HC Deb 05 May 2004 vol 420 cc1328-30
7. Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)

What recent discussions he has had with the National Assembly for Wales Government on the funding of the NHS in Wales. [169189]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with the First Minister and the Minister for Health and Social Services in the Assembly to discuss Government funding and the NHS in Wales.

Mr. Gray

I am glad to hear that. Why has the number of people on waiting lists in Wales increased from 168,000 at devolution in 1999 to—these are the latest figures—294,000 in March 2004, which is a 75 per cent. increase? Why is spending per head on the national health service in Wales less than that anywhere else in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Touhig

Let us start with 18 years of under-investment by the Tory party. Since the Government came to power, we have spent £4.3 billion on health in Wales, which is a 96 per cent. increase. As for waiting lists, the figures for the last quarter show considerable decreases of more than 70 per cent. for in-patient treatments, and 36 per cent. for out-patient appointments. We are taking steps to improve the health service in Wales, but the Conservative party opposes our investment. We will take that message to the electors, which is why they will vote Labour on 10 June.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) (Lab)

We should always strive to reform and improve public services, but it is not possible without increased investment. Investment in the NHS in Wales has reached record levels during the past few years, but it would be cut under the Opposition's plans.

Mr. Touhig

My hon. Friend is right. We all know the great patient passport plan advocated by the Conservative party. The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) told the Conservative Medical Society: We've got a problem where the NHS and health care has been synonymous. We're here to break that. That is the Conservative party's policy. Under patient passports, people in Wales would pay £1,900 for a cataract removal, £5,700 for a knee replacement and £8,500 for a heart bypass. That is why they will vote Labour on 10 June.

Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr) (PC)

During the past five years, England has seen the biggest hospital-building programme in its history, and the Scottish Executive makes a similar claim for Scotland. Will the Minister take this opportunity to make the same claim for Wales?

Mr. Touhig

The hon. Gentleman should congratulate the Government on their effort on the health service in Wales, Ten new hospitals are planned or have been started, and our investment is improving the health service in Wales. Where would we be if his party were in power? Wales would be cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom. Again, we will get that message across to the people of Wales on 10 June.

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