HC Deb 30 June 1998 vol 315 cc140-1
7. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

What assessment his Department has made of the impact of the ending of tax relief on private medical insurance premiums for the over-60s on the current size of hospital waiting lists. [46607]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Paul Boateng)

No formal assessment has been made, but we expect that any additional demand will be small in comparison with the substantial additional resources that we are making available to the NHS.

Mr. Swayne

It is too early for reliable statistics, but the anecdotal evidence, certainly from my constituents, is that the Government's short-sighted action will have a significant and detrimental impact on waiting lists. Can the Minister rise above dogma for a moment and acknowledge that co-operation with the private sector might just be part of the solution to long waiting lists?

Mr. Boateng

Fifty years on and Conservative Members still have not learnt; they put the interests of private medicine before a national health service free for all at the point of use. When we come to look at the use to which the £140 million that we saved from abolishing that tax relief is put, we shall see that cutting VAT for elderly people's heating bills did more for the health of the elderly than private medicine ever did.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)

Is it not a fact that those who queue jump by going private lengthen the queue for everyone else? In the 50th year of the NHS, would not the most appropriate tribute to Nye Bevan be to deal with his unfinished business and get rid of private medicine for the NHS, once and for all?

Mr. Boateng

Each and every person must make a decision in relation to private medical insurance. We are concerned to improve the NHS for all the people, putting the interests of the many before the few—that is the Labour way.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

Is it not worth recording that Nye Bevan, whom I greatly liked and admired, not only did not try to get rid of private medicine, but, when he became seriously ill, had all his treatment in private hospitals?

Mr. Boateng

Conservative Members fought against Aneurin Bevan and everything that he stood for. On every occasion, Conservative Members voted against the creation of the NHS. They cannot be trusted with it—we can.