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Mr. Luff : A cavity.

Mr. Hoban: It was, as my hon. Friend says, a cavity in the Health Secretary's speech, but it causes people in my constituency a problem when they cannot find a dentist to meet their needs. The dentists with whom they are registered say that, because of the economics of dental practice, they can no longer accept NHS patients, so all patients are required to switch to private dental services.

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How much worse will those services become if more and more people are crowded into our area as a consequence of decisions by unaccountable and unelected regional planning and housing boards?

There is little cheer for my constituents in this Budget. The Chancellor is meddling yet again in the tax affairs of small companies, reversing some of the effects of the Budget of just two years ago. Jobs in Titchfield are being moved around the country as if they were a pile of chips being shunted across a roulette table by a croupier. More houses are being imposed on an area that cannot cope with the additional building already going on.

The Chancellor gives the impression that he thinks that the economy is like a machine: pull a lever, flick a switch here and open a valve there, and all will be well. He forgets at his peril that what he is playing with is not some theoretical model of the economy or a machine, but the lives of our constituents. He may welcome the headlines the day after the Budget, but the damage that he causes individuals and their families will last far longer than the glow of those headlines.

8.6 pm

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban), not to defend the Budget, but to proclaim it and the opportunities that if offers the NHS, not least in my constituency and industrial north Staffordshire as a whole.

This is the eighth Budget under a Labour Government, though only the third that I, as a new Member, have had the pleasure of witnessing from these Benches. I remember, years ago, this time of year provoking pain, not pleasure—so much so that in the 1980s and early 1990s I used to go out of my way to stay out of the way, to avoid listening to news of tax cuts for the privileged few and yet more public service cuts affecting the neediest. Indeed, under 18 years of Conservative government, there was only one Budget that I can loosely associate with improving the health of the nation, or at least a tiny, precious part of it. That was when Nigel Lawson stuck 10p on the price of a packet of fags and my granddad, Tom King, a 40-plus-a-day man since he served in the trenches, said that he had had enough of those damned Tories, as he put it, and never lit up a cigarette again.

What a difference we have seen in our NHS since 1997, the year that my granddad died. By 2007–08, spending on health care will be more than double what it was a decade ago. That is an achievement that I wish my granddad had lived to see. Let us be clear what that increased investment really means. It does not just mean massive figures plucked out of the air; it means, by 2008, 80,000 more nurses than in 1997, 25,000 more doctors and the biggest hospital-building programme ever. It means that the NHS is safe in Labour's hands.

What of the Opposition? Have they learned the lessons of 1997 and 2001? They have certainly learned, from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, to talk the talk—sticking, they say, to our plans for health for two years. However, when one puts those plans under a microscope, one finds that the reality is different. The shadow Secretary of State for Health, for example, says that he is committed to free access to health services,

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based on need and not on the ability to pay. How does he square that with his so-called "patients passports"? Those self-same patients passports will, to quote him,

How does that make for free and equal access to health care? I noticed that he could not, or would not, answer the Secretary of State's intervention earlier, and no wonder. He certainly has a health plan. It is a plan to give those who can already afford to go private an even bigger helping hand, and it is a pauper's plan for the rest of the population and the NHS.

Under Labour, the NHS is certainly making progress; otherwise the Conservative party would not want to match our spending. Sadly, though, we have not yet found a cure for forgetfulness or the schizophrenic double-speak afflicting Opposition Front-Bench Members.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): If the hon. Gentleman is so certain that the NHS is safe in his Government's hands, can he tell me why the Government are ordering my local primary care trust to cut spending by £17 million next year?

Paul Farrelly: Clearly, I cannot speak about the financial management of the PCT in the hon. Gentleman's area, but I can speak about the bewilderment that most of the population feels about the Conservatives' fixation with vouchers—now called "passports".

I shall speak about the successes and the continuing challenges in the NHS in north Staffordshire—an area with some of the worst and most complex health needs in the country. For decades, one of the biggest issues in our area has been hospital facilities that are housed on different sites in outdated, crumbling Victorian buildings. That is not good for patients or for staff, and it is certainly not good enough for the NHS in the 20th century, let alone the 21st. Patients who needed intensive care sometimes faced journeys of dozens of miles. The press labelled Stoke-on-Trent "the sick city". More than 20,000 people signed petitions crying out for a new hospital to replace the Victorian city general in Stoke-on-Trent and the North Staffordshire royal infirmary on a single site. They did not sign for patients passports, or visas, or vouchers; they signed for a new hospital on their doorstep, because if they or their families or friends were ill, they wanted to be treated as close to home as possible.

If we are to give patients better treatment—to give them that choice—we need to invest in more and modern capacity on their doorstep, which is precisely what Labour is doing in north Staffordshire. Under the Labour Government, work has started on a brand-new £350 million acute hospital on the site of the city general. Gone will be the days when patients were shuttled back and forth on trolleys and in ambulances between the royal infirmary and the wards of the city general. In its place, there will be a super-hospital with a state-of-the-art diagnostic centre, an accident unit, new intermediate care beds and modern wards with the best of facilities for the modern age. That hospital is just one of 114 new hospital developments commissioned since 1997.

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Labour's ambitions in north Staffordshire do not stop there. As part of the £350 million project, there will be a brand-new community hospital on the crumbling Haywood and Stanfield sites in north Stoke. Before I entered Parliament in 2001, I chaired the north Staffordshire "Elderly Care for All" campaign, fighting for better elderly care locally. I remember only too vividly visiting experts describing those decaying hospitals as the worst that they had ever seen. Now, finally, after many years of flimsy promises, north Stoke is getting its own brand-new community hospital. In my constituency, Newcastle-under-Lyme, our local community hospital at Bradwell is expanding and developing to offer services such as minor surgery to people in the surrounding areas of Bradwell, Chesterton and Kidsgrove. Such services will complement those offered by acute hospitals and take the pressure off them.

We are not stopping there. We want to invest in primary care—in more local health care on the doorstep—to make sure that there is less need for people to go into hospital at all. In Newcastle-under-Lyme alone, within the north Staffordshire NHS LIFT—local improvement finance trust—programme, work is forging ahead on a brand-new £3 million health centre in Cross Heath, which is among the most deprived 10 per cent. of wards in the country. A brand-new £2 million-plus health centre is planned for Audley, serving the former mining villages in that area. In Clayton, work has started on a £1 million extension of the Kingsbridge health centre, and in the town centre, among other developments, a brand-new GP surgery opened earlier this month. Those are not merely figures plucked out of the air—£1 million in the Budget delivered in London here, another £1 million there. They are real achievements, which my constituents notice and which will improve their lives.

With our new primary care trust in Newcastle-under-Lyme, we are getting improvements just where we need them. I am always suspicious of continuous organisation change: often it is change for change's sake, or demoralising to NHS staff. However, in my constituency, I appreciate the closer working relationship with my local PCT than used to be possible with the old, more remote health authority. My local councillors appreciate that too. If the House will indulge me, as the first Labour speaker after several Opposition speakers, I shall name them: they include John and Gill Williams and Sylvia Butler in Cross Heath, and my good friend Eddie Boden, chairman of Staffordshire county council, who lives in Audley. Working with the PCT, they have played major roles in the improvements to primary care achieved as a result of the LIFT programme coming into their areas.

Despite all those advances, not everything in the garden is rosy. More NHS dentists are needed in my locality, as they are across the country. In specialist services, to give just one example, we in Newcastle and north Staffordshire urgently need to tackle the lack of any proper provision for diagnosis and support for people affected by autism or Asperger's syndrome, starting with kids of pre-school age and continuing through to give schoolchildren and adults the support that they need.

Across the board, we need to deliver all those better facilities, and more, because of the desperate health needs of the people of north Staffordshire. For years, the

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area depended on coal mining and pottery making—hard physical jobs, done in dirty, dusty and dangerous conditions. Given that the local diet was not the best, it is no wonder that under Labour the Potteries qualified for more investment as a health action zone. To deliver, we must attract and retain the extra doctors, nurses and consultants that Labour's policies and investment in the NHS are already generating. Too often in the past, north Staffordshire and other industrial areas have found it hard to fill vacancies, simply because in our area each job imposes greater demands on each professional than in wealthier, leafier areas.

Under Labour, the investment to tackle health inequalities is being made—nowhere more so than in the new medical school at Keele university in Newcastle-under-Lyme, which was given the green light by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) shortly after he became a Minister of State at the Department of Health in 1999. He is to visit Chesterton in my constituency next month: he will always be welcome there, and I hope that he will find time to open our new town centre practice. Our first medical students are now training at Keele and what has proudly become the University hospital of North Staffordshire. By 2009, Keele medical school will be hosting its full complement of 610 medical students. It is therefore already playing its full part in training extra new doctors for the country as a whole, and local people hope that many will choose to stay in north Staffordshire and help us to overcome our historical difficulties of recruitment.

Labour's investment in north Staffordshire's local NHS, which the Budget continues, is playing a vital role in a much bigger vision of the regeneration of the area as a whole. As well as playing host to a new medical school, Keele university is developing a science park, attracting businesses involved in medical technology and building what is known in the trade as a medical cluster. It is now the home of cutting-edge biotechnology firms such as Biocomposites—a company that develops synthetic devices for tissue regeneration. I was delighted to play a small part in its decision to relocate to Keele, rather than go to Florida or elsewhere overseas.

The new hospital and other health and regeneration initiatives such as housing market renewal provide opportunities to exploit and develop construction skills. Our regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, has just backed a new construction skills centre of excellence in north Staffordshire. In the context of regeneration, we are looking closely at the Chancellor's plans to relocate Government agencies to the regions. Envious eyes are being cast over the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and health and safety bodies.

In our local NHS, we can continue to implement 21st-century health care only with the sort of investment that was confirmed by the Chancellor last week: a 7 per cent.-plus real-terms increase in resources each year to 2008. Patients want that investment. They do not want passports, visas or vouchers; they want investment in our NHS—investment that makes our NHS safe and that we can only trust a Labour Government to make.

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