General Election Press Conference (Health and Social Security)
|Document kind:||Press Conference|
|Venue:||Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster|
|Source:||(1) Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 481/87 (2) Conservative Party Archive:transcript|
|Editorial comments:||0930-1000. Norman Fowler made the opening statement. Newton and Major also shared the platform with MT.|
|Themes:||Autobiographical comments, Conservatism, Education, General Elections, Monetary policy, Public spending and borrowing, Health policy, Private health care, Housing, Labour Party and Socialism, Northern Ireland, Social security and welfare, Terrorism, Strikes and other union action, Famous statements by MT|
Statement by Rt Hon Norman Fowler , Secretary of State for Social Services at a Press Conference at Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster, London SW1 on Thursday 4th June.
The protection of elderly and sick people is one of the first priorities of this Government. The Conservative Government is totally committed to providing that care and protection—now and in the future.
The economy is strong and successful—thanks to Conservative policies. That is of immense importance. That is why this Government has been able to increase spending enormously on social security and health.
During the last Labour Government the economy collapsed. The IMF was called in. Labour both cancelled the Christmas Bonus and fiddled the uprating in 1976 so taking £1.2 billion off the pensioners to help pay the international bankers.
Today there are 1 million n more pensioners in Britain than in 1979. We are therefore paying higher pensions to more people than ever before as well as fulfilling our commitment to protect the value of the pension.
We repeat again today our pledge to inflation proof retirement pensions for the future and, unlike Labour, we give that pledge also for the linked benefits like supplementary pensions, invalidity pension and widows' pensions.[fo 1]
Let me now deal with the four major threats presented to pensioners by Labour. First, higher inflation would destroy pensioners' savings. Three-quarters of pensioners have savings. Mr Kinnock has admitted that inflation would rise sharply under a Labour Government. Inflation averaged 15 per cent a year during the last Labour Government. The same would happen again. The effect on pensioners would be disastrous.
During the last Labour Government high inflation robbed pensioners living on fixed incomes with modest savings. As this chart shows, pensioners' incomes from savings fell an average after inflation by about 3½ per cent a year.
Under this Government inflation has been brought down and returns to savers have increased. Since 1979, pensioners' income from savings has increased on average by more than 7 per cent a year over and above inflation.
This has been a real savers government. Pensioners are savers. Only Conservatives can protect the saver.
Second, Labour policies would mean higher taxation and higher rates caused by capital value rating which would hit the pensioner particularly hard.
All pensioners already paying tax—and a third do—would face a 2p rise in their basic tax rate. Labour's proposal recently uncovered to abolish the Married Man's Allowance also means that married couples would be paying tax on much more of their incomes. The abolition of the Married Man's Allowance would also bring many married pensioners into tax for the first time.
Labour are also the party of higher rates. Many pensioners, particularly those under Labour councils, are already faced with a heavy burden. Our Community Charge will considerably lighten this load. 85 per cent of single pensioners living alone will pay less than they pay now.[fo 2]
What is more, Labour's proposals first to let the rates rip and then for basing rates on the increasing capital value of their homes will penalise pensioners who want to stay put in the houses they've lived in for years.
Third, a Labour Government would introduce State direction of pension funds. That is a threat not only to the 4 million pensioners who now enjoy an income from funded schemes. It is a threat to 8 million members of occupational schemes who are saving for retirement.
Labour's plans would mean that pension funds will be prevented from managing their funds for the benefit of their members. An arbitrary policy would be imposed to reduce their overseas investments. Labour's plan is simply a device to allow the State to use pension fund members' money. The judgement of the State would be substituted for the judgement of professional pension fund managers—or the interests of pensioners.
Labour's policies would make it difficult for pension funds to keep up their recent record of improving the average incomes of their pensioners by over 20 per cent after inflation since 1979.
Lastly, let me say this. Nothing could be less caring or more deceitful to those in need today than the paper promises Labour is making at this Election.
The declared priority programme of the Labour Party has been costed by Mr Hattersley and Mr Gould at £3.6 billion. If true that can only mean that Labour's plans in fact exclude the poorest—supplementary pensioners, long-term sick and disabled and widows—exclude, in fact, hundreds of thousands of families whose hopes have been raised by Labour's promises.
Let me explain. The Labour Party's promise of extra spending on pensioners covers the basic retirement pension. If the supplementary pensions are not raised in line as well, then the poorest pensioners will gain nothing[fo 3] Increases in their retirement pension will be offset by reductions in their means-tested supplementary pension or their rent and rate rebates. Labour spokesmen, therefore face a dilemma.
Either, like Mr Meacher , they can agree to increase all linked supplementary benefits as well as the retirement pension. That would increase the cost of their proposals way beyond the £3.6 billion which Mr Hattersley has estimated—and even that would be more than he could provide.
Or, like Mr Gould , they stand by their costings and insist that the pledge only covers the retirement pension. In that case all their extra spending is doing nothing to help the poorest pensioner.
It is hard to believe that Labour intend its poverty package to exclude the poor. I cannot believe they intend that retired generals would get an increase in pension but not those on supplementary pension. I cannot believe Labour would set out to exclude the poorest families from the increase in child benefit. But if Labour do include these items as Mr Meacher suggests—then the extra cost will take the total cost of Labour's priority programme to almost £8 billion—not the £3.6 billion as Mr Hattersley has said.
That would bring economic collapse and the old routine of cuts and strikes and strikes and cuts all the sooner.
I have, therefore, a direct challenge to Mr Hattersley , Mr Gould and Mr Meacher . Will they now publish their exact costings of their priority package? Let them set out what the cost of their proposals are and how they intend to finance them.[fo 4]
LABOUR'S PENSIONS MUDDLE
Excerpt from a Speech by Mr Roy Hattersley Plymouth, Saturday 23rd May 1987
"This morning I also renew Labour's manifesto pledge to provide a pension increase of £5 for the single pensioner and £8 for the pensioner couple; our pledge to increase child benefit by £3 a week; and our commitment to provide the long term rate of supplementary benefit for the long term unemployed."
"That will cost £3.6 billion. That will be financed by increasing taxation on those individuals in our society who have enjoyed substantial real tax cuts under Mrs Thatcher."
Excerpt from Newsnight 26th May 1987
‘But I have got one specific question, if I may, to Michael , and that is when he says he is going to increase retirement pensions, would you also increase supplementary pensions and other linked benefits at the same time?’
‘Yes we would, we would certainly ensure that the poorest pensioners get their proper share.
‘So you have just added very substantially to the cost of your £3½ billion pledge.’
Statement by Mr Bryan Gould at Labour Party Conference 29th May 1987.
‘Mr Fowler has added into the cost a range of other benefits which sometimes move in line with pensions but do not always do so. We are not including in our priority pledge these additional items.’ (Times, 30th May 1987).
Extract from the Independent 30th May 1987
Mr Meacher said the charge was ‘scare tactics’. Labour's shadow budget costing of £3.6 billion allowed for increasing supplementary benefit and housing benefit… .’
‘It is included because if you don't include that there is no point in doing it because you cut out the poorest.’[fo 5] [fo 6]
(2) Conservative Party Archive: transcript
Opening Statement—Rt Hon Norman Fowler
Mr Norman Fowler
Let me show you the four threats that the Labour Party has as far as the pensioner in this country is concerned: higher inflation, which will reduce savings. That is what took place in the past and I have given you the comparisons on the savings; higher taxes and higher rates; state direction of pension funds, and promises that they cannot afford. That is what Labour is basically promising the pensioners. That is why I have issued the challenge today as far as the pensioners are concerned, and as far as their proposals are concerned.
Pensioners know that the Conservative Government have inflation-proofed their pensions. They know that the Conservative Government is a savers' Government. They know that we have not, as Labour have done, concealed plans to give increases with one hand and scrapped them away with the other. Pensioners know, because they remember, that Labour's sky-high spending programme would wreck the nation's economy and plunge them—the pensioners—into financial hardship.
We will take questions on the subject of the day, which is the social security provision and the Health Service and then go on to others if time permits.
The Labour Party is suggesting that a Conservative Government might introduce some form of payment for patients in hospitals. Can you say categorically that this will not be the case for any patient at any stage of their hospital stay?
We have not got proposals, and we do not intend to introduce those kind of charges. We have made that clear previously. We have made it clear in previous elections. We have already made it clear, incidentally, in this election, and I make it clear again today.[fo 7]
It is a scare that we get at every election.
Absolutely. It is a scare that comes up at every General Election. It is a measure of the desperation of the Labour Party in that they are running this particular issue again.
Q (Mr Bevins )
Does Mrs Thatcher trust the Health Service enough to put herself in its hands?
I had that question on a phone-in yesterday; I am sorry that you did not listen to the answer—I know you cannot be everywhere, but you can listen! I, along with something like 5 million other people, insure to enable me to go into hospital on the day I want; at the time I want, and with a doctor I want. For me, that is absolutely vital. I do that along with 5 million others. Like most people, I pay my dues to the National Health Service; I do not add to the queue, and if I said, "Look, because I cannot come when you want me, I must come when I want to", you would accuse me of jumping the queue. I exercise my right as a free citizen to spend my own money in my own way, so that I can go in on the day, at the time, with the doctor I choose and get out fast.
It might be different if it were a very very complicated operation because, quite honestly, that is much much more expensive.
Do you want to see everyone have that privilege?
I want to see everyone have the privilege of how to spend their own money as they choose, and I hope that no one here, particularly from something called ‘The Independent’, is trying to stop that.
Mr Bevins might like to ask me the question, but I think he knows the answer which is why he did not.
… the point is, Mrs Thatcher, that many people still believe that you do not trust the National Health Service yourself.[fo 8]
That is not so. Like 5 million other people, I insure, and have insured, for the reasons I indicated. I hope that your newspaper is not suggesting, in any way, that people are not free to spend their money in their own way, that while they are free to spend it on alcohol, cigarettes or nice meals in restaurants—whatever they wish—they are not free, in fact, to spend it on private health should they so choose. We all pay our dues to the National Health Service, and I pay mine. And the day may come when we have to have a very complicated operation—I hope not; I hope that it will never come—then one could not perhaps possibly bear that on private insurance. You will, of course, have inquired into how many Labour people have also used the Health Service privately?
In the period in which I have been Secretary of State for Social Services, I have two children who were born in National Health Service hospitals. Indeed, my youngest had an operation there only two or three months ago, so I think you are making a phoney point if you do not mind me saying so, Tony .
Mr Kinnock has been telling us about the case of an 83-year-old woman, who is going blind with a cataract, who was told that she would have to wait two-and-a-half years for an operation on the NHS, but that you can have the same operation done straightaway if you pay £3,800. Do you believe that there is any justice in that?
Mr Tony Newton
I shall make two points. First, we have dramatically increased the number of cataract operations taking place during the time that we have been in office. It is, in fact, likely that that lady would have had a longer wait when the last Labour Government left office because we have been increasing the number of operations. They have gone up by over a half since 1978 to over 59,000 a year, and we have set a target for three years ahead of 70,000 a year.
Secondly, one of the things we are doing in modernising and improving the Health Service is, for example, to improve the extent to which operations which can be done on a day-case basis are done on that basis. Cataracts are a very good example, indeed. In the States they are routinely done on a day-case basis instead of keeping people in hospital for a[fo 9] long period. The changes that are now taking place in parts of our Health Service are making us more efficient in doing cataract operations and improving the chances of eliminating those problems.
We do not say that there are not still problems. That is precisely why we are currently mounting the biggest ever drive on waiting lists, and putting an extra £50 million over two years behind it, and many of the extra operations that will be done as a result of that initiative are, indeed, cataract operations.
The Government have protected the link between pensions and inflation, but they have broken the link between pensions and wages. Would not it be better to allow the pensioners to share in the increasing wealth of the country by re-establishing that link? Also, will pensioner couples be hit by the Community Charge?
I do not believe that the latter is remotely the case. On the former, we made that change from the earnings link very early in the Government, and the pledge that we have kept to is that we will increase pensions in line with prices. Obviously, we will review that position each year on the issue of the increase in prosperity in the nation itself. The fundamental point about pensions is not the pledges which are being made. The fundamental point is the strength of the economy in being able to set out and deliver on those pledges. Our fundamental criticism of what the Labour Party is saying here is that you only have to go back to the 1970s and the last period of the Labour Government to see that they were unable to deliver on the pledges that they made. They did not increase the Christmas bonus; they cancelled the Christmas bonus twice running and they fiddled, as you know, the uprating system, so that they made a saving of £1.2 billion. That was Barbara Castle and Denis Healey . So the fundamental point that comes out is the strength of the economy itself. We have a strong economy. Therefore, we are able to make provision in terms of social security and health, and the country can rely on them.[fo 10]
Q (Mr Brunson )
Prime Minister, you defend your record on the Health Service very strongly. Other people say that their expectations of the Health Service are still not being fulfilled. No doubt you have seen the stories this week of the wards being closed at Stoke Mandeville, which the Labour Party has just raised, and the stories about hospitals not being able to find enough nurses. Are you saying that people's expectations of the Health Service are too high?
Just before we produce some of the headlines which I used the other evening which compare our performance with that of the Labour Party in office, I must say that in 1977 there was a commission on the financing of the Health Service and its future. Alex Merrison was in the Chair—a very distinguished scientist. He was Vice Chancellor of Bristol at that time. You will find that they had no difficulty in believing the assertions of one witness—that the National Health Service could take the entire national income. That was in 1977. Clearly, it cannot. Therefore, you will have to have priorities. At the time he made that, expenditure was well under £7 billion. As you know, when I went into No. 10, it was £7.75 billion—let us call it £8 billion. The taxpayer was paying £8 billion to the Health Service. This year, the taxpayer is paying £21 billion to the Health Service. So the increase in resources has been very very considerable, not only in finances, but in resources of doctors, nurses, x-ray units, scanners, operating theatres and so on.
Obviously, there is an increasing demand in terms of the Health Service. But what the Government and the Health Service have been doing over the past seven years is meeting that increase in demand. That can be shown by the number of patients who have been treated. In-patients, out-patients and day-cases are all up—not only up on 1979, but up very substantially on the rate of increase that we saw in the 1970s. We are producing a record amount of patient care.
When we talk about hospital wards closing, it is important to put forward this point: we are building new hospitals. There is a record hospital building programme taking place. The contrast between the Conservative Government[fo 11] and the Labour Government is seen most clearly in health in the hospital building programme. Under Labour, because of the Healey cuts, they cut the hospital building programme by something like 30 per cent. We have now restored that hospital building programme and have a record hospital building programme. If you go to the West Midlands, East Midlands, the north-west and London, you will find new hospitals going up throughout the country.
When we came to office in 1979, the headlines were not about the success of health care. They were about the failure of health care and about chaos in the Health Service. Perhaps you will remember those kind of headlines (showing newspaper headlines)—under Labour, ‘Target for Today Sick Children’—that was the headline in the Daily Mail of Friday 2 February 1979. On Thursday 5 January 1979, in the Daily Telegraph—‘Cancer Ward Sent Home. Ready to Use Troops to Move Medical Supplies’. That was what happened under the Labour Government in the Health Service. So it is entirely hypocritical on the part of the Labour Party to talk about the success of their health care, when the success of their health care was collapsing in the winter of discontent in 1978–79.
Mr Brunson made a particular point about Stoke Mandeville. As he would know, Stoke Mandeville is not only famous for its Spinal unit; it is also a major general hospital. If he were to go there, he would see evidence of the neglect of that hospital under the Labour Party when the re-building programme was not carried out. He would also see the new Burns unit, which we have financed and which should have been financed by the Labour Party. But, as ever, they ran out of money.
I do not know whether it is true or not, but the Labour Party claimed this morning that two private wards have opened at Stoke Mandeville where two public wards have been closed.
I do not know about that, but there is also the point that they unusually claim that the problem at Stoke Mandeville is that there are not enough people coming forward to take the jobs which are available. Now that is not the[fo 12] thing which you normally hear at a Labour Party Press Conference, but I understand that that is now their complaint—that there are too many jobs and not enough people to fill them.
I wonder, Mrs Thatcher, whether those last answers are the sort of answers that people are looking for? If I want a cataract operation or a hip replacement, it will not make any difference to me if I am told that I would have been worse off under Labour. If I have an illness, I want to know what I am going to get under the Tories, not would what have happened in 1979.
You would also want to know what you are likely to get!
Absolutely. Surely what you want to know is what the performance is of the Health Service under the relative Governments. Clearly, what has happened in all those areas, including cataracts, has been that there has been a development of health care under this Government at a rate which is vastly in excess of that which took place under Labour. That is the point.
I wish to ask Mr Fowler about a statement that Neil Kinnock has just made, and what he would say to the grandparents of a boy aged 10— Mike Burgess (?) from Gravesend—who has been waiting for open heart since March 1986? Apparently, he has been promised numerous admission dates but, because of nursing shortages, they have been cancelled. Last Monday, his grandparents telephoned Guy's Hospital and, again, were told that they had to cancel because there were too many desperately sick babies in the wards, and they could not take any more admissions. What would you say to the grandparents of Mike Burgess ?
I would want, first, to look at the individual details of that case. I would always give such a reply in a situation of that kind because one needs to know the facts of the case. I shall gladly do that as will the Minister of Health.[fo 13] As far as waiting times and waiting lists for operations are concerned, again, they have come down. It is totally hypocritical of Mr Kinnock , whose Labour Government handed over to us the biggest waiting lists and the longest waiting times in the history of the Health Service, to campaign in this cynical way on such issues.
When we came to power, there was a waiting list of 750,000. We have reduced that to 680,000. I am giving England figures, but the same principle applies to Great Britain. We have now made available a further £25 million over the next 12 months and that will provide a further 100,000 operations. As I said at the last press conference, we are making available a further £25 million on that and my estimate is that, therefore, over the next two years we will provide a further 200,000 operations as far as the waiting lists are concerned. The Minister of Health will obviously look at the individual issue itself; we are glad to do that. But I must emphasise that waiting lists have not increased under this Government; they have come down under this Government, and they will come down further.
You are really asking why, when the Health Service under a Tory Government is treating 1 million cases per week, this is not one of them. We are treating 1 million cases a week under the National Health Service, under a Tory Government, and you are asking why a case like this is not one of them. There is no way in which a Government can manage every hospital and every waiting list. But your question is not about the 1 million cases which are treated every week, but why this is not one of the million. We will have a look at it. Of course, we will, because anyone who has a child in that position will be almost desperate. But we want to know why, just the same way as anyone else does. But we also look at it from the viewpoint of the person who is raising the question—what was the target for today under Labour? I will tell you what was the target for today—this is Labour Government: sick children, cancer wards and many others.
The target was not to help those children. The target was those children. That operation was able to be conducted because, as we reminded you yesterday, the trades[fo 14] unions laws permitted that sort of thing to happen. Labour's pledge is that they would restore the law to the situation where those sort of things were happening. Their track record is that their management of financial affairs would ensure that those sort of things did happen.
We will look into this case. I understand how a parent feels. I want to know why, in 1 million cases, this seemingly urgent case—if it is an urgent acute case—is not dealt with. Perhaps if they would write to us about it, or to their former Member of Parliament, we will have a look at it. Of course, we will.
Q ( Adam Raphael )
Prime Minister, you say that your Government are meeting the demand for health care in this country, but this country spends far less on health than nearly all its European competitors. Are you suggesting that the philosophy of this Government if there is a demand for health that it should not be met under the National Health Service, but it should be met from private patient care? Or are you content to have this demand for better health care—the sort of case about which we heard this morning, cataract operations and others—still unfulfilled?
Quite apart from anything else, would you prefer to go to hospital in Greece or here, if you are just looking at it as a proportion of expenditure? But, in fact, we took over a Health Service on which 4.8 per cent. of GDP was spent. Now, it is 5.5 per cent. Not only have we increased the amount absolutely, but we have increased the percentage. Other people finance their health service differently.
The important point is what we inherited. We inherited a proportion of GDP. The idea that suddenly the proportion of GDP devoted to health has decreased, again, is simply untrue. The proportion of GDP has increased. I refer you to a reply that we gave in January on this particular point. That showed that the United Kingdom—in terms of public health; NHS spending—was 5.5 per cent. up substantially on what Labour had spent. The total GDP spending was 6.2[fo 15] per cent. That compares with Belgium 6.5 per cent., Denmark 6.6 per cent., Greece 4.7 per cent——
Sweden and Germany?
Yes, there are other countries that are spending more. But the point that I am making is that we are increasing. The real growth of total health spending per head between 1978 and 1983 was higher in this country than in any other country in Western Europe. In other words, the real growth of total health spending per head between 1978 and 1983 was 21.29 per cent. So the increase under this Government has been a faster increase, certainly, than under Labour, but also than under European Governments as well. We are devoting an increasing proportion of GDP to health care in this country, not a decreasing one.
As Mr Raphael will know, if he has taken advantage of the health service in France, in many sectors the patient pays and then reclaims, but is not fully reimbursed. That also has the effect of raising the percentage of GDP, but that is a system which we do not have in this country.
How concerned are you about the story that appeared today about a foiled IRA plot?
We are on the Health Service, or social security.
… people in Britain who feel that, after eight years, Britain is now more socially divided than it has been since Dickens and that where the strong certainly thrive, the weak are going to grow in increasing numbers?
The great division in our society was the great conflict operated by the Left-Wing trade union leaders. They were able to do that because of the state of law at that time; they treated their members as block votes and not as individuals with the dignity to express their own view. That was a colossal conflict. The whole approach of the Left-Wing trades unions was one of adversarial conflict,[fo 16] hence the situation that we took over. That was really a divided society. You saw it at its maximum in the coal strike, which came on before our third trade union reform had taken effect. Those who operated the coal strike, fully backed by the Labour Party, did not demand a secret ballot and did not condemn the intimation on the picket lines any more than they did at Wapping. That was the biggest division in our society; they deliberately set out to stop industry from having the power to continue producing its products and to stop the housewife, the office and the hospitals from having the power, heat or light, to carry on their duties. That conflict has, in most cases, been replaced by co-operation. Many people in industry tell me that they could not have had the success they have achieved without that trade union reform. This is one reason by many, many trade union members will continue to vote for us in increasing numbers.
Secondly, we are trying to get rid of the divisions by enabling the ordinary person who lives in a council house to purchase their property, so they, too, can become property owners. The Labour Party fought us all the way. They like block votes and people in blocks, all rents under the local authority. We are getting rid of that. We are getting rid of the block vote; they can have a personal vote. We are getting rid of the block municipalised ownership of council properties. Over 1 million people have had the opportunities under us that they would never have had.
We have nearly 8.5 million shareholders. In many many cases, there are companies which have all shareholders, and not only in the former nationalised industries that have been privatised. The Scottish and Newcastle Brewery actually give shares to their people, and they are all shareholders. So, at last, we have earners and owners both in management and on the shop floor.
We are trying to say that people who save should have so much confidence in the future that they know that the money they put into national savings certificates and building society accounts—in 1979, there were 28 million building society accounts; there are now 40 million—will keep its value to a much greater extent than it did. It is we who are getting rid of the divisions in society and if we had not had an extremely Left Wing Labour Party presentday whom you[fo 17] see in the council chambers, and if we had not had their present policy of wanting to level down anyone who actually does a fantastic job in building up industry and creating jobs—they must be treated as the top 5 per cent. and levelled down—never mind that they create the jobs we want. We are getting rid of those divisions and if it had not been for that Marxist approach of many of the modern-day Labour Party, class would have been totally irrelevant to the society which we are creating. But they have fought us all the way, because Socialism is about keeping control of people's lives, whether it be in rented property, whether it be in denying them ownership or whether it be in trying to take away the equity stake they now have in industry through Tory Government and replace that equity stake at a capital loss by a piece of paper as security backed by a Labour Chancellor with a record of inflation of 15 per cent. a year. As you know, if you have a record of inflation of 15 per cent. a year, your money halves its value every four-and-a-half years. Those are the divisions that we are getting rid of. We do not believe in class warfare, and we are trying to give more opportunity and choice.
So much of the Labour Party now says, "This is the education that we in ILEA, in Brent, in Haringey provide. Take it or leave it". That is not our way. You are paying for it by your rates and taxes and if your child is not getting the education you think he should have, if the ethos of the school is teaching him all sorts of the wrong things, let us take the same amount of money and put it into a totally different school not run by such local education authorities, but by an educational trust and give people more choice. These are where the divisions are going. They are going away with us.
In view of the story today about the foiled IRA attack against you a couple of days ago, how concerned are you about your personal security?
I have every confidence in those marvellous people who look after our security, aided and abetted by the Prevention of Terrorism Act which we have supported and which the Labour Party has consistently voted against.[fo 18]
Q (Mr Bill Thompson )
I wish to ask about the Government's treatment of haemophiliacs.
The Government does not treat haemophiliacs; the doctors treat haemophiliacs!
They do in a way, if you let me finish my question, Prime Minister. The question to Mr Fowler is this: first, 30 per cent. of haemophiliacs now have HIV. Why did Mr Fowler 's Minister of State, Mr Clarke , in November 1982 when he was questioned in the Commons deny that there was any danger that factor 8 could infect haemophiliacs? Why, now that we have a finite number of haemophiliacs infected, is he refusing to provide any compensation?
Mr Tony Newton
On the 1982 situation, the knowledge about the way in which HIV infection was transmitted was only really completed rather later than that. It did not become clear what the methods of transmission were until, if I remember rightly, some time rather later in the 1980s at which point action was taken both here and in the United States to ensure the availability of the heat-treated factor 8 product on which point, of course, we have just opened a £50 or £60 million factory at Elstree which will shortly, within the next year or two, make this country completely self-sufficient in blood products of that kind.
On the point of compensation, we have indicated that we see it very difficult to draw distinctions between people who experience, say, a tragic problem of this kind in this way when the treatment is on the best available knowledge and in good faith, and medical accidents that can occur in other ways.
Q ( Elinor Goodman )
Does your lengthy attack on Socialists and, in particular Marxists, today suggest that you are getting more worried about the prospect of a Labour victory, as indicated by some of the polls?
No, I am just revealing the fact that they are doing everything possible to conceal. As you know it is not our policy to conceal. We are proud of our record. Therefore, we make every effort to reveal both our[fo 19] policy. They are pursuing a campaign of concealment. I think that people must know the facts in order to make a proper choice. I am sure that you feel the same.