James Forsyth

Jeremy Hunt and NHS spending

Jeremy Hunt and NHS spending
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Reshuffles are significant when they change policy and not just personnel. The reason that so much attention is focused on Transport is that the decision to move Justine Greening does suggest that Number 10 wants, at the very least, more room to maneuver on aviation policy.

But speaking on the Today Programme this morning, Matthew d'Ancona – the coalition’s biographer —suggested two other departments where a personnel change could be a prelude to a policy change. He said that George Osborne was keen to have new Secretaries of State in the Department of International Development and the Department of Health so that he could explore removing the ring fences round their budgets ahead of the next spending review.

Certainly, if DfID and health took their share of deficit reduction, the cuts to other departments would be less dramatic. But to abandon the pledge to ever increasing health budgets would be to remove one of the most important planks of the Tory modernisation project. It'll be worth watching to see if Jeremy Hunt repeats what Andrew Lansley told The Spectator last Christmas: 'It is inconceivable that we can sustain the quality of services that we are looking for without the basis of real terms increases' in the NHS budget. If he doesn’t say something similar, it’ll suggest he’s more flexible on the NHS budget than Lansley was.