as a result of continued austerity measures, with cuts to things such as social care and local government funding. It is important to recognise that local government has an important role to play in public health and social care, and it has been significantly underfunded in recent years. Time and again, we have been promised an end to austerity, yet there was little in the Queen’s Speech to give us any evidence of the fact that this policy has come to an end. Our local councils are suffering. They are able to provide visible services that we are aware of, which people sometimes take for granted, but the opportunity to deliver those services is held back by the austerity measures to which they are subjected.

This Tory Government have starved our local authorities of resources for almost a decade, and although in the early years some councils were able to stretch their budgets to keep some of the vital services going, all that is left to cut now are jobs and services that are closest to the people. Although local government in Wales is devolved to the Welsh Government, we know that the budget given to Wales by this Government is some £4 billion less per annum now than it was in 2010, which has had a huge knock-on impact on public services across Wales. That is wholly wrong, and this Government must act to show that austerity really is coming to an end. For this Government, as they have done in recent weeks, to use the police as a political propaganda tool, after almost a decade of slashing budgets and making constant cuts to policing and preventive public services, while violent crime has soared and conviction rates have reached record lows, is shameful.

In the closing moments available to me, I wish to raise something that was not in the Queen’s Speech, and that was an error. The theme for today is the NHS, but we are talking about the Queen’s Speech more widely. One of the missed opportunities was that there was no mention of the Government’s plans to put right the cruel injustice felt by women born in the 1950s and address the anger felt by so many thousands of 1950s women in our country, many of whom would have worked in the NHS, social care and health services. It is more than two years on from the last Queen’s Speech, which also failed to make any mention of this issue, which at that time had already been a huge injustice for too many years. This shows just how long this Tory Government have failed to act on this issue. So they must act, to get a fairer deal for the many thousands of 1950s women and bring an end to this shameful legacy of state pension inequality. We all know—I include many Government Members—that this issue will not go away until justice is done.

We do not know how long this Government have left—I hope for the sake of the country that is not too long—but it is clear from this Queen’s Speech that the Government are out of touch and out of ideas.