HC Deb 03 February 1981 vol 998 cc133-4
6. Mr. Sheerman

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take immediate steps to diminish the difference in the quality of care and attention that the different sections of society receive from the National Health Service, in response to the report "Inequalities of Health".

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The Black report does not confirm that there are significant differences in the quality of care and attention received by different sections of society. The hon. Gentleman's question therefore does not arise.

Mr. Sheerman

Will the Secretary of State accept that I am appalled by his reply? Is he aware that, although the Black report does not give much encouragement to those of us on the Opposition Benches either, at least we recognise that it is dynamite? Will he reconsider his glib response to a report that he deliberately hushed up because it showed that working men and women cannot take advantage of the benefits of a longer and healthier life, which are their due?

Mr. Jenkin

To send 100 copies of the Black report to the national and regional press and the broadcasting authorities is a pretty funny way of "hushing" it up.

Mr. Foster

Does the Secretary of State agree that so far the redistribution of resources to the Northern region is completely inadequate in the light of the problems in an area of such high unemployment? Will he undertake that in the next review of his budget he will do very much better?

Mr. Jenkin

I have a lot of sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says. I wish that we could achieve a faster distribution to the regions that are less well provided for, but the speed of the redistribution must depend on the growth precisely as planned by our predecessors. It does not leave much room for redistribution from the well provided areas to the less well provided areas.

Mr. Terry Davis

How can the Secretary of State deny that the report shows gross inequality in health between the poorer and better-off families? Is it not time to make a concerted effort to break once and for all the connection between health and wealth

Mr. Jenkin

That was not the question asked by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman). It concerned the quality of care and attention that different sections of society receive from the National Health Service. My Department's research has been reinforced by the work done by Professor Rudolph Klein and Elizabeth Collins. It shows that there is no difference between the quality of care given by the National Health Service in different regions and to different classes. However, I am still waiting to hear from the Opposition how it is that, 30 years after the NHS came into existence, the inequalities of which the hon. Gentleman speaks are as bad as they ever were, and in some cases worse.