Peter Hoskin

The Lansley commitment

ConHome’s Tim Montgomerie – instrumental in getting the Cameroons to ditch their pledge to match overall Labour spending plans – has launched his most acerbic attack  yet on the Tories’ commitment to hefty real terms spending increases in health, as reiterated by Andrew Lansley on Today this morning. His points deserve repeating:

“There is indeed something incredible about the Conservative position on health spending.  It’s a leftover from George Osborne’s 2007 pledge to match all Labour spending.  It’s the wrong policy for at least three reasons;

— At a time when Britain’s debt mountain is causing international rating agencies to reconsider Britain’s credit status it is unaffordable.  Public sector spending is set to soar to 53.4% of national income according to the IEA.  FIFTY-THREE POINT FOUR PER CENT!  That’s more than in the aftermath of WWI.  On Platform last week, Andrew Lilico warned that higher spending is damaging Britain’s economic performance and called for an emergency budget to scrap Labour’s discretionary spending increases.

— As Andrew Lansley acknowledged on Today, NHS resources have trebled since Labour came to power but productivity has declined.  Taxpayers aren’t getting value for money from what has already been splurged.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps we should promise to protect NHS expenditure in real terms but that should be the absolute upper limit of our commitment.  Promising inflation-busting increases in the current environment is not prudent.

— Protecting the NHS (and international development) spending will mean an even tougher squeeze on other departments’ budgets.  Mr Lansley spoke of “very powerful spending constraint” elsewhere and mentioned 10% reductions over three years in the budgets for other departments after 2011.

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