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Editor's blog Friday 1 July 2011: Hansard of Bill Commmittee and PMQs

Links to yesterday's sessions of the Bill Committee are here and here.


Click here for details of ''Forward, the information-light brigade! In praise of Simon Burns', the new issue of subscription-based Health Policy Intelligence.


The NHS-relevant sections of text of this week's Prime Minister's Questions, from Hansard follows below.

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): There are currently 163 statutory organisations in the national health service. Can the Prime Minister tell us how many there will be after his top-down reorganisation?

The Prime Minister: What I can tell the right hon. Gentleman is that the health reforms, which now have the support of former health Minister Lord Darzi, will see a reduction in bureaucracy because we are getting rid of strategic health authorities and primary care trusts.

Edward Miliband: Let me give the Prime Minister the answer to the question. The number will go up from 163 to 521: pathfinder consortia, health and wellbeing boards, shadow commissioning groups, authorised commissioning groups, a national commissioning board, PCT clusters, SHA clusters, clinical networks and clinical senates. Is that what he meant by a bonfire of the quangos?

The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the figures for savings, he will see that we are saving £5 billion through the reduction of bureaucracy. That is what is happening. We inherited a situation whereby the number of managers was going up four times as fast as the number of nurses. Since we took over, the number of doctors has gone up and the number of bureaucrats has gone down.

Edward Miliband: I will tell the Prime Minister about our record on the NHS: more doctors and nurses than ever, and the shortest waiting lists and highest patient satisfaction ever. The right hon. Gentleman says that he will save money, but he has refused to publish the figures accompanying the new amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill for how much he will spend. Perhaps he can tell me—the figures are available—how much he will spend on making NHS staff redundant.

The Prime Minister: Let me give the right hon. Gentleman the figures on the costs and the benefits of reducing the bureaucracy. Changes will have a one-off cost of £1.4 billion over the next two years, but more than £5 billion will be saved in total during this Parliament. Over 10 years, there will be net savings of £12.3 billion. Add to that the fact that we are putting £11.5 billion extra into the NHS; he fought the last election pledging to cut it.

Edward Miliband: The Prime Minister did not answer the specific question that I asked, which was how much he was spending on making NHS staff redundant. The answer is £852 million. Will he guarantee to the House that none of those staff will be re-hired to do their old jobs at his new quangos?

The Prime Minister: What we are doing is implementing—[Interruption.] Yes. We are implementing the £20 billion cost savings that were set out by the Labour party when it was in government. But the difference is that we are going on with putting more money into the NHS—money that the Labour party does not support—so that there will be more nurses, more doctors, more operations in our health service, and a better NHS compared with cuts from the Labour party.

Edward Miliband: Let me just ask the question again, because the right hon. Gentleman did not answer it. People are very concerned that he is creating a whole new set of quangos. Will he tell us the answer to this simple question? Can he guarantee that none of the people being made redundant will be re-hired to do their old jobs at his new quangos? It is a simple question: yes or no?

The Prime Minister: I know that the right hon. Gentleman has this extraordinary vision of how the NHS is run, but it is not the Prime Minister who hires every person in every organisation in the NHS. The difference between this coalition Government and the Labour party is that we are investing in the NHS, putting resources into the NHS, reforming the NHS in a way that is supported by the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians, Tony Blair, Lord Darzi and most people working in the NHS, but not by the Labour party. [ Interruption. ]

Mr Speaker: Order. The decibel level is—[Interruption.] Order. The decibel level is far too high. The Prime Minister should not have to shout to make himself heard.

Edward Miliband: The whole country will have heard that the Prime Minister has admitted the Government are spending £852 million on making people redundant, and he cannot even promise that they will not be re-hired to do their old jobs. Is not this the truth? He promised no top-down reorganisation; he is doing it. He promised a bonfire of the quangos; he is creating more. He promised a better deal for patients and things are getting worse. What people are asking up and down this country is: what is he doing to our NHS?

The Prime Minister: What the whole country will have noticed is that at a time when people are worried about strikes, the right hon. Gentleman cannot ask about strikes because he is in the pocket of the unions. What the whole country will have noticed is that at a time when Greece is facing huge problems over its deficit, he cannot talk about Greece because his plan is to make Britain like Greece. What the whole country will have noticed is that at a time when the economy is the key issue, he cannot talk about the economy because of his ludicrous plan for tax cuts. That is what we see, week after week. He has to talk about the micro because he cannot talk about the macro.

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): Will the Prime Minister agree that Aneurin Bevan would be turning in his grave as he sees a Conservative Secretary of State increase spending on the health service in England while a Labour Government in Cardiff cut spending on the NHS?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend has an extremely good point. I hope it is in order to talk about Labour’s record in Wales, because if anybody wants to know what would happen to the NHS under Labour, they can look at Wales, where it is slashing the NHS budget and actually seeing more people waiting for longer. That is what happens when you get a Labour party running the NHS.


Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): At a time when the NHS is under financial pressure and people in Wirral are being hit by steep rises in prices, please will the Prime Minister tell me whether he agrees with his friends on the Government Benches, who think that costly tax breaks for those who can choose private health care should be a priority?

The Prime Minister: The short answer to that is no, I don’t agree.