|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I am drawing a comparison between the Labour Government's policy, which means investing more in the NHS, leading to increases in out-patient attendances, operations, elective admissions, cancer treatments and heart treatments, and the Conservative party's policy, which would mean paying twice as much for an operation. The shadow Health Secretary has not answered my question. It will cost £5,000, £6,000 or £7,000 for people to get hip joint, knee joint or heart valve operations in the private sector under Conservative proposals. We are increasing the number of operations but we can do even more if there is money devoted to the public sector, not diverted to the private sector.
Our choice is available to all. We want to provide 100 per cent. access to NHS Direct; 100 per cent. access to a general practitioner in 48 hours, and 100 per cent. access for cancer patients within two weeks. We have set those objectives, which are fair to everyone, not only to the few who have £5,000, £6,000 or £7,000 to afford to pay for Conservative party policies. The Conservative policy is a fair deal for BUPA and for private medicine, but not for poor pensioners.
It becomes clear that the dividing line between the two parties in this debate and throughout the country until the general election is that we are making major improvements in the NHS, we are prepared to invest more and we are putting more spending in.
Mr. Howard: I am grateful to the Chancellor for giving way. He has turned to the Government's stock defence whenever anybody points out the failure of their public services, which is the money that they are pouring in. They are pouring a lot of money in, but has he read today's independent report from Bridgewell Securities Ltd? It contains the following two sentences:
Mr. Brown: The shadow Chancellor is trying to rescue the shadow health spokesman, but he cannot answer the question. We are investing in 50,000 more nurses, which will rise to 80,000. We have 10,000 more doctors, which will rise to 25,000. In all the Conservative years, only 11 hospitals worth over £50 million were built. We are now building 110 hospital developments, many of them worth over £50 million. The Conservatives would not be able to afford any of those things. At the last election, they said that they would match us on health service spending. All Conservative Members stood giving that promise. Now they have to go back to their constituents
In that debate, which will run until the general election, the Conservative party has admitted that it wants people to move into private care, that £5,000, £6,000 or £7,000 is what they have to put up to pay for it and that NHS operations costs are half those of the private sector. That is why our reforms of the public sector, matched by the investment that we are putting in, are the right policy for this country.
In advance of the spending reviewI think that there will be all-party support for thisI can tell the House today, as part of the review process that we are undertaking for the next spending review, the terms of reference and the changes that we are making with our cross-cutting reviews.
I want to tell the House that we have set up as part of the spending review a review of how voluntary and community sector organisations can play a fuller role in public service delivery. I am placing in the Vote Office this afternoon the terms of reference for a review of five specific areas, including social care, crime and community cohesion, education and learning, housing and homelessness, and children and families. The review will involve a nationwide consultation, which I thought that all sections of the House would support, with the voluntary sector.
We are also conducting in advance of our spending review, to secure the very value for money that people have been talking about in this debate, a review of child poverty and the public services of this country that will consider how we can improve the attack on child poverty by improving public services, as well as financial benefits. That will be part of a review that will go hand in hand with a child care review.
As part of the public spending reviews, there will also be a review of financial support for 16 to 19-year-olds led by the Paymaster General. The House will know that we commissioned some months ago a review of public sector and civil service relocation as well as a review of efficiency. That efficiency review is examining new ways to provide Departments with incentives to provide opportunities for efficiency savings. [Interruption.] I am also publishing today the terms of reference for a review to examine how best to achieve decentralised delivery.
Mr. Brown: Normally, when an announcement is made about a series of reviews taking place in the run-up to a spending reviewsome of which the Opposition would wish to support, in my view, given what they have said todayan Opposition party would want to
Mr. David Laws (Yeovil): I wonder what it tells us about the Chancellor's confidence in the Government's record on public services that he should take the time to come to this House today to respond to an Opposition day debate on public services and Government targets, and in doing so say absolutely nothing about those two issues. All that we have heard from him is a speech three quarters of which was devoted to Conservative health policy, with the remaining couple of minutes given over to a series of reviews that are apparently supposed to address the issues before us some time in the very distant future.
I can only assume that the Chancellor's speech was so extraordinarily vacuous because he is ashamed of Labour's record on public services and on delivering the public service agreement targets. Perhaps he was so unwilling to give way at the beginning of his speech because he anticipated that we might return to the evidence that he gave to the Treasury Committee last July, when he told us that 87 per cent. of the targets from the 1998 spending review, which were to be delivered in the period to 2002, had been delivered. Yet we now discover that, according to this weekend's edition of The Sunday Times, the Government have misled Parliament about their improvements to public services by overstating the number of targets that they have achieved, according to a memorandum from a Cabinet Minister.
That Minister proved to be none other than the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is responsible for monitoring public service agreements in the first place. [Interruption.] As this vital issue goes to the heart not only of the Government's credibility but the Chancellor's, perhaps he will take this opportunity to intervene on meinstead of gossiping with other Ministers from a sedentary positionand correct this information, which has been put in the public domain, if it is wrong. [Interruption.]