Published: 00:00, 18 April 2002
THE reaction of Kent's MPs to the Chancellor’s budget was predictably mixed. Labour highlighted the extra investment in health while Conservatives attacked the increased tax burden.
Dr Howard Stoate (Labour) said the Chancellor’s plan to make sure that the extra funding on the health service was properly audited was right. He said: “The only advantage that I can see in other methods of funding is that there is proper scrutiny and probity and now we are going to get that.
"We have to find ways of independently validating this money and ensure the right checks and balances are there and that people can see where the money is going.”
Increasing funding for the NHS through increased national insurance payments showed the Government was committed to a tax based NHS, he added.
Chatham and Aylesford MP Jonathan Shaw (Labour) said: “The alternative to raising taxes was to continue with the NHS as before and that would not have been acceptable. Something had to be done.”
He welcomed the decision to produce annual reports showing where the extra money had been spent: “We must be able to provide information in a way in which people can measure performance. Ranking hospitals by their star rating has shown how it can lead to improvements – a classic example is Medway Hospital.”
Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent Hugh Robertson said his constituents would be paying more for a poorer service, particularly in view of the down-grading of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.
He also attacked plans for health authorities and others to produce additional reports. “I do not believe the extra money alone will be enough to solve all the ills of the health service.
"What hospitals want is to be released from central control and not to be involved in compiling endless lists and figures for reports. Whichever way you look at it, a one per cent rise in national insurance is the same as an income tax rise.”
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Derek Wyatt said the increase in money for the NHS was long overdue for Kent.He said: “The south east has been underfunded since 1948 and yet we have one of the biggest populations and the largest number of old people.
"What people need to understand about private insurance schemes, like those in America, is that you cannot get insurance in a lot of situations. If you have a family member with cancer, or a child with autism, you cannot get insurance.”
Gillingham Paul Clark (Labour) said: “When you speak to people, they recognise that in this day and age that if you want to improve the quality of services, you will have to pay for it. Extra money has been going in and the results are coming through. As long as people can see the delivery and they believe it is money well spent, they will accept it,” he said.
Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley (Con) said the Government had broken its election promise: “National insurance contributions are a tax on income. By increasing them, the Government has nakedly broken its promise. This comes hard on the heels of a huge increase in the council tax the Government has forced on Kent.”
On health, he added that the UK needed to learn from other countries. “Change is needed. Higher tax without change won’t produce the better health care in Britain we all want to see.”