HC Deb 16 January 1996 vol 269 cc533-4
7. Ms Corston

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has further to involve the private sector in the provision of health services. [7497]

Mr. Malone

We welcome public and private finance working together in health and have long argued for public-private partnerships. I am sure that the hon. Lady tabled her question so that she could express her agreement with that policy.

Ms Corston

Will the Minister confirm that NHS spending on private health care has shot up by 50 per cent. in the past year and that, since the creation of the internal market, £1.5 billion of NHS money has gone on private treatment? Is he also aware that in my constituency people find it increasingly difficult to obtain NHS dental care? They are faced with the stark choice of paying the full cost of private care or taking out private Den plan insurance. When the health service was set up, people were told that dental care would be provided. Why have the Tories broken that promise?

Mr. Malone

I was fascinated to see that the hon. Lady did not take the opportunity to agree with the policy that I set out, for the simple reason that the first clause was in the words of the Leader of the Opposition and the second clause was in the words of the deputy Leader of the Opposition who, conveniently, has just taken his place. The point is simply that the Opposition cannot decide whether they welcome public-private partnerships, which is precisely what the hon. Lady's question is all about. They reject it one day and accept it the next. That is an absolutely ludicrous policy with which to go to the nation. They cannot make up their minds.

Sir John Gorst

Could my hon. Friend give an assurance that he will not be fostering the development of the private sector in the borough of Barnet simply to facilitate the closure of Edgware general hospital's accident and emergency unit?

Mr. Malone

Certainly not. I congratulate my hon. Friend on looking down the Order Paper and anticipating a point that he might have wished to raise slightly later.