|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Mellor : I appreciate the right hon. and learned Gentleman's sincerity. If there was evidence of substantial evasion of these rules, I should certainly want to look at it. But, with respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if he has such evidence he should let the Government have it, because we are not aware of any widespread evasion.
Mr. Tom Clarke : If the statutory provisions to deal with the matter are inadequate--and I have to say that there is a great deal of support from voluntary and professional organisations for what my right hon. and learned Friend says--will the Minister consider them very seriously when the Children Bill is considered by the House?
Mr. Mellor : There are two points. First, there is no doubt that no one under the age of 16 can be registered as a child minder, so any attempt to make a child into a child minder is against the law. But, secondly, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is a need to reconsider the law on under-fives. I expect that we shall be doing that together when the Children Bill is considered by the House.
13. Mr. Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of the gross domestic product was spent on the National Health Service in the most recent year for which figures are available ; and what was the percentage in 1978.
Mr. Mellor : They do, because not only has there been an increase of 40 per cent. in real terms in revenue spending on the NHS--double the rate under Labour--but an increase in the capital spend, which was slashed to the bone under Labour. Above all, there is a growing national wealth of which health is getting a larger slice. Since the foundation of the NHS, no Government's record can compare with that.
Mr. Haynes : We have another Minister bragging at the Dispatch Box. Is he aware that I opened a health fair in my constituency last Friday and that I was told in no uncertain terms that more resources were needed? There is £14 billion in the bucket so the Minister should put his hand in and get some out-- [Interruption.] --for the central Nottinghamshire health authority.
Mr. Mellor : I am glad to feel as though I am back at Chelsea football club. The hon. Gentleman's comments find a real echo among my hon. Friends. He can tell his constituents that from the beginning of April, £2 billion of extra resources will be made available to the National Health Service. It is a long time since any Government have done that.
Column 904spend it? Will he urge the BMA and the presidents of the royal colleges to look carefully at the well reasoned and constructive critique of the National Association of Health Authorities in England and Wales and warn them that outbursts based on emotion rather than fact will do for the image of the medical profession what King Herod did for babysitting?
Mr. Mellor : My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to what the National Association of Health Authorities in England and Wales has said, to which the Opposition have not drawn attention, because the response of the association was constructive. It has said that the proposals will benefit the Health Service. It is not good enough just to sign a large cheque because what matters is the patient care that is bought with it. We know that there are tremendous variations in efficiency and effectiveness in different parts of the NHS and our job is to draw the standards of them all up to the standards of the best. We are the only party that has provided a blueprint for doing that.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.
Mr. Kirkwood : Will the Prime Minister take the time today to check that the forthcoming tour of the Secretary of State for Health will include an early meeting with the joint consultants committee? Has the Prime Minister had a chance to study the remarks made by the chairman of the JCC, Sir Anthony Graham who warned that the health proposals present real risks to patient care in this country and who said that what is needed instead is more money and more doctors and nurses involved in the decision-making process? If the consultation is to mean anything, what more can the health professions do, say or prove, to get the Prime Minister to have second thoughts about the proposals which are potentially extremely damaging to the provision of health care in this country?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman will have heard my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State reply from the Dispatch Box a moment ago to the effect that £2 billion more will be given to the Health Service this coming year and the hon. Gentleman knows that provision has been made for more consultants. The White Paper offers a choice both to general practitioners and to hospital consultants to be members of self- governing hospital staffs. Some will choose not to take that choice ; others will choose to do so. Just because some do not want to make use of it does not mean that they should attempt to deny that choice to others.
Mr. Butterfill : When my right hon. Friend is next in Bournemouth, will she take the opportunity to visit the Bournemouth and district water company, which has been a private water company for 126 years and has charges
Column 905that are among the cheapest in the country at about only 60 per cent. of those of the water authorities? Is that not an example of what can be done by private enterprise?
The Prime Minister : I congratulate my hon. Friend and his constituents. A quarter of the water industry has been privatised for years. Even some countries that profess to believe theoretically in nationalisation still choose to have their water privatised because it gives a better service.
Mr. Kinnock : From the detailed briefing notes that she has with her, will the Prime Minister give the House a full and exhaustive list of all the representative professional organisations that are backing her plans for the Health Service?
The Prime Minister : I wish the right hon. Gentleman had listened to the reply I gave previously. However, I unerstand that he has usually made up his questions before he has heard any of my replies. The Health Service White Paper-- [Interruption.] I should point out straight away that there are now far more doctors in the Health Service than there were when the right hon. Gentleman's party was in Government and there are far more nures. But the White Paper-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : The White Paper gives a choice, both to general practitioners and to hospitals. I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not believe in choice, although yesterday he professed to believe in it-- [Interruption.]
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Is my right hon. Friend aware that a doctor just over the border from my constituency, but serving patients in my constituency, is abusing his professional position by inscribing political slogans on repeat prescriptions?
Mr. Cook : If the economy is so healthy, if we can afford the luxury of a post-Budget debate among Conservative Members as to what to do with the £14 billion surplus, if our standing in the international community is as high as the Prime Minister would have us believe, why is it that, in the 26th year of the United Nations peace-keeping force in Cyprus, our Commonwealth cousins from Canada can be billeted in four-star comfort, while our serving men and women and their families are condemned to the squalor of Jubilee camp and its associated quarters?
The Prime Minister : With regard to the £14 billion surplus, as the hon. Member knows, quite a lot of it will go to paying off the debt that the last Labour Government created--and a very good thing to do. With regard to our
Column 906massive defence budget, I am delighted to hear that the hon. Member supports a big defence budget and, apparently, would like it to be even bigger.
Mr. Jessel : Can my right hon. Friend confirm the decision to stop any increase in night flights at Heathrow for five years, taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, whose respect for people's need for night sleep is warmly welcomed by hundreds of thousands living near Heathrow?
The Prime Minister : I understand that my hon. Friend has a very deep interest in perpetuating that situation. The only thing that I have seen which might ask for it to be revised is the very recent report of a Select Committee of this House, which, of course, we shall consider in due course.
Mr. Livingstone : Has the Prime Minister seen the figures from the Bank of England, which show that the average life of equipment in British manufacturing industry is 28 years, compared with 18 years in America and 11 years in Japan? Does she believe that British workers should have equivalent equipment in order that they may compete effectively, and what does she intend to do to close the gap?
The Prime Minister : I fear that the hon. Member may not have heard my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night point out that business investment in this country now, as a proportion of gross domestic product, is higher than it has ever been, and that a good deal of the adverse balance of trade has gone into the import of the latest kind of investment, which will help to put up the productivity and production of our manufacturing capacity.
Mr. Greenway : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the horrific and tragic events at Lockerbie were the result of a bomb being placed on an American aeroplane at a German airport, and that it is outrageous to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport hounded in this way?
Column 907"no political solution will cope with terrorists--they just have to be extirpated"?
The Prime Minister : We have to use every possible instrument to try to deal with terrorists, including extradition. Both my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland use everything possible, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, which is not always supported on both sides of the House. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we also need the co- operation of all the people in Northern Ireland, in the Republic and of the official Opposition if we are to eradicate terrorism.
Sir Anthony Meyer : Is the Prime Minister aware that there is unanimous support on these Benches for her views on a free enterprise, deregulated Europe? Will she confirm that there is nothing inconsistent in that with the idea of a Europe more closely united, even though some of her Ministers seem to think so?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend that the kind of Europe we want is a free enterprise Europe, open to trade from outside its borders, and not putting up any more restrictions. Yes, we require a more united Europe to do those things together that we seek to do best as a unity, but at the same time respecting sovereignty and the infinite variety of cultures in the Community. I do not believe that the two are incompatible in any way.
Mr. Home Robertson : Is the Prime Minister aware that I am not short of a few bob? [Interruption.] Is she aware further that I have just received my poll tax bill which is more than £1,000 less than I paid in rates last year? Why has she devised a tax which ensures that the people on the lowest incomes have to pay more local tax in order to compensate people like me?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman knows that the people on the lowest incomes are fully protected--[ Hon. Members :-- "Rubbish."]-- both by an 80 per cent. rebate and by an additional payment through income support to enable them to pay the rest of the 20 per cent. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be making handsome donations to some estimable charities.
Mr. Devlin : Will my right hon. Friend take time during her busy day to condemn the very expensive advertising campaign which is currently being mounted by the Bar Council against the legal reforms and against the Crown prosecution service in particular? Does she agree that the time and resources of the Bar Council would be better spent in putting together a more constructive response to the need of the consumer as outlined in the excellent Green Paper on legal services?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. The Government share the dismay of the director of public prosecutions at the unfair and inaccurate comments made in the advertisements. It is most unprofessional of the Bar Council to denigrate other members of the legal profession.
The Prime Minister : As the National Audit Office has shown, very frequently the rents have not been properly collected. Those people who are poorest already have their rent paid 100 per cent. by housing benefit, so the rent arrears-- [Interruption.] --can apply only to those people who are able to afford to pay rent. It is a disgrace that those rents have not been properly collected.
Mr. Gill : Does my right hon. Friend welcome the interest that is now being shown by member countries of the European Free Trade Association in joining the European Community? Will she remind the House of the importance of creating a wider Europe rather than the deeper Europe propounded by the Labour party and other parties of the Left?
The Prime Minister : We have always been in favour of a close association on trade between EFTA and the European Community. As my hon. Friend knows, that does indeed exist. At the moment our main task is to bring to fruition the single market in 1992, but I agree with him that we must constantly look to the Europe across the European divide and we are doing that. Recently the Community, under the leadership of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, concluded a trade agreement with Hungary which will be of great benefit to that country and will be a very fair arrangement for the European Community.
Mr. O'Brien : Will the Prime Minister contact the chairman of the Wakefield health authority today to try to bring some common sense to bear upon that authority, so as to reduce the waiting lists that are building up because the secretaries of consultants and other secretaries are locked out of their workplace? The situation is that, because of the developments in the Wakefield health authority, people are unable to receive the treatment for which they are waiting. Will the Prime Minister ensure that that health authority applies common sense to the situation?
The Prime Minister : I cannot say that I will myself contact the Wakefield health authority. I am quite certain that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health will have heard what has been said and will take the appropriate action.
|Next Section (Debates)