HC Deb 17 February 1997 vol 290 cc608-9
4. Mr. Dafis

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent representations he has received concerning the future of hospitals in the Dyfed Powys area. [14443]

Mr. Gwilym Jones


Mr. Dafis

I shall do my best to restrain my usual tendency to behave like a yapping dog, Madam Speaker; I am sure that you will keep a tight leash on my colleagues and me.

What message can the Minister give me to convey tomorrow night to the people of Aberaeron, who have been meeting to discuss how they can protect their community hospital? Does he recognise the absurdity of East Dyfed health authority's proposal to close eight community hospitals and to cut district general hospitals in order to save £11 million over four years? Would it not be far more sensible for the Welsh Office to provide the necessary funds to enable the health authority, the trusts and the general practitioners together to come up with a rational strategy for health care, rather than being driven by crisis management and making decisions that they will regret in a few years' time?

Mr. Jones

As the hon. Gentleman well knows, references to Aberaeron or any other community hospital in Dyfed Powys are purely speculative at the moment and I hope that he will not exaggerate the tendency to speculate. To put in perspective the point that he was trying to make, Dyfed Powys is a prudent health authority. It is anxious that when it projects forward five years it sees an overspending tendency representing less than three-quarters of 1 per cent. of its likely expenditure in the next five years, which is £1.5 billion. That is the order of overspending that it envisages. It is a very prudent health authority, which seeks to ensure that it remains within budget so that, ideally, it has headroom for the further expansion that it wants.

Sir Irvine Patnick

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, since 1979, the Government have increased national health spending in Wales by 85 per cent.? Has he heard from the Labour Front Bench any pledge similar to the one given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and the Prime Minister that year on year the national health service will have more funding in real terms? There has been silence from the Labour Front Bench on that.

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In line with our previous promises, we have consistently increased spending on the health service in Wales by exactly the figure that he quotes. His researches are correct and to the point. We have continued to give that pledge: we have said that throughout the next Parliament we shall continue to increase spending on the health service in real terms each year.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the ominous silence from the Labour Benches. Labour Members have made no response to match our commitment. We can only suspect that all their spending pledges—not least the Welsh Assembly—will be paid for by taking money from the health service in Wales.