Budget Statement

[back to previous text]

Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr) rose—

Mr. Murphy: Match that.

Adam Price: I understand that over that period the NHS budget in England will increase at an annual average real rate of 7.5 per cent. Will the Secretary of State give the corresponding figure for Wales?

Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman well knows that the rate of increase in England is different from that in Wales. The actual—

Adam Price: Higher or lower?

Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman knows that Wales starts from a higher base. That is the reason—[Hon. Members: ''No.''] These comments are coming from members of a party that would not have a penny to spend on health if Wales left the United Kingdom. Do they really think that extra money to the extent that I have outlined would be spent on the health service in Wales if there were an independent Welsh state? Of course it would not. That would be impossible. People in Wales know full well that the enormous increase in spending on the health service in Wales has come about because we are part of the United Kingdom and have a Labour Government that are courageous enough to do it.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): Will the Secretary of State plainly tell us how much lower spending in Wales is?

Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman knows that spending in Wales on the health service in terms of the percentage growth of the United Kingdom was, on average, 7.4 per cent. in real terms each year. In the last 20 years, it was 3.6 per cent. The consequentials mean that Wales can increase its health spending by 6.8 per cent. He also knows that if Wales wanted to match the percentage growth of the United Kingdom, it would find extra from the block. However, Wales has received the same increase per head as the rest of the United Kingdom. That is the point. He knows as well as I do that the basis on which that is predicated is much higher spending on health because of what a Labour Government have given the Welsh pot. It is as simple as that. As much as the Welsh National party whinges and grumbles about what has happened, in reality no one can believe it on the issue. It knows that it could never in a million years match the spending that we have given the Welsh people, because they are part of the United Kingdom, and have a Labour Government.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd): Plaid Cymru Members have made much play about the future funding for the NHS in Wales compared with England. In Wales, we spend 9.1 per cent. of our GDP on health. In England, we spend only 6.5 per cent. We are already ahead of the European average.

Column Number: 23

Anyway we look at it, £5.8 billion will be spent on health in 2007–08. In 1996, the total Welsh block was £6 billion. It puts things into perspective when we consider the true figures.

Mr. Murphy: As well as the importance of putting more money into the health service, I think that we would all agree that people expect improvements in delivery. That is why it is so important to match the resources and the investment with reform. The National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill was debated in the House of Commons and is currently in the other place. Hon. Members, some of whom have served on Committees, will be aware that it contains important clauses that relate to the reform of the health service. They also know that there are plans to introduce a draft National Health Service (Wales) Bill, which will complete those reforms in Wales.

It is not right to say that we are not reforming as well as investing. Of course more needs to be done. Members may like to know that I have discussed those matters with the First Minister, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has discussed them with the Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales. They are also committed to ensuring that proper delivery of the health service in Wales matches the reform that the House of Commons and the Assembly are implementing for the Welsh people.

We also know that the alternatives, whether private or social insurance, proposed by some Opposition parties are not the answer to the problems that the health service faces. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said, what we decide for our health service, funded by taxation:

    ''will not only determine the condition of our public services but define the character of our country.''—[Official Report, 17 April 2002; Vol. 383, c. 589.]

We know that there are special health needs in Wales that need to be dealt with in a special way. We also know that we can do that collectively, and have done so. That is how we deal with things in Wales, whether in clubs, societies, trade unions, choirs, or even rugby teams. We work collectively towards achieving such aims.

Last week's Budget was a reaffirmation of the basic principles of our health service, which is so important because some Opposition parties could destroy them. It is a service for all, free at the point of use and paid for out of taxation. Those are the basic principles that Bevan decided should apply when the national health service was established in 1948.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore): May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the poorest people in my communities would receive no benefit whatever from alternative methods of funding such as private and social insurance? Nye Bevan would be looking down on us and not smiling but beaming.

Mr. Murphy: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It would be a big beam, too, but he would not be beaming at the fact that, 50 years on, some politicians still want to denigrate, undervalue and undermine our

Column Number: 24

health service by putting something else in its place. Over the past few days, every public measurement of opinion in this country—polls and other methods—has demonstrated that people agree with what the Chancellor did last week. We do not want other methods of financing our health service. We value its principles, and people are willing to pay for it.

In The Times today, Peter Riddell writes under the headline, ''Tories suffer as public approves health Budget''. The reality is, frankly, that the Tories have it completely wrong. All the polls confirm it: apparently, even a majority of Conservative voters still want their national health service and support investing more money in it. That is the overwhelming view of the people of the United Kingdom and of the people of Wales.

I make no apologies for concluding with a quote from Aneurin Bevan's important book, ''In Place of Fear'':

    ''The British Health Service has become a part of the texture of our national life. No political party would survive that tried to destroy it; no government that attempts to destroy it can hope to command the support of the British people. The great argument about priorities is joined, and from it a free Health Service is bound to emerge triumphant.''

The Budget will ensure that our health service does become triumphant. Resources and investment are there. It is now up to us all in the Government and in the Assembly to match it with delivery.

11.38 am

Adam Price: It is customary on these occasions to start with some warm words. That is not really in my nature, but we could say that it is a good Budget for a bingo-playing, high-tech entrepreneur with no employees and several children who has just inherited £249,000 and enjoys a glass or two of real ale. The planned crackdown on tax avoidance by rich foreigners living in Britain will be bad news for Lakshmi Mittal.

The Budget is generally shot through with almost as many internal contradictions as the parliamentary Labour party. We are told that it is the end of Blairism, yet the Chancellor claims that nothing has changed, stressing continuity with previous policy. Neither of those views is correct. What has changed is that new Labour has stopped peddling lies. [Hon. Members: ''Order. Disgraceful.''] I made no comment about a particular hon. Member. When Labour said in 1997 that the problems of the NHS were not a matter of resources, it was wrong. When it said at the last election that taxes would not have to go up to deliver improvements, it was wrong and knew it. In every previous pre-Budget report and manifesto policy statement, the Government insisted that the NHS was properly funded, which was not true, as was at last admitted in the Budget.

The second new Labour lie was that public services could be adequately resourced without further direct taxation. Unfortunately, rather than financing the investment through income tax, as we would have preferred, the Chancellor chose to increase national insurance. I remind the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) that the Conservative Government increased employers' national insurance contributions

Column Number: 25

from 6.5 per cent. to 10 per cent. and the Labour Opposition at the time called it a tax on jobs. A plague on both their houses.

The measure will increase the tax burden on the public sector by about £60 million a year, including about £15 million or £20 million for the Welsh NHS. It is an unnecessary burden—

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: The hon. Gentleman provokes me, and no doubt other hon. Members, by talking of internal contradictions and lies. Will he respond to the internal contradiction and the lie in his party's policy, that voting for Plaid Cymru will enable Wales to obtain more funding from England, yet simultaneously give greater independence from England? Is not that a huge internal contradiction in his party's policy?

Adam Price: That question seems to be coming round again. [Hon. Members: ''Answer it.''] The answer is simple: I joined the party of Wales because it will stand up for Wales. Yes, while we remain within the United Kingdom, we want the best settlement for Wales and one that is fair for all the regions and nations of the UK. I am as concerned about the widening north-south gap between the south-east of England and parts of northern England and other manufacturing regions as I am about what is happening to Wales.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 24 April 2002