Sunday, 27 November 2016

The NHS held a boatrace speech ~ Tony Benn

Just in case anyone thinks he might not of actually said the above here is the actual speech from House of Commons archives.  The comment in the meme above Ive made bold in the speech below.  Strangely its a speech that could be being made in the House to this day.  Ive also emboldened another comment below in in the speech which is really interesting in highlighting the Tories long term goal with regard to the NHS.

The main goal of the Tories at present is to convince the general public that the NHS is unsustainable and unfortunately people are falling for it.

The NHS held a boat race speech ~ Tony Benn 22 November 1995 22 Nov 1995 : Column 697 5.35 pm

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): I was elected 45 years ago next week in succession to a Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have heard many Chancellors of the Exchequer since, some of them eminently forgettable. I think that we may have heard another.

One thing that has not impressed people over the years is the selective use of statistics and selective quotations. People are not entirely and solely economic animals with a Treasury mode of thinking. Even if tonight, as he will, the Chancellor carries a majority in the House, he has not carried the British public on the policies that he has pursued. That is not only because of the so-called competence or incompetence of the Government; it is because the objectives of the Government are not shared by the generality of the British people.

My hon. Friends and I have put down an amendment to the humble Address, which though not called--I cannot complain about that--it is in order for me to read into the record. It states:

"But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech made no reference to the injustice and suffering caused by policies based upon the supremacy of market forces in the United Kingdom and world-wide, which have had the effect of elevating profit above the satisfaction of human need, widening the gap between rich and poor, causing mass unemployment and homelessness, starving industry of the investment it requires, harming the public utilities and the social infrastructure, eroding the Welfare State and universal benefits, neglecting essential public services in health and education, denying adequate pensions necessary for retired people, diminishing local authority and trade union rights, producing widespread personal insecurity and fear, creating social tensions and increasing the risk of conflict, encouraging the spread of racialism and intolerance, inflicting damage on the environment, undermining the democratic process and civil liberties and spreading disillusionment, pessimism and cynicism, all of which are features of global capitalism; and calls for the adoption of modern, democratic and socialist policies designed to secure the full use of all Britain's human and physical resources, and their fair distribution, for the benefit of the nation as a whole."

It is by their objectives that Governments are judged. During wartime, victory is the only test. Nobody talks about inflation in wartime, only of defeating the enemy-- killing the enemy. When I was first elected--and I am proud of it--the objectives that I have read out were widely shared by both sides of the House. After all, Winston Churchill had been an old Liberal. He had himself nationalised British Petroleum when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. He introduced the Sunday shopping rule and the wages councils. Since 1950, the centre of British politics has altered radically to the right.

We see the consequences in the opinion polls. I do not have a great deal of time for opinion polling. I have no time for political images. The image that I have is the one that I use to shave in the mornings. I cannot change it. However, the Chancellor would be foolish to believe that one can run a society on the basis that profit is more important than human factors.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, speaking in the House in June after the Halifax summit, said:

"is not the central issue the revolution in the globalisation of the financial and currency markets, which now wield massive speculative power over Governments of all countries and have the capacity seriously to disrupt economic progress?"--[Official Report, 19 June 1995; Vol. 262, c. 23.]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has no real control over what should happen in Britain because he has to satisfy the international markets that his policies will not interfere with their objective of the maximisation of profit. That is the function of a Chancellor of the Exchequer and if, by any chance, we were foolish enough to adopt a single currency, so that his job moved to Frankfurt, not only would those factors determine British policy, as they now do, and what we are allowed to do, but the power of the law would be in the Frankfurt bank rather than in the Treasury. I, and people whom I meet when I go round the country, ask ourselves what the real cause of the problem is. Is it an incompetent and unfair Government? That is an easy thing for an Opposition Member to say. I believe, however, that there is something much deeper. If the House is in disrepute at the moment, it is not just because of sleaze and all the arguments, but because we in the House do not address the central questions that have to be addressed if we are to provide a decent society.

Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Benn: I do not intend to be provocative. I hope to be thoughtful, and not to say anything that will bring a Conservative Member to his feet with a quotation that he might think will embarrass me. That is not the sort of speech I want to make.

Mr. Carrington: I was not going to quote.

Mr. Benn: I do not want to give way at the moment.

The county of Derbyshire, which I have the honour, in part, to represent, needs £100 million for school repairs. Derbyshire, like all local authorities, has been strangled by the Government. Local democracy--this matters to Conservative as well as to Labour councillors--has been absolutely strangled. In the 19th century, long before the Labour party was formed, Joe Chamberlain in Birmingham introduced municipal housing, municipal hospitals, municipal water, municipal gas and municipal museums. When I was an RAF trainee, I learned to fly at the Birmingham municipal airport. That was the heyday of local government, which has been absolutely destroyed by the Government's policies.

Let us look at health. I and the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) are the last remaining Members who sat in the House when Anuerin Bevan was Minister of Health. Anyone who looks at what we were able to start in 1948, when we were bankrupt after the war, will see that there was absolutely free health care when we needed it. It has never, of course, been a free health service. It was free when we needed it, but we paid for it when we were well. That health service has been utterly destroyed. The increases in prescription charges have been so high that prescription charges can even exceed the cost of the drugs if bought in a chemist's shop without a prescription--if that is possible. There are long waiting lists and services are being privatised.

I expect that the House has heard of the little document, which is circulating, about the boat race between the NHS and a Japanese crew. Both sides tried hard to do well, but the Japanese won by a mile. The NHS was very discouraged and set up a consultancy. The consultancy came to the conclusion that the Japanese had eight people rowing and one steering, whereas the NHS had eight people steering and one rowing. The NHS appointed people to look at the problem and decided to reorganise the structure of the team so that there were three steering managers, three assistant steering managers and a director of steering services, and an incentive was offered to the rower to row harder. When the NHS lost a second race, it laid off the rower for poor performance and sold the boat. It gave the money it got from selling the boat to provide higher than average pay awards for the director of steering services.

That is what is happening all over the place. There is masses of bureaucracy in the health service and a denial of what people need.

The people who will have to pay for all this are the people for whom the welfare state was devised. I have been searching for the origins of the Secretary of State for Social Security's new proposals for dealing with welfare. I found them because, after 30 years, Government papers are published. The stationery office has just put on a CD-ROM all the papers for 1964. I give the Chancellor this quotation from his colleague. This is the Conservative Chief Whip, Martin Redmayne, sending a minute to the Prime Minister on 19 June 1964. The Conservative Chief Whip said:

"The first essentials are to accept that the benefits of the Welfare State should not be universally received and secondly, the insurance principle, which is already eroded, is not sacrosanct. In this connection I would like to see all above a certain income level excluded from benefits."

The Conservative Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home, wrote in his own hand--I have a photocopy of this:

"Beveridge was very costly. Would another inquiry be as bad or if we win, should we not impose our own scheme?" It was only the defeat of the Conservatives in 1964 that prevented the welfare state from being dismantled then. It is now the present Government's intention to dismantle it. We then come to the arguments that are put forward when people say that things are unfair and when they protest. One argument is, "You have no rights without responsibilities." That is a very popular phrase nowadays. I looked at the origin of that phrase and found that those very words are in the Brezhnev constitution in the Soviet Union in 1977. An authoritarian system is being introduced, through the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and so on, which aims to repress the dissent against policies that are manifestly unfair.

The Chancellor questioned us--that was fair enough-- on what the Opposition would do in power. As a candidate, taxation is not an issue that has ever embarrassed me. There are two questions about taxation that ought to be asked: "What is it for?" and, "Who pays for it?" If we tax old-age pensioners by imposing VAT on their fuel to buy a Trident, that is wrong. If we tax people who are better off to fund a proper health service, that is right. The Chancellor, who is a member of the Government, has given 50 billion quid away to the richest 10 per cent. Every family of four--I had the figures broken down for me by the House of Commons Library-- spends 40 quid a week on weapons, 40 quid a week paying for unemployment, which is a deliberate policy, 40 quid a week on law and order, much of it caused by mass unemployment, and 20 quid a week on the common agricultural policy.

The Government should not tell us that money is not available for the things that need to be done. Of course it is available, but it involves recasting the priorities to bring the nation's resources fully into use. That should be the objective of government. The Government should see that there is no waste of human resources when so much has to be done. In wartime, as I mentioned, market forces did not prevail. The weapons were provided by the Government. If we could have full employment to kill people, why can we not have full employment now? Why cannot we use unemployed building workers to build the houses that we need? Why cannot we recruit the nurses and teachers we need? Why cannot we have the people who are needed to look after the old? Why not? Because it is not profitable. The core of the Chancellor's argument is that profitability should be the test of everything that we do. I utterly reject that. The Government use the word "customers". Someone who does not have any money is not a customer and that is why the Government have invented this use of the word "customer". The homeless in cardboard boxes are not customers because they cannot afford a house, so they can be disregarded.

The Government talk about competitiveness as if everything was competitive. Most things that matter in life are not profitable. Schools are not profitable, hospitals are not profitable, the police are not profitable, the Army is not profitable and the Chancellor is not profitable, but the nation knows that it requires those services to survive. We must get on--I do not say get back--to the position where the employment of all people is a national objective. The health of the nation is a national objective and we should ensure that we develop policies for that purpose.

I know that I speak at a time when left-wing views are supposed to be out of date. My own assessment is simple. It is not just socialism that market forces have attempted to destroy, but Parliament, democracy and the social fabric. The House should not think that the situation will remain like that. We need only look at the defeat of Lech Walesa, or what has happened in Russia. Look at the defeat of the right-wing leader of the German SPD. The people are now gaining a new perception of what they want in the 21st century. They want fairness, and they want to use the resources of their own countries for the benefit of their own people for the short span during which we live on the earth.

Debates of that character would be more interesting and relevant to people outside than what passes for an exchange of management expertise. We in this House are not, dare I say it, managers. We are representatives. Who represents the unemployed? Who represents the old who have been denied a pension related to average income? Who represents the kids who cannot get work when they leave school? Who represents the women who get married and cannot get a home? Who represents the people waiting for hip operations? They look to us to represent them in Parliament.

I am proud to be in a party with a strong trade union base because those trade unions, having won the vote, knew they needed to have representation for working people in Parliament. The reason I am a dedicated socialist, and get more so, is that I know that any party that adheres to a market economy or profit as its prime objective will never solve the problems that confront my constituents.

Although the Chancellor had fun in his speech, and I am sure that he felt that he had done well, the country cannot be run by disregarding human need and putting the almighty pound, dollar, deutschmark or ecu above people. Debates in the House about the economy should relate more to people and less to what we heard from the Chancellor today.

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