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Ms King: I find it amazing that the hon. Gentleman is pointing out the very well known fact that we believe that health resources should be allocated on the basis of need. Yes, we do, absolutely, and we are proud of it. I shall come to the funding allocation--[Interruption.] I have given way, if the hon. Member for Spelthorne will allow me to proceed.

Let us examine the improvements that my constituents have seen. Conservative Members will be aware of improvements up and down the country in Tory- controlled health authorities as well. They are well documented and they have shown a move away from the political engineering in which the previous Government were so quick to engage.

In Bethnal Green and Bow in Tower Hamlets, East London and the City health authority is receiving an additional £37 million to spend on local health services. That is an increase of 8 per cent.--something that could only have been dreamed of under the previous Administration. Yet all the increased funding is opposed by the Conservative party, with its blanket claim that the funding is reckless.

In Tower Hamlets we will get a brand new 900-bed hospital on the site of the Royal London hospital at Whitechapel. That is part of the largest hospital building programme ever known in this country. Again, it is opposed by the Conservative party.

The health action zone in Tower Hamlets is enabling health service professionals to introduce innovative approaches in partnership with other agencies to tackle ill health among our children and young people, to reduce deaths and illness from heart disease and strokes, and to improve the quality of life for those with mental health needs. Again, all of that is opposed by the Conservative party.

Basically, as far as I can work it out, the Tories do not have a policy to improve health. They have a policy of entrenching ill health among ordinary people. So I am rather less interested in what they have to say and instead I would like to look at how we can continue to deal with the health inequalities that the Government have so vigorously been tackling.

First, we need to increase access. That is high up the Government's agenda. Access to health care in the poorest areas is denied to many people. Some of my constituents have problems, whether cultural or language problems or just social exclusion pure and simple. Those problems prevent their access to health care.

A second point about which we do not often hear much is the need to link health care initiatives and regeneration. It is an important point, which the new deal for communities is tackling.

Thirdly, there is a need to break down health departmentalitis. That is one of the main aims of the health action zone. The best thing about the HAZ is that

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for the first time the Government have embraced, in a way the previous Government never could or would, the wider definition of ill health and its causes, such as poverty. That brings us back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre. I welcome the Government's approach. If we are to help the poorest people in the poorest areas, we must ensure that the amount of funding that the health authority attracts reflects the number of people who live in an area rather than the number included in the census. I hope that we can ensure that the index of deprivation plays a key part in the funding formula for health authorities.

Finally, the Government, and, indeed, the Prime Minister, have made it clear that these cash increases are not a one-off flash in the pan such as those that the Tories used to throw at us during the year before an election; rather they are sustainable, year on year, to increase access and quality of treatment, so that the NHS is once more the envy of the civilised world.

9.5 pm

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West): Yes, there is a crisis in the national health service, but it is not only there. I must inform the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) that there is also a crisis in education in Southend, where class sizes are growing and we do not have enough places for our secondary schoolchildren. There is a crisis in policing--[Hon. Members: "What about the health service?"] I shall come to the health service in a moment. There is a crisis in foreign affairs, but, above all, there is a real crisis in the national health service. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) want to intervene from a sedentary position?

Last night, I spent a little time in the House of Commons Library, where I was referred to the comic section. There, I found the Labour party manifesto for the 1997 general election. After reading it, I felt physically sick. Obviously, many people have read that manifesto recently because it was well thumbed. It is headed:

It states:

    "Our case is simple: that Britain can and must be better."

Turning to page 20, we read that Labour will "save the NHS". I hope that the Secretary of State for Health will soon return to the Chamber because he needs to read that manifesto. In a moment, I shall deal with both the present and the past ministerial teams.

It is garbage for Labour to claim to be saving the national health service. It should now be stated that after nearly three years of this wretched Labour Government, it will be left to the incoming Conservative Government to save the national health service. After all the drivel that the Secretary of State came out with about the Labour party being responsible for the NHS, I am extremely glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wealden(Sir G. Johnson Smith), who is somewhat older than the present Secretary of State, and my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward) were quietly able to put him right on precisely who was responsible for the national health service.

In the Labour manifesto, we were told that the NHS

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    The document states that

    "access to it will be based on need and need alone--not on your ability to pay, or on who your GP happens to be or on where you live."

There is much that I could say about that. When we turn to the next page, we see an attractive picture of some chap looking at X-rays, with the caption:

    "We'll spend more on patient care and less on NHS red tape."

There are also the five daft election pledges, which Labour tells everyone are being honoured, but they are not; it is merely that the goalposts are being completely changed.

Finally, the manifesto refers to

and states "save the NHS". It continues:

    "Over the five years of a Labour government . . . we will rebuild the NHS"--

no; the Conservatives will have to rebuild it--

    "reducing spending on administration and increasing spending on patient care."

The Labour party--new or old--should be thoroughly ashamed of all that nonsense.

As for the past ministerial team, I become extremely angry when Labour Members try to portray the Conservative party as never having any interest in the health service. I do not have private health insurance, although I wish I did. However, at present, I do not earn enough to afford it--I hope that I am not bombarded with application forms for it.

It is wicked for Labour Members to try to portray the Conservative party as uncaring. It is interesting to note that, after nearly three years in government, Labour Members are becoming annoyed for being blamed for things going wrong in the NHS. For 18 years--day in, day out; week in, week out; and month in, month out--as soon as someone died, it was all the fault of the Conservatives; Labour Members never worried about the effect on the relatives. Any problem in the national health service was the fault of the Conservative Government. After three years, Labour has been found out, and I do not believe a thing that Government Members say.

On 10 July, we were treated to an interview in The Daily Telegraph with the former Secretary of State for Health, the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). When asked about his job, he said:

At the end of the interview, he said:

    "It's the only job I have ever wanted".

When interviewed on live television about the Dick Whittington job, he had the cheek to say that he had been doing a rather good job as Health Secretary--in case you had not noticed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am a member of the Health Select Committee, and when the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministers appeared before us I found their so-called responses to our questions deeply disappointing. I am looking forward to dealing with the new ministerial team--I note that the Committee Chairman, the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), is in the Chamber.

My hon. Friends will be aware that the Government are seeking to present a new health care image. We have a new team and a softer, gentler image. There will be no

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distasteful jokes told at big functions, which was the habit of the previous incumbent. The Government's approach to health care will be more sophisticated in the future; this is a new start. However, I think that the new incumbent will find it difficult to distance himself from the original policy. He was a Health Minister after the general election, and I have pages and pages detailing his recent remarks as Health Secretary. I do not take anything that Government Members say at face value--I get the truth from the Library--and I think that the new Health Secretary will regret some of his comments.

Labour has undoubtedly broken many promises and let the public down. As shadow Health Secretary, the present Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said that there would be no upheaval in the NHS. Yet Dr. Ian Bogle described the pace of the Government's health reforms as "frightening" and said that doctors were

The right hon. Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) said that Labour would cut NHS waiting times--that is a joke. In March 1997, 30,100 patients waited more than a year to be seen by a doctor, and that figure has now increased by 63 per cent. Many of my hon. Friends have described the growth in NHS waiting lists.

In Southend, we see the result of Labour's policies at first hand. Since Labour came to power, waiting times for radiology treatment, and particularly barium enemas, have increased dramatically. That is a serious matter. I am advised that the problem has arisen because the hospital has had to divert one radiologist from the barium list to mammogram sessions. That is a direct consequence of the two-week waiting time edict for breast cancer treatment and a good example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

There are no secrets about the health service: unless Labour puts up taxes, which it is loth to do for popularity reasons, it will fall on its sword. I am concerned for Mrs. Sara Ashworth who, at 93, is awaiting a cataract operation. I am advised by my local hospital that she will have to wait between 15 and 18 months--which, at 93, is a hell of a long time. I am very concerned about Mrs. Ena Pluckrose who lives opposite me. She is in her eighties and looks after her husband who is in his nineties. She has been told that she is being moved to the "soon" category, which means that she will be waiting 12 to 15 months.

There is a crisis in the NHS and I blame the previous Secretary of State, the present Secretary of State and, most of all, the leader of the Labour party. The sooner he and this wretched Government lose the next general election, the better.

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