The NHS - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:29 pm on 5th July 2018.

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Photo of Lord Pendry Lord Pendry Labour 3:29 pm, 5th July 2018

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend on initiating this important debate. It is true that the National Health Service has grown under successive Governments, but currently the growth is slower than at any time in its history. Even the latest cash injection, recently announced, will, in the view of many health service organisations and influential experts, including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the MS Society and the local government society are saying that it is clearly disappointing, that funding is at a standstill and that it is a sticking plaster at best.

The statement from the Prime Minister that social care must wait until 2020 for extra funds—which will not be additional to the £20 billion injection—beggars belief. Where, however, does that leave the Secretary of State? During the debate of 25 January I congratulated him on standing up to the Prime Minister with his implied resignation threat. However, when he was appeased with another string to his bow—the addition of social care to his title—he backtracked. I, and no doubt he, along with others, believed that that would bring extra cash on top of what came with his previous title. Since then, the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear—Green Paper or not—that no extra money will be forthcoming. Surely Mr Hunt expected more money—for mental health issues, obesity, carers and the vulnerable in our society—when he threatened resignation.

The honourable thing to do, surely, is to adhere to his earlier threat and resign. Ruling out any increase in social care until 2020 makes a nonsense of giving the Secretary of State the additional handle of social care. By definition, that means extra responsibilities and funding now. That is what I thought when we debated the National Health Service and social care in January and I said that the Secretary of State had a golden opportunity—when the Green Paper comes to light—to prove his critics wrong and produce a meaningful improvement in social care provision. Unhappily, however, the Prime Minister has done it again: another promise not kept.

As the noble Lord who introduced this debate said, in a debate of this kind it is important to remind the nation—especially on the 70th birthday of the NHS—that it was Clement Attlee’s Government, and no other, that brought to life the National Health Service, and hopefully to end for all time the lie espoused by Jeremy Hunt at the last Tory party conference, when he claimed that the Tories, and not the Labour Government, invented the National Health Service. History books, and Hansard, clearly show that it was Aneurin Bevan who introduced the first comprehensive national scheme in 1948, when Tory luminaries Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan—all former Tory Prime Ministers—were among other Tories who voted against the implementation of this bold policy. The result of that vote was an enormous victory for the Labour Party and for the nation. I hope that this gigantic lie by the Secretary of State will be laid to rest for ever.