First, we believe in a health service that is free at the point of need; the question that we must ask ourselves this evening is this: do the Opposition? Secondly, we believe in a health service that is principally funded from tax revenue[Interruption.] Oh, indeed. The question is, do the Opposition? Thirdly, we believe in more investment in the health service, but the question is, do the Opposition? Fourthly, we believe in a continuing programme of reform in the health service, but do the Opposition still believe in the health service at all?
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Treasury, asked the shadow Chancellor a very interesting question at the beginning of the debate. He asked whether the Opposition still believed in a comprehensive health service that was free at the point of use. At the general election, all Opposition Members had no doubt about the answer to that question. Individually, like us and the Liberals, they stood for election on a manifestoI quote the Conservative onethat referred to
I shall tell the House why the right hon. and learned Gentleman could not do so, as I have in front of me the memorandum written by the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight) to the shadow Chancellor on 12 November. It is marked "Private and Confidential". I am sure that the Opposition now wish that it had been kept private and confidential. Let me refer to what the Flight memorandum, as we will now call it, said. [Interruption.] It answers the very big question about why
We need to resolve and agree how we are going to break out of this, well ahead of the next General Election, or we will have the same problems of emasculation in this territory, that we had this summer. I believe most of our colleagues are looking to the Treasury Team to address this territory, but clearly the key is the fleshing out of the broad policy guidelines which IDS has set out in relation to healthcare."
If Conservative Members call for a debate in the House about the future funding of public services, they have a duty to tell us[Hon. Members: "No."] Oh yes they do. Every Conservative Member stood on a manifesto[Interruption.] They cannot get away from it. They stood on a manifesto that stated that there would be a comprehensive health service that was free to all at the
Mr. Brown: I shall give way in a minute. First, let us consider another piece of evidence. Nicky Campbell asked the Leader of the Opposition in an interview on Radio 5 on 22 June whether his health plans would involve people paying for treatment. The right hon. Gentleman replied: "Absolutely." Conservative Members cannot answer questions about their manifesto because they are planning charges for the health service.
Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell): Will the Chancellor clarify early in the debate whether the Prime Minister was right to say that the point of the Chancellor's statement last week was to ensure the fulfilment of the Prime Minister's commitment 18 months ago to raise spending on the health service to the EU average by 2005? Was the Prime Minister right?
Mr. Brown: Of course that is our policy. That is exactly what the Prime Minister said on Wednesday. The day before, I said that we wanted a substantially increased proportion of the national income to be used for health expenditure.
I shall explain what has happened in the past few years. As a proportion of national income, health expenditure increased from 6.9 per cent. That would not have happened under the Tories when the average was 6.2 per cent. Under us, it increased to 7.2 per cent. The Tories would not have done that. It will go up to 7.4 per cent., 7.6 per cent. and 7.8 per cent. Again, the Tories would not have done that. The Government are keeping their promises.
Mr. Brown: The shadow Chancellor refuses to tell us whether he supports charges. However, I have a copy of his election literature. He issued a leaflet, in which one item is entitled "The Future of the NHS". What did he say in it? I shall give way so that he can tell us.
Mr. Howard: The Chancellor is right; we had no such proposals at the last election. However, he has overlooked the fact that his party won the election. The Labour party is responsible for funding the NHS for the next four years. When will he grow up, accept his responsibilities, do what he promised at the outset of his speech and answer the questions that I asked him?
Conservatives will retain a free and comprehensive national health service".