HC Deb 09 June 2004 vol 422 cc261-2
5. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con)

What discussions he has had with the National Assembly for Wales about funding for the NHS in Wales. [177358]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)

I regularly meet the Assembly First Minister and the health service in Wales is one of the topics that we frequently discuss.

Mr. Swayne

The Audit Commission reported in April that the NHS in Wales was unsustainable, out of balance, unable to meet the needs of the future, and applying the wrong remedies in the wrong place for the wrong reasons. What can it possibly have meant?

Mr. Hain

The Audit Commission made some recommendations that the Welsh Assembly and the Minister for Health and Social Services are now implementing. It also recognised that great progress has been made by the health service in Wales, some of which I identified earlier. The hon. Gentleman will also appreciate, as a Conservative Member, that the people of Wales know that they face a choice between cuts, privatisation and charges under the Conservatives, or increased investment, more provision, more nurses, more doctors and a better health service under Labour.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the funding for NHS breast cancer surgery will spread much further because of a pioneering new technique developed by the University of Wales College of Medicine, in my constituency, that reduces the need for drastic and invasive surgery when cancer has spread under the arms into the lymph nodes? Will he join me in congratulating the staff involved on a tremendous achievement, which means that Wales now leads the field in that area?

Mr. Hain

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the staff of the university on their fantastic, innovative and pioneering research and their contribution to tackling a serious problem that has affected far too many women over the decades. We now have the opportunity to introduce a proper, preventive strategy to provide the protection to which women are entitled.

Mr. Speaker

I call Mr. Bellingham.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con)


Mr. Speaker

I am sorry, I have made a mistake. I call Mr. Wiggin.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con)

I sympathise, Mr. Speaker, and so should the Secretary of State. His hearing is not up to much because he did not hear the points that I made about spending. He said that great progress had been made, but can he explain why hospital activity has increased by only 6 per cent., the backlog of maintenance on NHS buildings in Wales has increased by £147 million, and the total repair bill now stands at £465 mill on? There is a chronic shortage of consultants, with the British Medical Association estimating that 150 posts are unfilled. What has Labour done with the money? Could it have gone on the doubling in the number of civil servants in Jane Hutt's Department, or the 96 administrative bodies that she has set up since 1999? Labour's policy of taxing and spending and failing is letting Wales down.

Mr. Hain

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his enthusiasm for coming back for second helpings, even if the recipe was the same. He ignores the fact that the health service in Wales is now seeing 250,000 more patients—a quarter of a million more—and that is where the money is going. It is going into recruiting 4,000 more nurses 300 more whole-time equivalent consultants and building more hospitals, compared with the 70 closed under the Conservatives. That is where Labour's investment in health is going, compared with the cuts, cuts and cuts that we had under the Tories.