§ 5. Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans she has in relation to restoring the cuts on her Department's expenditure imposed by the previous Government.
§ Mrs. Castle
As the House will know, the Government have given priority to increased expenditure on pensions, food subsidies and housing. We have been unable at the same time to restore the reductions made by the previous Government in the expenditure planned in 1974–75. However, I announced last week that I shall be seeking Supplementary Estimates in order to make an additional £40 million of current expenditure available to health authorities in England to meet price rises and to cover a more up-to-date assessment of the level of spending on former local authority health services. Supplementary Estimates totalling £50 million in respect of pay awards have already been presented.
§ Mrs. Short
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. May I assure her that on these benches at least we were delighted to hear that she was able to find £40 million to replace some of the savage cuts inflicted on her Department by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer? The sum of £111 million was cut from her Department. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Expenditure Committee is now investigating the effect of those cuts on hospital services and on local authority services and that we are quite appalled by the evidence of the damage done by the previous administration? Is my right hon. Friend further aware—
§ Mrs. Castle
I agree with my hon. Friend that it is of great importance to the National Health Service that the Government have been able to prove by the allocation of the £40 million that they have no intention of allowing any reduction in the services due to the process of inflation and other difficulties that have been causing such anxiety. I share my hon. Friend's desire to be able to restore the expenditure cuts which I inherited from the previous administration, and the Government as a whole are anxious to do that.
§ Sir G. Howe
Will the right hon. Lady confirm that, contrary to what her hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) appears to understand, the full £40 million made available last week is directed solely to compensating health authorities for the effect of rising prices? Will she also accept that, far from her Government having inherited savage cuts at the hands of the last administration, during the period of the last administration capital expenditure on the National Health Service was running in each year 30 per cent. in real terms above what it was at the time of the previous Labour Government, that revenue expenditure in each year during the time of the last administration was running at 15 per cent. in real terms above the level during the previous Labour Government and that she inherited a substantially improved health service with higher general spending programmes?
§ Mrs. Castle
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly aware that there has been upward progression over the years and that in December last that upward progression was levelled off by the cuts that were then made. He must be aware that those cuts have caused widespread anxiety among those who are having to run not only hospital services but personal social services also affected by the cuts. Case after case is coming to me from both sides of the House on this matter. That is why I consider that it is urgent for us to restore the cuts as soon as possible.