HC Deb 06 April 1982 vol 21 cc819-21
11. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the future financing of the National Health Service.

Mr. Fowler

In 1982–83 we shall be spending over £12 billion on the NHS, which, with savings through increased efficiency, is planned to provide growth of over 6 per cent. since 1978–79. The provisional plans for 1983–84 and 1984–85 were included in the expenditure White Paper published on 9 March.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the Minister aware that that is not an answer to the question on the Order Paper? Is he aware of a working party document that has been in his possession for months that deals with alternative ways of financing the National Health Service, including the principle of private individual insurance? Will he assure the House that, he will publish that document and, secondly, will he tell us now that he has abandoned all intentions of financing the Health Service by that means?

Mr. Fowler

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, the reply that I gave was the exact reply to the question that he asked and shows the priority that the Government are giving to the National Health Service. With regard to alternative finance, the hon. Gentleman is right. A review has been set up. It is based on the premise that adequate standards of health care will be provided for all, regardless of means. That has not yet been considered by Ministers. I cannot make any statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend accept that Britain spends a smaller percentage of its gross national product on national health than most other countries in the West, but that at the same time this country is highly taxed and it would be wrong for any further sums to come from general taxation? Will my right hon. Friend therefore consider encouraging all forms of private investment in the National Health Service so that provision can be improved from which everyone, whether rich or poor, can benefit?

Mr. Fowler

The Government are committed to there being a private sector inside the National Health Service. That remains our commitment. The Government are also committed to making the National Health Service work at maximum efficiency. I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that the Government have provided the finances that have made employment available for 34,000 extra nurses and midwives and 2,000 extra doctors.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will the Minister find a way of explaining to the regional health authorities how they are to find the money for the increases in pay that he is still supposed to be talking about with the staff side?

Mr. Fowler

I have talked with regional health authorities on that matter. They need no instructions or advice from me.

Mr. Paul Dean

As the Government have an excellent record in making more money available to the National Health Service in real terms, will my right hon. Friend continue to encourage the growing contribution from the independent sector, which is helping to relieve pressure on the National Health Service and making more money available for health care as a whole?

Mr. Fowler

We are entirely committed to the private sector in health. It makes a substantial contribution to health care. We shall continue to stand by that commitment.