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Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham): My constituents would not want my right hon. Friend to finish his speech before they, through me, expressed their gratitude for his decision last week to confirm the private finance initiative proposal for a new district general hospital at Darenth Park. That was in the teeth of opposition by the Labour party and is one of my right hon. Friend's commitments.

Mr. Dorrell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I recognise the importance of that project to his constituents and to people in neighbouring constituencies. It is one of many hospital projects that are being eased by the introduction of the private finance initiative.

Improvements in public services have been made possible because of the economic success that has been created by the Government. More important, that economic success has also allowed the improvement of living standards for average families in Britain. Since 1992, a family on average earnings has become better off by £20 a week or £1,100 a year in today's terms. Since 1979, the same family has become £100 a week or £5,000 a year better off in today's terms.

The reaction to the Budget shows that Labour has learnt nothing. It remains unwilling to control spending or to raise tax. In short, it is unwilling to face the responsibilities of office. By contrast, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor presented a Budget that is not for five months but for five years. It builds on success and I commend it to the House.

4.53 pm

Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South): The Government have chosen this last full day of the debate--tomorrow being the day for summarising the process--to highlight in particular their claim that the health service is safe in their hands. However, they have not made time, and despite his promises the Secretary of State did not make time, to examine the issue on which their claim not just for the health service but for education and their whole programme depends--what the Budget tells us about Britain's capacity for wealth creation and whether we are making the investment that is required to equip Britain for future success.

I presume that the Government chose to focus on health today because they think that their promises on health are the nearest things to good news in the Budget. They hope to persuade the public that they can be trusted on health, and the implicit message to be conveyed is that they can also be trusted on tax and on the economy. Nobody, apart from Conservative Members, and not all of them, believes that the health service is safe in the Government's hands, and the good and simple reason for that is that we, the British people, are all users of the health service and we see it falling apart in the Government's hands.

Anyone who has so completely forgotten the deceit of the previous pre-election Budget and is again minded to give the Government the benefit of the doubt and believe their promises on health care should look at the Red Book, because it blows the gaff. The Government have set yet

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another record--the fastest broken promise in history. The Chancellor's claim to be delivering what the Prime Minister promised at the Tory party conference--a real terms increase in health spending year on year--was shown to be false by the figures in his own Red Book, which was published the same day. They show that, when the election is safely over, the Government plan a real terms cut in health capital spending and, at best, a standstill in current spending. The Secretary of State for Health spent an enormous amount of time pretending--

Mr. Dorrell: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett: I shall give way in a moment if the Secretary of State still wishes to intervene.

The Secretary of State spent a great deal of time pretending that the Red Book shows an increase in real terms spending on health year on year. It does not show that. He said that the cash tables showed some sort of increase, but he knows that those cash tables and judgments on them depend on judgments about the GDP deflator. He also knows that the real terms tables in the Red Book do not show a real terms increase in health spending year on year. There is no point in the Secretary of State shaking his head. Repeating the same thing does not make it true.

Mr. Dorrell: Merely continuing to assert statements that I have demonstrated to be untrue does not advance the argument. The right hon. Lady just made a different statement, again untrue, by saying that the capital budget for years 2 and 3 did not show growth. The capital budget for year 2 shows 1.7 per cent. real terms growth and the one for year 3 shows 5.1 per cent. growth in real terms. The right hon. Lady is wrong about that, too.

Mrs. Beckett: That is on top of a cut of a third in the previous year. The Secretary of State has wasted his time. No one except those around him believes what he said about the real terms increase in health spending, because that is not what the Chancellor promised or showed in his Red Book. The Secretary of State said that he based his claim not just on the Red Book, but it is not at all based on the Red Book. When we challenged his claims on the matter, he referred us to the Department of the Environment budget. He was not prepared to answer the point himself but told us to refer to the Secretary of State for the Environment if we doubted his explanation on the freeze in spending. As I understand it, the Department of the Environment budget also shows a real terms cut.

The top and bottom of the matter is that the Red Book does not show a commitment of the kind that the Secretary of State claims to demonstrate. He said that, even if we did not believe him because of what is shown in the Red Book, we should believe him because of the Government's overall record on health spending. He spoke about 3 per cent. a year in hushed tones, as if that were a record that no other Government had achieved. It is, of course, less good than the record of the last Labour Government. [Interruption.] No, it is not exactly the same. There is no doubt that our record showed a

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commitment to an increase in health service spending of the kind that the Secretary of State claims solely for the Government.

Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield): Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett: I have dealt with the matter and do not want to spend much time on it. [Interruption.] I am not the least bit frightened of the hon. Gentleman and I am happy to give way.

Mr. Smith: Why is Labour apparently unwilling to match the Government's commitment to increase spending on the health service in real terms?

Mrs. Beckett: As the Government have not made such a commitment, the issue falls--[Interruption.] No; the Prime Minister has made such a commitment, but the Chancellor has dishonoured it in the Budget. That is a simple fact.

The Government claim that their capital spending cuts will be made up for by the private finance initiative. But we know that they have not raised the money--£165 million--that, last year, they claimed that they would raise through the PFI, and they have been forced to admit that the estimate was some £100 million too high. Last year, they promised that, under the PFI, there would be a new hospital every month this year. Far from 12 new hospitals materialising under the PFI--perhaps the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) should not hold his breath for his--only one has been agreed, and it has been suggested that the full deal has not been settled even for that one. My hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Health likens the current progress of that project to claiming that one has bought a house when one has not even arranged a mortgage. Does the hon. Member for Gravesham wish to put in a further pitch for his hospital to the next Government?

Mr. Jacques Arnold: The right hon. Lady may be interested to know that I do not need to put in a further pitch to the next Government--a Conservative Government, in their fifth term--or even to a Government including her. Will she remind the House that the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman), when speaking on health matters for the Labour party, opposed the PFI and specifically scoffed at the Darenth Park project, which she claimed--drawing on so-called "leaked" documents--was in a "list B" of PFI projects? That project is now not only well ahead of any "list A" projects, but--thanks to the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State--it has already been agreed. Is the right hon. Lady honestly able to say that that hospital in my constituency would have been possible without the PFI?

Mrs. Beckett: That was a very long intervention, presumably to disguise the fact that the hospital in the hon. Gentleman's constituency has not materialised, and--judging from the Government's overall PFI record--there is very little likelihood that it ever will. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, one year ago, the Government promised that there would be 12 new hospitals now, whereas, so far, we do not have even one.

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Given the total failure of the Government's promise last year on the PFI and hospitals, how can we possibly believe what they have said this year? It all gives a new spin to the Chancellor's dismissal of all the broken promises on tax. He said:

which was a refreshingly candid admission that we should never trust what the Tories say about tax, the economy or health.

We should also not take too seriously anything that the Prime Minister says to get a cheer at the Tory party conference. Ultimately, the blunt truth is that the Government cannot be trusted with the health service, because their ultimate goal is to privatise it. Although the Secretary of State claims not to share what everyone knows is the aim of many in his party, only recently one of the Government's own advisers spelled out with crystal clarity the view that everyone should be forced to take out private health insurance, which would be in addition to the higher tax and national insurance contributions that the Government are already charging--in flat contradiction to all their promises. Time and again, they repeat their promises, and not only on wet Wednesdays at any location, but at the Dispatch Box and at every general election press conference.

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