Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must end now. I call the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire).

8.48 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): My constituents are growing weary of the NHS propaganda that this Government are pumping out. My constituents are getting less money, not more, they are getting a worse and not a better service, and their interests are being sacrificed on the altar of financial cuts and provider convenience.

The Government's propaganda machine drones on and on about more money for all, but the truth in Spelthorne is the exact opposite. West Surrey health authority's pro rata share of the much hyped £20 billion would be £5 million a year. Instead of getting that £5 million, the health authority has been ordered by the Government to make £20 million in cuts in the next three years. Those are real cuts--the ending of real services--and not merely getting £20 million less than the authority thought it needed. That is a total disgrace. So much for the propaganda about more money for the health service under Labour. Spelthorne is the victim of one of those Labour lies.

The Government's propaganda machine drones on and on about better services for all. Again, the truth in my constituency is very different. West Surrey health authority is savaging services in my constituency in order to cut expenditure. The total pay bill is being cut by 4.6 per cent. The hon. Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hesford) said that he had heard nothing about staff from Conservative Members. However, I can tell him that in my constituency the cuts will mean fewer nurses and doctors. That is the truth about Labour's national health service. It is the real message about staff that the hon. Gentleman ought to hear.

West Surrey health authority is cutting spending on surgical, medical and intensive care services by £775,000 a year. It is also cutting spending on clinical support services by £1.6 million a year. I am talking not about savings through modernisation or through cutting overheads, but about cuts to front-line services. The consequences of those cuts for Ashford hospital in my constituency include the closure of the accident and emergency department, and the loss of all its intensive care beds and of 70 other acute care beds.

That is the truth of what is happening in my constituency. The House need not take my word for it. When one of the consultants in my constituency was asked what the cuts would mean, he said that they would lead to increased suffering and inconvenience for patients. He added that a few of those patients would die as a result of the cuts. So much for better services under Labour: Spelthorne is the victim of yet another Labour lie.

The Government's propaganda drones on and on about putting patients first, but once again, the truth in my constituency is very different. The Government say that services should be provided where patients want them, and the Secretary of State spoke today about convenience.

26 Oct 1999 : Column 895

However, the closure of local services in my local hospital--for purposes of saving money for the health service and of provider convenience--is forcing my constituents to travel ever further.

The Government say that patients will get the drugs that they want. There has been a lot of hype about that, but my patient care group has been told by my health authority to restrict prescribing in order to cut costs. The Government go on and on about how patients will be referred to the most suitable consultant. However, my PCG is being told to restrict referrals, again in order to cut costs. So much for Labour putting patients first: yet again, Spelthorne is the victim of another Labour lie.

One other truth needs to be taken very seriously, and my constituents know all about it. That truth is that the Labour Government are very willing to play party politics with the NHS in my constituency. Earlier this year, the proposals to cut £20 million worth of services were being drawn up. They were ready to be published when the edict from on high came down prohibiting their publication until after the European elections. We know why that happened, but I am happy to say that my constituents are sensible. They were able to rumble the Government's ploy to protect the Labour position in those elections. Fewer than 4,000 of the 70,000 electors in my constituency voted Labour, because they knew the truth about the Government.

On top of all that, my local health authority has told me that the Government were pressing it only last week not to make any concessions to the local opposition to the cuts that are being made. That is because when the matter reaches the Secretary of State, he will wish to disguise the cuts that he will make by offering sweeteners that he knows my health authority is thinking about. That sort of politicking disgusts me and my constituents.

The Labour party needs to understand another truth: however hard the Government spin and no matter how much propaganda they pump out about the health service, patients will always know the truth. The truth will out. The truth is that my constituency has less money than it did when the Government came to power. We have worse services than we did when the Government came to power. Once the cuts are made, Spelthorne will have fewer doctors and nurses than it did when the Government came to power.

It is time Ministers understood a few simple truths. I shall offer just two tonight: first, propaganda will not cure cancer; and secondly, it is time the Government stopped picking on people just because they vote Conservative.

8.56 pm

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): I commend the Opposition for choosing the national health service for debate. If there is one thing on which both sides can agree, it is the importance of health.

I am afraid, however, that my conciliatory approach might have to end at that point. Those who know me know that I do not engage readily in party political point scoring, but I was astonished by the speech given by the shadow Health Secretary, who did nothing but score points. Frankly--if foolishly--I expected a tiny bit more of him. I was particularly shocked when he described the statement by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) that poverty causes ill health as a cheap sixth form debating point. If that is the starting

26 Oct 1999 : Column 896

point taken by the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), I welcome this debate because it gives everyone the chance to see the Opposition score yet another spectacular own goal.

The debate also gives me the opportunity to challenge the Opposition on why they want to see an end to specific improvements to the quality of service that the Labour Government's actions of the past two and a half years have already brought about. I shall turn later to improvements in my constituency.

Meanwhile, what is the latest wheeze dreamed up by the free marketeers at Conservative central office? What do they have in store for the national health service? We have heard all about the patient's guarantee. When I first heard the Leader of the Opposition talk about that, I let my imagination run wild. Perhaps, I thought, the Tory party has undergone a collective conversion on the road to Damascus. But then I read the small print--which, incidentally, hundreds of thousands more of our pensioners are able to do because of the Labour Government's restoration of free eye tests for the over-60s--and found that the Conservatives are offering nothing but a massive expansion of private health care. The policy is simply a way of farming out NHS treatment to the private health sector. It is back-door privatisation, an assisted places scheme in health care that will be used to subsidise private medicine for the privileged few.

The only guarantee that patients would receive from a Tory-run NHS would be a health service based on where the patient lives, who the general practitioner happens to be and--worst of all--the patient's ability to pay. Fortunately, while the Tories dream up ever more bizarre ways to flog off the NHS, the Labour Government are introducing modernising reforms alongside massive new investment that will underpin the quality of service. That fact cannot be disputed: my constituents are doing amazingly well out of the Government's commitment to the NHS--

Mr. Wilshire: Mine are not.

Ms King: If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene, I shall be happy to give way. What is his point?

Mr. Wilshire: I wish that the hon. Lady had listened to what I said. My constituents are suffering as a result of her Government's actions.

Ms King: I find it astonishing that you say that your constituents can be suffering after a--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Lady that she must speak in the third person.

Ms King: I find it astonishing that the hon. Gentleman says that his constituents are suffering under a Government programme that has put £21 billion extra into health, to which his party has objected.

Mr. Brady: Perhaps I can explain the situation both in a way that will please the hon. Lady's side and to my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). The reason why my hon. Friend's constituents and mine are losing out although the hon. Lady's are gaining is precisely because the Government have changed the

26 Oct 1999 : Column 897

allocation formula. They are transferring money to less privileged areas from other parts of the country. The problem that I have with that is simply that the Labour party was not honest and did not say at the election that that was what it intended to do. It did not tell my constituents that they would lose health service resources.

Next Section

IndexHome Page