HC Deb 09 May 2002 vol 385 cc272-4
11. Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

If he will make a statement on how his plans for investment in public services will affect Scotland. [53553]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Andrew Smith)

The Government announced in the Budget substantial increases in provision for Scotland as a consequence of the increases in health spending in England. The increases in 2003–04 through to 2007–08 are £224 million, £858 million, £1.6 billion, £2.3 billion and £3.2 billion.

Mr. Lazarowicz

The £8 billion increase in public expenditure that that amounts to is welcomed by my constituents and will, I am sure, be welcomed throughout Scotland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Scotland can benefit from those increases only if the UK economy as a whole is soundly managed? Can he tell me what he considers would be the effects on future public expenditure trends in Scotland if it were to go along the road of fiscal autonomy, which is the latest wheeze being dreamed up by certain people among the nationalists and others?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is right about the benefits to Scotland of good management of the United Kingdom economy as a whole. The stability that we have put in place, the 1.5 million extra jobs and the expansion in public investment that we can fund demonstrate how Scotland benefits both from being part of the United Kingdom and from devolution and the ability to control matters in the areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Executive. My hon. Friend is right that those who argue for independence would bring about an economic calamity for the people of Scotland.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Given that health spending in Scotland over the past five years has risen by 28 per cent. in real terms, but that in precisely the same period the average waiting time in Scotland for an out-patient appointment has risen by 25 per cent., why cannot the right hon. Gentleman accept that simply spending more public money without fundamental reform of service delivery will not achieve the improvements that we all want?

Mr. Smith

Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. Waiting times in Scotland are one month less than in England. He reveals that the Conservatives will look for any excuse to stand at the Dispatch Box and run down the national health service, deny the funding that we are providing and remind their constituents that their agenda is the privatisation of the NHS. People will ask. "How much will we have to pay for private insurance, operations or a visit to the doctor under the Tories?" They will never trust the Tories with the NHS again.