HC Deb 25 November 1986 vol 106 cc124-6
4. Mr Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what changes have taken place in the expenditure plans of his Department following the autumn statement of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 6 November.

Mr. Fowler

Spending on the health and personal social services in England in 1987–88 will be £630 million more than previously planned and will reach £19.1 billion. Total spending on social security is expected to be some £1,700 million more than previously planned, and will reach £46 billion.

Mr. Wigley

On the question of personal social services, will the Secretary of State bear in mind that the fourth report of the Select Committee on Social Services published last July, said that a 12 per cent. increase in spending was needed over and above inflation to meet perceived needs, but that the rate support grant formula gives only a 3.5 per cent. increase? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, even with the additional £600 million to which he referred, there is still a shortage of money to meet the perceived requirement? Will he also confirm whether the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 can be fully implemented with the resources to which he referred?

Mr. Fowler

On the hon. Gentleman's last point, we shall keep the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act under review. I recognise that there are very severe pressures on the personal social services, but the hon. Gentleman will know that in this year's allocation we have made additional provision for community care, which is one of the most important areas covered by the Act.

Mr. Hayes

I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply, but will he look sympathetically at the 4,000 or so severely mentally handicapped people who are quite simply unable to walk, but are not presently entitled to mobility allowance?

Mr. Fowler

I shall look at that, but clearly there are a whole range of competing claims for additional social security spending. Under the plans that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has just announced, social security spending will reach £46 billion a year.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Secretary of State aware that, on average, 24 per cent. of hospital patients have to wait for over one year before they can have an operation? The percentage in the London regions is comfortably below that, but in north Staffordshire, 36 per cent. of patients have to wait for one year. How does he account for the fact that he has given an extra £30 million to the London regions and no extra money to the deprived regions, like north Staffordshire, which are far worse off? By doing that, is he not perpetuating discrimination against the deprived regions?

Mr. Fowler

That is simply not correct. It is a total mis-statement of the position. Under the reallocation of resources policy, areas like the right hon. Gentleman's constituency are receiving extra resources. The £30 million that I announced is to deal with some specific problems, especially in some of the Thames regions, where we want the resources to be used to get over some transitional problems. That is entirely separate from the general RAWP policy, which works to the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman's constituents. As he will know, over the last four or five years new hospitals have been going up in his region at a rate which has not been matched in the history of the Health Service.

Mr. Galley

The additional resources for health are greatly welcomed, but can my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that there will be an unremitting commitment to improved efficiency in the Health Service as it now stands so that more people can be cared for? Secondly, will he assure the House that top priority for new resources will be given, first, to community care and, secondly, to developing cancer screening?

Mr. Fowler

Yes. All the areas that my hon. Friend mentions are priorities for the Health Service and for the Government. What he said about the effective use of resources is also right. It is not simply a question of increased resources, but of ensuring that those resources are used for direct patient care.

Mr. Meacher

Since the autumn statement announced an increase in public expenditure of £4.5 billion, how can the Government conceivably justify their proposal to cut mortgage interest payments for those on the dole to save a mere £15 million? How can they justify paying £30 a week to people on £50,000 a year who are buying £500,000 houses like the one that the Prime Minister has bought at Dulwich, while at the same time putting poor people at risk of losing their homes as well as their jobs? Does it not show that the Government have an ineradicable prejudice against the poor and in favour of the rich, and does it not stink?

Mr. Fowler

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is over the top, and rather earlier in the day than usual. In due course we shall make a statement about supplementary benefit and mortgage interest, and clearly any regulation that comes forward will have to be debated by the House. From what the hon. Gentleman says, I detect a total prejudice against mortgage tax relief. It is about time the hon. Gentleman made clear his party's position.

Mr. Holt

When he is next talking to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will my right hon. Friend raise with him, with his usual courtesy and force, the recent Treasury decision to alter the death grant available for war pensioners? That alteration will reduce the money available to the widows of those who fought for Britain.

Mr. Fowler

That is not the general position for war widows, but I shall consider what my hon. Friend has said.

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