Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Department of Health (Public Service Agreement)

5. Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): If he will make a statement on the progress of public service agreement targets for the Department of Health. [68401]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): A progress report is included in the 2002 Department of Health departmental report, which is published today. Since 1997, more than 100,000 fewer people are on the waiting lists; there are 39,000 more nurses, more than 10,000 more doctors and 37 per cent. more heart operations; more than 90 per cent. of people urgently referred by their GP with suspected cancer now see a specialist within two weeks; and there are 50 per cent. more CT scanners and 80 per cent. more MRI scanners; and last year, for the first time in 30 years, there was an increase in the number of NHS beds.

Mr. O'Brien: We all know that the Government favour target setting over reform, and, as the Chancellor said earlier in his answer to the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), the choice of public service agreement objectives reflects the Government's priorities. In that case, is the absence of a target for the number of care home beds a fair and true reflection of the Government's refusal to acknowledge that there is a real crisis in our care homes today?

Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman should wait for the statement by the Secretary of State for Health about the 6 per cent. real-terms increase in social services expenditure that I announced last Monday, and for the announcements in that statement about new measures that will be introduced. The fact is that, if we want to increase the number of care home beds and to improve social services for the elderly, we are faced with a choice: do we spend more money or less? We will spend the money; the Conservatives would make more charges.

Mr. James Plaskitt (Warwick and Leamington): Under the public service agreement, some specific targets have been set for this year. One is that in-patients should not have to wait more than 12 weeks; another is that

18 Jul 2002 : Column 410

out-patients should not have to wait more than 26 weeks. May I tell my right hon. Friend that both those targets have been met in full at Warwick hospital in my constituency? Is not this a case of service agreements providing precise targets that are being delivered thanks to the increased investment that the Government are putting in?

Mr. Brown: There are 300,000 more operations taking place in the national health service, and 100,000 fewer people on the waiting list. The maximum waiting time—which was more than 18 months when we came to power—is gradually being reduced to 15, then 12, nine and six months. Those are the aims that are being pursued in the targets that we have set the national health service. The question is, however, when making the reforms and setting the objectives—including giving more power to the primary care trusts—are we prepared to put the necessary money in to finance the expansion of health care? Everybody agrees—in any report that is produced—that the health service needs more money, except one group of people: the Conservatives, who want charges and cuts instead of spending.

Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell): Since about half of all the Government's 1998 and 2000 departmental targets appear to have been unmet, changed, failed or dropped, will the Chancellor oblige us by giving a single example of a Department that has been penalised, and telling us what penalty followed?

Mr. Brown: The issue about targets is that, when they are not met—

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk): Agriculture.

Mr. Brown: The Agriculture Department has been completely reorganised—

Mr. Bacon: Fat lot of good it has done. It has got worse, much worse.

Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman now says that he opposes what we are doing to give more money to sustainable farming, and the public expenditure announcement that we will give more money to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The important thing is that, when a Department goes wrong, action is taken. Why did the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor)—who now calls himself the shadow Chancellor; he is the shadow Chancellor who resides in Truro, as opposed to the one who resides in Folkestone—not welcome the action that we proposed on Monday to tackle failing institutions, including hospitals, schools, colleges, prisons and the probation service? In all those areas, we take action if there are failing institutions, and we also take action if permanent secretaries or Departments fail.

James Purnell (Stalybridge and Hyde): Does my right hon. Friend think that new charges for GP visits should be introduced to finance the NHS, or indeed that it is a Stalinist creation?

Mr. Brown: At the last general election, the Conservative party stood on a policy that the national

18 Jul 2002 : Column 411

health service would be free at the point of need. [Hon. Members: "Order."] Since then, a policy of charging, which the Conservatives are now proposing, has been put forward by the shadow Chancellor. The policy of charging is wrong. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Sometimes I cannot hear what is being said because so many people are shouting. I call the shadow Chancellor.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): May I say how greatly I am looking forward to debating the Chancellor's spending plans with him next Tuesday? Meanwhile, will he explain why, in his panoply of new targets set on Monday, that that for NHS efficiency savings has been reduced from 3 to 2 per cent. and that for ensuring that everyone should be expected to achieve the level of the best over five years has been dropped completely?

Mr. Speaker: Order. Before the Chancellor answers, I ask him not to talk about Conservative party policy.

Mr. Brown: It does not bear talking about.

We set targets in 1998, which have generally been met. We set targets in 2000, which run through to 2004. On the basis of the assessment that we made, we are setting new targets to 2006. The NHS is becoming more efficient. That is why the efficiency target is as it is for the next round. Equally so, we have set new targets, both for waiting times and waiting lists, and, of course, for the efficiency of hospitals.

Mr. Howard: It is a great pity that the Chancellor could not give a direct answer to that direct question. It is an even greater pity that he introduced yet more fiction to his answer. The Government said in their progress report on the efficiency target that they set four years ago, "There has been slippage." Perhaps it would have been better if the Chancellor had stuck with his adviser's phrase of "increased room for catch-up". What happens when there is increased room for catch-up? Instead of trying harder to catch up, the Government drop the target. Does not that expose as a complete sham all the Chancellor's fine words on Monday about matching resources with reforms and results for patients?

Mr. Brown: Absolutely not, because we have reduced waiting times and waiting lists. We have also secured a massive devolution of funding to local health authorities, all of which the Conservatives should have done but never did.

The number of operations carried out in hospitals has risen by several hundred thousand and we have provided repair and renovation for 96 per cent. of accident and emergency units. On training in medical schools, the numbers will go up from 3,700 entering every year to 5,900. On new equipment in the health service, the number of CT scanners is up 50 per cent. and that of MRI scanners is up 60 per cent. The number of people getting cancer operations and help from heart specialists has gone up as well. In those areas, we have been meeting the demands, but the question is, "Are you prepared to spend the money on the health service?" We are.

18 Jul 2002 : Column 412

Inward Investment

6. Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East): What further incentives the Treasury will provide to encourage inward investment into the United Kingdom. [68403]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng): Announcements made in this year's Budget will further serve to consolidate improvements in the UK's performance relating to inward investment. The extension of R&D tax credits to large companies and the move to exempt corporation tax for capital gains and losses on the most substantial shareholdings in trading companies will make the UK an even more attractive location for foreign investors.

Mr. Luke: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the extended R&D tax credit introduced for larger companies in this year's Budget will not only help to sustain high inward investment in this country, but encourage foreign companies already located here to follow the example of NCR in my own city and locate more R&D facilities in the UK, thereby strengthening the likelihood that their corporate presence here will continue?

Mr. Boateng: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the interest that he takes in inward investment generally and the work that he has done in his constituency to promote it. He makes an absolutely accurate point on the impact of the R&D tax credit, but, importantly, linked to Dundee's success in inviting and securing high-tech investment in that constituency are the announcements on science made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in the spending review. They will further enhance the competitiveness and success of our efforts to secure inward investment into the UK.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Will the Chief Secretary tell me what the level of inward investment in this country was on 1 May 1997 and what it was on 1 May this year? If it has gone down, to what extent is that attributable to the £25 billion raid on pension tax credits?

Mr. Boateng: It has no connection whatever with the so-called £25 million raid on pensions. What the hon. Lady must understand—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady wants figures. Let me give her the figures. Direct investment flows to the United Kingdom increased threefold in the four years to the third quarter of 2001, and by 9 per cent. in the four years to the second quarter of 1997. That is the difference between our record of success in government, and the record of failure of the hon. Lady's party.

Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South): I welcome the measures that are being taken, but does my right hon. Friend accept that China in particular is attractive to multinational companies at present, and that investment has flowed out of this country and into China? Does he accept the need for analysis of the trading conditions that China is allowing for multinationals, to ensure that we are on a level playing field?

Mr. Boateng: My hon. Friend makes a fair point. China's accession to the World Trade Organisation will

18 Jul 2002 : Column 413

no doubt assist that process, but it should be stressed that we in the United Kingdom offer a high skills base in terms of employment. What we offer, and what has been enhanced by the Government's decisions, is a stable economic framework and investment in education and skills. As a result, in a recent survey of developed and developing economies by UNCTAD—the United Nations conference on trade and development—the United Kingdom came second only to the United States in terms of its attractiveness to inward investment. That is a good-news story for UK plc.

Next Section

IndexHome Page