Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That intervention was far too long. Let us revert to the motion.

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

7 Jul 2003 : Column 777

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 rose—

Mr. Brown: If the shadow Chancellor will tell us how he proposes to finance the 80,000 new nurses that we are putting into the NHS without spending more money, I am happy to give way to him.

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:


Do not those two sentences sum up the failure of Government policy on the public services?

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

7 Jul 2003 : Column 778

to say that they cannot make the promise that they would have the extra nurses, the extra doctors, the extra equipment and the extra hospitals.

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 review—I think that there will be all-party support for this—I 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.

Mr. Forth: More spin.

Mr. Brown: I believe that there will be all-party support for this. All parties are interested in how the voluntary and community sectors operate in this country—it is common ground.

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.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We should have a major reduction in the amount of sedentary interventions. The House must listen to the Chancellor.

Mr. Brown: Normally, when an announcement is made about a series of reviews taking place in the run-up to a spending review—some of which the Opposition would wish to support, in my view, given what they have said today—an Opposition party would want to

7 Jul 2003 : Column 779

welcome what we are doing, instead of shouting from a sedentary position. The fact is that the programme of investment and reform is continuing, and these reviews, as part of the next spending review, show that that will be stepped up over the next year. The shadow Chancellor should support these reviews, because they are about value for money and efficiency going to the heart of public services, including local delivery. The Conservatives have revealed today, through their conduct in this debate, that they have only one target—to cut public spending on the health service and on education—and only one purpose: to move operations, treatment and staff into the private sector. They used to be able to say that the national health service was safe in their hands; it is no longer safe in their hands, and I commend our amendment to the House.

5.1 pm

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 me—instead of gossiping with other Ministers from a sedentary position—and correct this information, which has been put in the public domain, if it is wrong. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. There are too many private conversations going on in the House. I do think that the House should listen to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Laws: Thank you Mr. Deputy Speaker—I quite agree. You were generous to the Chancellor in allowing

7 Jul 2003 : Column 780

him to stray on to Tory health policy for three quarters of his speech, and you are right to point out that he needs to respond to the allegation that is being made. The allegation is that this year, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury misled the House by saying that only 13 per cent. of the PSA targets had not been met, and that the Chancellor repeated exactly that claim to the Select Committee last year, when he said that 87 per cent. of the targets had been met. Now we discover that, according to a memorandum to the Public Administration Committee, more than 90 of the 239 key targets set by the Government in 1998 were missed. Perhaps the Chancellor will clarify whether he now wishes to change the estimate that he gave to the Select Committee last year. I am happy to give way to him on that point.


Next Section

IndexHome Page