Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Bill — Information contained in certificates — 21 Jan 1999
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
With this, it will be convenient to discuss new clause 3-- Secretary of State's report on payments made under the Act --
The Association of British Insurers says on page 1 of its newsletter No. 28 from December 1998 that the Bill will "lead to premium increases." The Automobile Association is quoted on page 17 of the Library research paper as saying that the Bill would have the effect of
"adding around £10 to the cost of the average £260 annual motor policy."
The Independent said in December 1997 that the
"NHS bill may put £20 on car premiums".
It is not disputed that the Bill will lead to an increase. The figures are all within the same ball park.
The Minister may argue that the Bill should not lead to an increase in car insurance premiums because hospitals already have the power to charge the insurers of third parties injured in road traffic accidents, but they do not do so because of the bureaucratic difficulties involved. That is by the by. Premiums were not loaded to cover reimbursement of the NHS to the extent that is now envisaged. Indeed, the Government expect that the Bill will generate income for the health service over and above that which is generated at the moment. That is predicated on an increase in payments to the NHS.
If we are to have a sensible debate about paying for the NHS, it is vital that people are aware of how they are paying for it. People know that they pay income tax. The polls show that people would gladly pay more to improve the services provided by the NHS. We are unable to have that debate with more than one party as other parties have decided that they will not use that approach to raising income. It is important that the general public know, and are allowed to find out, how much they are paying through the back door, because the amount that they pay through general taxation has been politically limited by political parties, and newspaper proprietors who beseech political parties not to pursue certain policies.
That is the essential point. The information that would have to be presented to Parliament under new clause 3 could be derived by the Secretary of State entirely from the compensation recovery unit, from his own records and from Government agencies, without imposing additional burdens on companies operating in the commercial sector. It could be derived without imposing additional burdens on the machinery of government and its agencies because, in a properly run organisation, which I am sure the compensation recovery unit is, that information will be readily available.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn .
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 43, leave out '2nd July 1997' and insert '1st April 1998'.
I am sure that the House is aware that the amendment is the last to be considered at this stage of the Bill. It seeks to right an injustice. It would leave out 2 July 1997 and insert 1 April 1998 as the date for which the charges will apply for in-patient treatment--and it should be out-patient treatment as well.
The Government have defended 2 July 1997 as the date from which the charges will apply on the basis that that was when the Chancellor of the Exchequer first said that the Government were going indirectly to raise additional money for the NHS from people, through their car insurance. Presumably, they thought that insurance companies could make provision to weight their insurance premiums accordingly from 2 July 1997, so that the extra income that was raised through the Bill could be collected from their customers through increased insurance premiums; that is the logical approach that one might imagine the Government were taking.
If that is the case, surely the Government must accept that there will be some lag time before the insurance industry is able to adjust to the more efficient way in which the Government are collecting the charge, and the increased amount of charge that the Government are collecting.
I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will recognise that it would have been impossible for someone to change his car insurance premium on 2 July 1997 after he heard that car insurance premiums might be affected from 2 July 1997. The insurance industry has said reasonably that costing the effects of the measure outlined briefly by the Chancellor on 2 July 1997 might take about three months. Logically, assuming that insurance renewals come due evenly throughout the year, another six months would elapse before, on average, insurance companies were able to reclaim, or to build into their costing, the effect of the more efficient collection of charges--and, indeed, a higher overall collection of charges. That is why, by simple arithmetic, 1 April 1998 has been chosen by the Liberal Democrats as the date on which the new tariff should apply.
21 Jan 1999 : Column 1061
Question put, That the amendment be made:--
The House divided: Ayes 24, Noes 225.
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