Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Brown: Given that under the Conservative Government, only 63 per cent. of people suspected of having cancer saw a consultant within two weeks—the figure is now 98 per cent.—that is a ridiculous allegation coming from the hon. Gentleman. I have his election manifesto. Perhaps he will explain to me why he is now

7 Jul 2003 : Column 774

saying to his electorate something quite different from what he said in the general election. He said that Conservatives would spend more on the NHS. He also said, by the way, that they would spend more on the police, education and transport. How does he justify the 20 per cent. cuts in public expenditure that the Opposition propose, and the shadow Chancellor's refusal to commit the Conservative party to spending as much on the health service as the Labour party?

Mrs. Browning: Can the Chancellor not understand that, laudable as it may be that somebody whom a GP suspects of having cancer sees a consultant within two weeks, which is fine, the Government have, by meeting that target, pushed into the distance the vital treatment that cancer patients need? That is what causes the failure in the way in which they are treated. That is what is happening under his Government, and it is wicked.

Mr. Brown: More people are receiving cancer treatment in the national health service. The number has risen from 1.2 million to 1.34 million. If the hon. Lady will not admit the facts of the matter, she is seeking, like the shadow Chancellor, to continue to mislead people.

Mr. Bercow rose—

Mr. Brown: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us whether he agrees with his Front-Bench policy of not matching our spending on the health service.

Mr. Bercow: I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, as this is truly a hysterical speech from a rattled Chancellor in a clapped-out Government under a dodgy Prime Minister. Will he now tell the House why the target to cut by 40 per cent. the number of deaths resulting from strokes has been dropped?

Mr. Brown: It has not. We are committed by 2010 to cut by 40 per cent. the number of people who die from heart disease. [Hon. Members: "Strokes!"] I am trying to tell the hon. Gentleman what the commitment is.

Mr. Howard: Does the Chancellor know the difference between heart disease and a stroke?

Mr. Brown: The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) asked about strokes. We have made a commitment: there is a 40 per cent. cut to be achieved. We have already achieved 18 per cent. of that. In 1997, there were 39,000 heart operations; now, there are 54,000 heart operations. We have made tremendous advances through our heart strategy, and we shall continue to do so.

Conservative Members have to explain why their main policy plank for the next election, which was announced only a few days ago, is to put extra money into a private sector that is costing twice as much, and therefore to deny the national health service the resources that it needs.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Brown: I am making progress. [Hon. Members: "No, you are not."]

7 Jul 2003 : Column 775

The second question that the Conservatives must ask themselves when comparing the cost efficiency and administrative savings that are likely under our policy, as against theirs, is whether their policy is fair, as well as being more cost-effective. Under the Conservative policy, as the Opposition health spokesman confirmed in his press statements only a few days ago, anybody who has a hip joint operation, a knee joint operation or a heart operation will have to pay a substantial amount of money—

Dr. Fox: It is very clear that the Labour party, whenever it gets into a corner, resorts to the oldest trick of all, which is to lie, lie and lie again on a particular subject. It has been made perfectly clear that under the Conservative plans for a patient passport, patients will be able to take the NHS tariff to any NHS hospital that they want to go to; only if the patient chooses to go outside the NHS will they be able to take some of that money with them. There is a crucial difference between the Chancellor's view of tax and ours. He believes that when taxpayers pay money to a Labour Government, it is the Government's money; we still believe that it is the taxpayers' money.

Mr. Brown: The Opposition health spokesman can help us, then. Will the persons who are getting the benefit of that patient passport get free operations in the private sector or not? [Hon. Members: "Answer!"] Conservative policy has now been exposed for everyone to see. Not only is the private sector charging twice as much for such operations, but the Conservatives' patient passport would mean that they are not free operations in the private sector—that is, the health service paying for operations that it cannot do. Their policy is to encourage people to move into the private sector, give them a subsidy to do it, then land them with a bill for that treatment. This has been an illuminating discussion.

Is it not the case that the minimum cost of a hip joint operation for a pensioner or someone else, even with the reduction that is proposed by the Conservative party, with the NHS tariff, or part of it, moving into the private sector, would still be £5,000?

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest): No.

Mr. Brown: No? Well, the hon. Lady should please correct us.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chiselhurst): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not the case in this House of Commons that when a speaker sits down he has finished his speech?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): There is a grave danger when an hon. Member sits down for too long that it may be believed that his speech has ended. However, I do not believe that the Chancellor has finished his speech. [Interruption.] Order. Perhaps hon. Members could now settle down; we are debating serious matters and we should listen carefully to the Chancellor. I say respectfully to the Chancellor that the motion relates to Government policies, and he should address them.

Mr. Brown: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

7 Jul 2003 : Column 776

Government policies are yielding more operations in the health service, more out-patient and in-patient attendances, more cancer treatment and more heart treatment. The question is whether the scarce resources go into the private sector, under Conservative proposals, or whether they stay in the national health service. The shadow Health Secretary made the illuminating admission that people who move into the private sector, and are encouraged to do so through what is called the patient passport, will have to pay for hip joint, knee joint and heart valve operations. If the proposal involved the 60 per cent. tariff, which operates in Finland and which Conservative Members claim they want to examine, the cost to an ordinary pensioner, who may not have a great deal of savings, would be £5,000 for a hip joint operation, £6,000 for a knee joint operation and £7,000 for a heart valve operation.

Is it fair to tell pensioners who have saved all their lives that their salvation lies in the private sector, when we know that the costs are £5,000, £6,000 and £7,000? The reason is that the administrative costs in the private sector are so much greater. The administrative costs of PPP Healthcare and BUPA are 14 per cent., 15 per cent. and 16 per cent. It is hardly surprising that the private health system in America takes 14 per cent. rather than 7 per cent. of national income. The private sector has also historically charged more for operations.

Dr. Fox rose—

Mr. Brown: I shall try to let the shadow Health Secretary rescue himself from the mess into which he has got his party.

Mr. Jack : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A moment ago, you gave the House guidance that the debate was about Government targets. Will you confirm that I did not mishear? The Chancellor appears to have slid away to another debate on the costs of private health care, which is not related to the points that we are supposed to be discussing.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Yes, I said that the debate was about Government targets. The Chancellor should address his remarks directly to those matters.

Dr. Fox: Will the Chancellor give way?

Mr. Brown: I am happy to give way to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox).

Dr. Fox: I want to point out to the Chancellor yet again that under Conservative party proposals, all patients could get their treatment free in any part of the NHS that they chose rather than being held in their locality as second-rate supplicants, as happens under the Government. I should like the Chancellor to answer one specific question. He is right that many of those who go into the private sector are elderly and do not have savings. What does it say about the Government's health policy that that number has trebled from 100,000 to 300,000 during the Chancellor's time in office? Why does he believe that they have gone to the private sector? Many of those people, who have few savings and have paid taxes all their lives—

Next Section

IndexHome Page