Jeremy Corbyn | Prime Minister’s Questions | 08 February 2017

Filed under: Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs)

Questions to the Prime Minister

Jeremy Corbyn

Nine out of 10 NHS trusts say their hospitals have been at unsafe levels of overcrowding. One in six accident and emergency units in England is set to be closed or downgraded. Could the Prime Minister please explain how closing A&E departments will tackle overcrowding and ever-growing waiting lists?


The Prime Minister

First, I extend my thanks and, I am sure, those of the whole House to the hard-working staff in the NHS, who do a great job day in and day out treating patients. Yes, we recognise there are heavy pressures on the NHS. That is why, this year, we are funding the NHS at £1.3 billion more than the Labour party promised at the last election. The right hon. Gentleman refers specifically to accident and emergency. What is our response in accident and emergency? We see 600 more A&E consultants, 1,500 more A&E doctors and 2,000 more paramedics. It is not about standing up, making a soundbite and asking a question; it is about delivering results, and that is what this Conservative Government are doing.


Jeremy Corbyn

Congratulating A&E staff is one thing; paying them properly is another. I hope the Prime Minister managed to see the BBC report on the Royal Blackburn A&E department, which showed that people had to wait up to 13 hours and 52 minutes to be seen. A major cause of the pressure on A&Es is the £4.6 billion cut in the social care budget since 2010. Earlier this week, Liverpool’s very esteemed adult social care director, Samih Kalakeche, resigned, saying:

“Frankly I can’t see social services surviving after two years. That’s the absolute maximum… people are suffering, and we are really only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

What advice do the Government have for the people of Liverpool in this situation?


The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman referred at an early stage of his question to Blackburn. I am happy to say that compared to 2010 there are 129 more hospital doctors and 413 more nurses in Blackburn’s East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. He then went on to talk about waiting times. Waiting times can be an issue. Where is it that you wait a week longer for pneumonia treatment, a week longer for heart disease treatment, seven weeks longer for cataract treatment, 11 weeks longer for hernia treatment, and 21 weeks longer for a hip operation? It is not in England—it is in Wales. Who is in power in Wales? Labour.


Jeremy Corbyn

My question was about the comments from Samih Kalakeche in Liverpool and why the people of Liverpool are having to suffer these great cuts. Liverpool has asked to meet the Government on four occasions.

The crisis is so bad that until yesterday David Hodge, the Conservative leader of Surrey County Council, planned to hold a referendum for a 15% increase in council tax. At the last minute, it was called off. Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether or not a special deal was done for Surrey?


The Prime Minister

The decision as to whether or not to hold a referendum in Surrey is entirely a matter for the local authority in Surrey—Surrey County Council.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of social care, which we have exchanged on across this Dispatch Box before. As I have said before, we do need to find a long-term, sustainable solution for social care in this country. I recognise the short-term pressures. That is why we have enabled local authorities to put more money into social care. We have provided more money. Over the next two years, £900 million more will be available for social care. But we also need to look at ensuring that good practice is spread across the whole country. We can look at places such as Barnsley, North Tyneside, St Helens and Rutland. Towards the end of last year, there were virtually no delayed discharges attributable to social care in those councils. But we also need to look long term. That is why the Cabinet Office is driving a review, with the relevant Departments, to find a sustainable solution, which the Labour party ducked for far too long.


Jeremy Corbyn

My question was whether there had been a special deal done for Surrey. The leader said that they had had many conversations with the Government. We know they have, because I have been leaked copies of texts sent by the Tory leader, David Hodge, intended for somebody called “Nick” who works for Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government. One of the texts reads:

“I am advised that DCLG officials have been working on a solution and you will be contacting me to agree a memorandum of understanding.”

Will the Government now publish this memorandum of understanding, and while they are about it, will all councils be offered the same deal?


The Prime Minister

What we have given all councils is the opportunity to raise a 3% precept on council tax, to go into social care. The right hon. Gentleman talks about understanding. What the Labour party fails to understand all councils have the opportunity to raise the 3% precept, to put that funding into the provision of social care. What the Labour party fails to understand is that this is not just a question of looking at money; it is a question of looking at spreading best practice and finding a sustainable solution. I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that if we look at social care provision across the entire country, we will see that the last thing that social care providers need is another one of Labour’s bouncing cheques.


Jeremy Corbyn

I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that the Chancellor and the Health Secretary both represent Surrey constituencies.

There was a second text from the Surrey County Council leader to “Nick”. It says:

“The numbers you indicated are the numbers I understand are acceptable for me to accept and call off the R”.

I have been reading a bit of John le Carré and apparently “R” means “referendum”—it is very subtle, all this. He goes on to say in his text to “Nick”:

“If it is possible for that info to be sent to myself I can then revert back soonest, really want to kill this off”.

So, how much did the Government offer Surrey to “kill this off”, and is the same sweetheart deal on offer to every council facing the social care crisis created by this Government?


The Prime Minister

I have made clear to the right hon. Gentleman what has been made available to every council, which is the ability to raise the precept. I have to say to him—[Interruption.]


Mr Speaker

Order. As colleagues know, I never mind how long Prime Minister’s questions take. The questions and the answers must be heard.


The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman comes to the Dispatch Box making all sorts of claims. Yet again, what we get from Labour is alternative facts; what it really needs is an alternative leader.


Jeremy Corbyn

My question was, what deal was offered to Surrey that got it to call off a referendum, and will the same deal be offered to every other council going through a social care crisis?

Hospital wards are overcrowded, a million people are not getting the care they need, and family members, mostly women, are having to give up work to care for loved ones. Every day that the Prime Minister fails to act, this crisis gets worse. Will she finally come clean and provide local authorities with the funding they need to fund social care properly, so that our often elderly and vulnerable people can be treated with the support and dignity that they deserve in a civilised society?


The Prime Minister

The deal that is on offer to all councils is the one that I have already set out. Let me be very clear with the right hon. Gentleman. As ever, he stands up and consistently asks for more spending, more money, more funding. What he always fails to recognise is that you can spend money on social care and the National Health Service only if you have a strong economy to deliver the wealth that you need. There is a fundamental difference between us. When I talk about half a trillion pounds, it is about the money we will be spending on the NHS this Parliament. When Labour Members talk about half a trillion pounds, it is about the money they want to borrow: Conservatives investing in the NHS; Labour bankrupting Britain.