Health Bill [Lords] — 13 Apr 1999
Oliver Letwin MP, West Dorset voted in the minority (Aye).
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill is an important part of the Government's strategy to build a modern and dependable health service to serve the people of this country in the new century. That is what we promised at the general election and it is a promise that we are keeping.
The national health service that we inherited was in danger. It had about it an air of inexorable decline. The Conservatives had introduced a competitive internal market, which set doctor against doctor and hospital against hospital. Their misguided introduction of a commercial approach to health care was a costly failure. It shifted funds from patient care to bureaucracy and corroded both the ethics of the medical professions and the philosophy of working together, on which the health service was founded. It also resulted in a two-tier system for patients.
That the NHS survived owes nothing to the Tory Ministers involved and everything to the hard work of NHS staff the length and breadth of the country. Despite their valiant efforts, the NHS that we inherited was in trouble. Between them, health authorities and trusts had deficits totalling £460 million. Waiting lists were at an all-time high and rising. Capital investment was at its lowest for a decade. The Tory Government had stopped collecting details of pay, so that they could claim that a national minimum wage would bankrupt the NHS. They were not trying to manage the NHS; they had not bothered to find out even how many intensive care beds there were.
As was revealed in the reports that I commissioned into the scandals in Kent and Canterbury and Devon and Exeter, the standard of breast cancer and cervical screening was not being monitored. The Tory Government had paid £33 million in fees to lawyers and accountants to develop a private finance initiative, but not a single hospital had been started. Highly qualified staff were left to work in rundown buildings, often let down by equipment that failed them. There was a shortage of nurses, but, rather than tackling it, the Tories denied that it existed and reduced the number of nurses who were being trained.
Assaults on NHS staff were, so the staff said, getting worse, but the then Government did not do anything about it: they could not be bothered even to collect the figures. The private health care sector, which is so dear to the Tories, went virtually unregulated. Mixed-sex wards continued to make life a misery for many patients. In many parts of the country, NHS dentists virtually disappeared.
13 Apr 1999 : Column 39
I beg to move,
That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Health Bill [Lords] because it removes choice from both patients and healthcare professionals over appropriate treatment; it removes the highly successful and popular option of fund-holding for family doctors; it imposes unnecessary and expensive bureaucracy and creates further upheaval in the Health Service, which is already under considerable strain; it undermines the competitiveness of the British pharmaceutical industry; and it centralises power in the hands of the Secretary of State, giving him arbitrary authority over the running of the Health Service without sufficient reference to Parliament.
We do, but we certainly will not get them from this rotten Labour Government.
Question put, That the amendment be made:--
The House divided: Ayes 127, Noes 368.
Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.
What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.
What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.
What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.
|Party||Majority (No)||Minority (Aye)||Both||Turnout|
|Con||0||125 (+2 tell)||0||78.4%|
|Lab||330 (+2 tell)||0||0||80.0%|