§ 1. Mr. Whittingdale
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made towards full capitation funding of district health authorities; and if he will make a statement. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Horam)
The health authority revenue allocations announced last Thursday show that in 1997–98, the next financial year, considerable progress will be made towards that goal.
§ Mr. Whittingdale
Is my hon. Friend aware that North Essex and South Essex health authorities are further away from their capitation target than any other health authority in the country? I thank him for recognising that by announcing an increase of 2.6 per cent. in real terms in this year's settlement, but is he aware that that will still leave North Essex some £14 million short of its capitation target? That is likely to cause real difficulties. Can he therefore give me an assurance that, in future years, he will concentrate on giving extra resources to authorities that remain below their capitation target?
§ Mr. Horam
I am sure that it is not a great comfort to my hon. Friend to know that there is another health authority worse even than North Essex in terms of its distance from the capitation target. None the less, he will be aware that, in this settlement, we have achieved another £16 million towards a total of £370 million for North Essex, which brings it to 3.77 per cent. below its capitation target. I certainly give him the assurance that we will continue to make progress in that direction. Indeed, given what the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health have said about real resources over the next few years, if another Conservative Government are elected, we will certainly make progress towards that end.
§ Ms Coffey
If the Minister is introducing a more equitable distribution of resources to health authorities, why is he introducing a challenge fund for the care of the elderly? Is it not a fact that all that will happen is that money will go to the best bidder and not necessarily to those with the most need? Is that not just another example of the Government's lottery of care for the elderly?
§ Mr. John Greenway
Does my hon. Friend agree that hospital trusts operate within a number of former health districts that still receive below the national average for health funding? In particular, and as my hon. Friend knows, Scarborough district and Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS trust have a deficit. Can my hon. Friend reassure me and my many constituents, 779 and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—that their needs will be met from the enormous increase in funding of £1.6 billion, which the Government announced last week?
§ Mr. Horam
Perhaps I can reassure my hon. Friends inside and outside the Chamber that, as a result of my right hon. Friend's decisions, North Yorkshire is now only 0.5 per cent. away from the target funding. I am sure that we will eliminate that shortfall in the next year of a Conservative Government.