HC Deb 20 June 1978 vol 952 cc213-4
Q4. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Social Services in Harrogate on 5th June 1978 about the Health Service represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister


Mr. Latham

Is the Prime Minister aware that the whole House will regret that the Secretary of State is in hospital and wishes him a speedy recovery? Was it not extraordinary that the Secretary of State made such a complacent and inadequate speech to the nurses on that occasion that he had to send a telegram of apology three days later?

The Prime Minister

That is not my understanding. I have read the speech and the telegram. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has done both or either. My right hon. Friend said that he wished that there had been more time for questioning and that his speech therefore should have been cut a little shorter. That is a very different matter from what the hon. Gentleman suggested. I dare say there is none of us in the House who has not at times regretted that one's speech was overlong. Certainly I have.

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, far from a Conservative Government increasing their expenditure on the National Health Service, thus strengthening the Service, they would actually reduce such expenditure by, according to the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), setting up two Health Services, one privately financed for those who could afford it and with a residual and inferior State service for the rest? Is not this question another example of Tory hypocrisy?

The Prime Minister

Yes. My right hon. Friend would not expect me to agree with that extreme language. It is true that the Opposition were given the chance to spell out their policy on 20th April. However, the questions were never answered. Perhaps we shall get an answer now. Does the Conservative Party, if it is ever elected to govern, propose to bring in new charges for those who go to see a doctor? Does it propose to bring in new charges for being in hospital? Does the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—stand by his exact words, which naturally I read when I quote: We have to live within the amount that is already being given on the National Health Service and there is no possibility of extra money"? Which is it?

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

As Prime Minister's Question Time is the time for the Prime Minister to answer questions, is he able to answer the question whether the National Health Service cash limits will have to bear the employers' national insurance surcharge of £100 million? If that is so, is not that £50 million up last month and £100 million down this month? If that is not so, why on earth cannot the Government answer the question and make that clear?

The Prime Minister

I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's embarrassment about these matters. The cost to the National Health Service this year will be about £44 million. The increase will not affect the finances of health authorities until mid-November. Therefore, there is no need at this stage to inject any additional money or to amend the cash limits.

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