Chameleon shows his proper colours

DAVE the Chameleon showed his true colours in the Commons today, launching a full bloodied attack on Labour's stewardship of the National Health Service and accusing the Prime Minister of “presiding over the biggest administrative chaos in the NHS' history.

By Graham Dines

DAVE the Chameleon showed his true colours in the Commons today, launching a full bloodied attack on Labour's stewardship of the National Health Service and accusing the Prime Minister of “presiding over the biggest administrative chaos in the NHS' history.”

On the day after Labour started its unprecedented attack on an opposition leader by using cartoons to lampoon Mr Cameron as an animal that changes colour to suit the mood but remains underneath a blue Tory, Mr Blair shrugged off the Tory leader's as “ridiculous nonsense.”

Mr Cameron said: “The heads of four children's hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, have warned that vital specialist children's services may be lost this year. They have been battling to get this message through to the Department of Health for 18 months.

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“Why do you think this has happened?”

Mr Blair replied: “All these four hospitals have actually received a very substantial increase in funding over the past few years - extra numbers of nurses, extra numbers of consultants.

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“But it's important that they, like everyone else within the NHS, live within their means.”

Mr Cameron said the hospitals were warning of deep cuts. “Anyone who knows about these hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, knows the very complex and difficult cases they have to deal with.

“Isn't this just a case of mis-management. And let me turn to another case of mismanagement. The Chancellor's guru, Derek Wanless, has admitted that a far higher proportion of the increase in spending on the health service has been swallowed by staff costs than he had intended.

“The contracts for GPs and consultants have turned out to be much more expensive than the NHS expected. Who is to blame for this piece of mismanagement?”

Mr Blair retorted “I don't accept that the GPs are overpaid, or nurses are overpaid, or consultants are overpaid. It's nonsense that lots of GPs are earning £250,000 a year. The average is under £100,000.

“It's true our GPs are now the best paid in Europe. I think that is good. It is true we have put up nurses' pay. I think that is also good.”

Mr Cameron said: “The truth is that jobs are being lost because of Government mis-management and a failure of leadership. Didn't you begin your Prime Ministership promising 24 hours to save the NHS. Why are you ending it presiding over the biggest administrative chaos in the NHS' history?”

Mr Blair replied: What ridiculous nonsense. Fifty per cent of the deficit is in 7% of the organisations. The majority are actually in surplus or breaking even.

“It's important no matter how much money is put in, there's got to be proper rules for financial accountability and that's what we are introducing.

“It's absurd for people to say the NHS has not improved. Look at, for example, what has happened to cardiac care. There used to be many people who would die waiting for their heart operation. There are almost 190,000 extra frontline staff in the NHS today and they are paid better than ever before.

“Whatever happens, the Labour party believes in building up the NHS - the Tory party believes in undermining it.”

He told Phil Willis (Liberal Democrat, Harrogate and Knaresborough) : “Whatever amount of money any Government puts into the National Health Service, hospital trusts are going to have to live within their means because otherwise, we do not have the proper systems of financial accountability in place.”


RESPONDING to questions from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, the Prime Minister said nobody was talking about military invasion of Iran or military action against Iran. Diplomatic action was being taken instead through the UN Security Council, which should send “a clear and united message”' to the Iranian regime to come into line with nuclear obligations and stop supporting terrorism.

“The President of the US is not going to take any option off the table. Neither, incidentally, do I suspect any President of US at this moment in time would. That's perfectly sensible for all the reasons that have been given many times by the President himself.”

Former environment minister Michael Meacher (Labour, Oldham West & Royton) called for an “absolute assurance” that Britain would not support an attack on Iran, adding: “Can you seriously consider an attack on Iran on the grounds that it continues to develop dual-use enriched uranium when India, which unlike Iran has never signed the non-proliferation treaty, has just been given the go ahead by the Bush administration to advance its fast breeder nuclear reactor programme?”

Mr Blair told him: “I support the arrangement made between the US and India. I think India is a very, very different proposition from Iran. I've said constantly Iran is not Iraq. Nobody is talking about military invasion.

“However, I have to say to you, at a point in time when the President of Iran is talking about wiping Israel off the face of the earth and where there is the tacit, at least, acceptance, possibly even at the instigation of the Iranian regime - young people signing up to be suicide bombers directed at US, UK and Israeli targets - I do not think this is the time to send a message of weakness.''

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