2017 02 – Parliamentary Notes

Parliament Notes

by Dick Barry

NHS and Social Care Funding  11 January 2017

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel) I advise the House that Mr Speaker has selected amendment (a) in the name of the Prime Minister.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab) I beg to move,

That this House supports NHS England’s four-hour standard, which sets out that a minimum of 95 per cent of all patients to A&E will be treated within four hours; notes the widespread public and medical professional support for this standard; further notes that £4.6 billion has been cut from the social care budget since 2010 and that NHS funding will fall per head of population in 2018-19 and 2019-20; and calls on the Government to bring forward extra funding now for social care to help hospitals cope this winter, and to pledge a new improved funding settlement for the NHS and social care in the March 2017 Budget.

I begin by paying tribute to the staff working in the NHS. To nurses, midwives, GPs, consultants, junior doctors, paramedics—all staff—we say thank you for your hard work, goodwill, commitment and dedication though this winter crisis. I had the pleasure of meeting some of those hard-working staff with my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) at St George’s hospital on Monday, and they told me of the pressures they face. Last night, I convened a summit of representatives of various royal colleges and trade unions working in the health service to meet staff and hear directly from the frontline of the pressures we now see in hospitals every day. Many royal colleges have spoken out today, warning of underfunding and understaffing. Over the past few days, I have received messages from doctors and clinicians from across the country who tell of the immense pressure, strain and, yes, crisis that we face this winter.

Let me share with the House some of the stories that I have been told, and I deliberately exclude the names of hospitals and trusts so as not to cause undue stress and alarm. This is a flavour of what I have heard. One doctor told me: “There was a point when A&E was completely full and we had no space for a major trauma call that was coming in. The trauma case was going to have to be put into a corridor because the resuscitation area was full.”

Another story: “In my A&E ‘Corridor Care’ isn’t unusual, it’s now the norm. Patient buzzers have actually been installed on the walls in said corridor.” How about this: “We’re…trying our best to keep patients safe but there aren’t enough of us and we’re on our knees. Doctor and nurses in tears”? Another story: “Over the weekend my bosses repeatedly asked for ambulances to be diverted away from our hospital because we had no beds, but we had multiple requests denied.” Finally, another one: “The A&E is perpetually rammed with the corridor full of ambulance trolleys and paramedics.” I have many more examples, but I am sure the House understands the broader point that I am trying to make.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab) There is unprecedented pressure in Wirral, too. As recently as last week A&E attendances and GP referrals were massively up. Unprecedentedly, 84 additional beds are being laid on, and they are now full. Last week, all elective in-patient appointments were cancelled and ambulance turnarounds reached up to five hours. At Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister did not seem to think that there is a crisis in the NHS. If this is not a crisis, can my hon. Friend tell us what is?

Jonathan Ashworth My hon. Friend makes her point eloquently and represents her constituents powerfully, as she always does in this place. I hope the Secretary of State will respond to some of those points.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab) The Royal Stoke in my city is under intense pressure. No doubt we will hear shortly from the Secretary of State that that is winter pressure. Winter has not really started. We have not really had a winter, yet we have been under this pressure not for a few weeks but for months. The whole NHS system is broken. That is the problem that we really face.

Jonathan Ashworth My hon. Friend makes an eloquent point about the particular situation that has been facing Stoke for some time, of which many of us are aware. I hope the Secretary of State will touch on the situation in Stoke, because sadly it is one that we have had to raise previously. I assure the Secretary of State that I will pass on the names of the trusts and hospitals that I highlighted, so perhaps he can look into them. Let us be absolutely clear that these desperate stories are not the words of politicians trying to score political points but are the honest, heartfelt, considered testimonies of doctors and clinicians on the frontline in our hospitals. They simply want to do the very best for their patients. Indeed, many clinicians want to speak out but feel that they cannot, which is why the remarks were made anonymously.

According to reports on the BBC’s “You and Yours”, the Prime Minister has sent instructions to hospital trust chief executives telling them not to speak out. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State could verify those reports.

Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con) I worked in the NHS over the Christmas period. Although it has been a very tough winter so far, this is nothing new. I have worked in the NHS for more than 20 years, and under previous Governments we had ambulances queuing around the block to get into A&E. Major incidents were declared in A&Es because they were too full. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that this is not a new problem?

Jonathan Ashworth I entirely respect the hon. Lady’s work as a nurse before she came into this place—[Hon. Members: “She still is.”] I beg her pardon. She is still a nurse, and I genuinely respect her, but if we are not raising these matters on behalf of our constituents, we are failing in our responsibility as Members of Parliament. We must never forget that this is not just about the staff in our NHS; it is about patients and their safety, which must always be our absolute priority.

 

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op)  I am grateful to my hon. Friend for kindly giving way and for his important remarks. I echo his point that this is about patients across the country. My constituent’s mother, Angela, has been waiting for an acute mental health bed for more than a week. She was taken in an ambulance to A&E, but she could not be treated locally in Liverpool because it was full. She was treated for the physical effects of her mental health condition in an ambulance and sent home. Her family are devastated and are concerned about her condition. Her story is one of countless stories across the country, and we need to recollect and focus on those stories today.

Jonathan Ashworth  My hon. Friend speaks passionately, as she always does, on behalf of her constituents and, more broadly, on mental health provision. Again, I hope the Secretary of State will respond to her on the specifics of that case.

My hon. Friend talks about patient care, and she is absolutely right. All of us, or at least many of us, in this House will have been getting stories from constituents telling us of their recent experiences in hospitals. I have been given a few, and I will share some heart-breaking examples with the House. Again, I will not reveal the names of trusts and hospitals, but I will pass them on to the Secretary of State after the debate.

Example No. 1 is of a mum of four children under 10 years old who has a secondary tumour in her liver. She was due to go into hospital this Thursday to have the tumour removed. Her surgery has been delayed for at least two weeks so that the hospital could cope with the winter crisis and because no beds are available. She has not yet been given a new date.

Someone else got in touch with me this morning. Their wife has been on the waiting list for a knee replacement since April last year. An appointment for early December was cancelled owing to the hospital being on black alert. A few weeks later, the hospital phoned with an appointment for today, which was cancelled yesterday.

Again, these patients are not trying to score political points or to politicise matters. They are decent, hard-working people who are simply desperate for something to be done.

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con) Conservative Members care deeply about patients. I personally follow up on the individual stories and challenges experienced by my constituents, but the hon. Gentleman has surely seen the guidance this week from NHS Providers, which is not always a friend of the Government, that said that we need to be careful when extrapolating from individual incidents in hospitals that are under particular pressure and implying that they constitute a wider trend. Yes, times are tough in the NHS, and there are winter pressures, but he should not make inappropriate use of individual stories.

Jonathan Ashworth The hon. Lady should be careful. I will be charitable, but she would not want to give the impression that she is dismissing the stories and examples that I am highlighting. NHS Providers has continually warned of the chronic underfunding of the NHS under this Government, and it has continually warned that, head for head, spending in this country will fall next year. If she wants to quote NHS Providers, she should quote all the facts from NHS Providers.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op) My hon. Friend is telling some shocking stories. Was he as shocked as I was to hear Government Members shouting at and heckling the Leader of the Opposition during Prime Minister’s questions? They shouted, “What about Wales?” Does my hon. Friend agree that there is actually a stark contrast in Wales? Welsh Labour is delivering 6% more funding than in England for the NHS and social care. We have brand new hospitals, including in my constituency, and an £80 million new treatment fund was announced yesterday to allow better access to treatments.

Jonathan Ashworth My hon. Friend makes a powerful point about Wales. As a Member for Cardiff, he understands what is happening in the Welsh health service. I wish Conservative Members understood that better.

Mr Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con) Does the hon. Gentleman accept that every winter, for as long as I can recall, we have had a winter crisis in the NHS? It usually happens after Christmas. In winter the demands on the service become unpredictable, infections spread and the NHS starts losing staff. There are bound to be parts of the system that come under very real strain, and no one is trying to minimise the fact that they do. Apart from just producing this year’s crop of stories of very unfortunate incidents in various places, does he have any policy proposal at all, apart from simply spending more money wherever the reports are coming from?

Jonathan Ashworth I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is a very experienced parliamentarian, for his intervention, but he will know that this is one of the worst winters for probably 20 years. He casually suggests that this happens every year, but I remember the years of a Labour Government when it did not happen. I remember the years of a Labour Government when we went further than the financial settlements he delivered as Chancellor of the Exchequer and were more than doubling the money going into the NHS—and tripling it in cash terms.

We are all becoming familiar—far too familiar perhaps—with the grim statistics: in December, 50 of the 152 English hospital trusts called for urgent action to cope with demand; the number of patients being turned away from A&E and sent to other hospitals is at a record high; A&E departments have turned patients away more than 140 times; and 15 hospitals ran out of beds in one day in December. Last night, the BBC revealed that leaked documents from NHS Improvement showed that there were more than 18,000 “trolley waits” of four hours or more; that almost a quarter of patients waited longer than four hours in A&E last week, with just one hospital—just one—hitting its target; and that since the start of December, hospitals have seen only 82.3% of patients who attended A&E within the four-hour target. We will return to the issue of the four-hour target in a few moments.

Ministers can try to deny what is going on but they cannot deny these facts about what is happening this winter in the NHS on their watch. We know that what happens in the NHS in the winter is a signifier of a wider crisis, because across the piece bed occupancy levels now routinely exceed the recommended maximum levels of 85%—often to levels higher than 95%. As I have said, the NHS is going through the largest financial squeeze in its history. Indeed the former Secretary of State, Lord Lansley, said that five years of NHS austerity had been planned for, but having 10 years of it was never expected. We have seen £4.6 billion cut from social care budgets—As the King’s Fund said, the reason there is a problem is quite simply because there is a “mismatch between funding and activity” affecting our hospitals. The response of Ministers, from the Prime Minister downwards, has been one of utter complacency. The Secretary of State told “Sky News” on Monday that things had only been “falling over in a couple of places”.

When he came to the House on Monday to make his statement, he did not commit to extra emergency funding for social care and he did not promise that the financial settlements would be reassessed in the March Budget. It is worse than that, because while he was making his statement, his spin doctors were telling the Health Service Journal—this on the day when the winter crisis is leading the news and he is making a statement in the House—and letting it be known that there is “no prospect” of “additional funding to support emergency care any time before the next election.”

So there is nothing for social care, nothing for emergency care, nothing to tackle understaffing and nothing to tackle underfunding—well thank you very much. What did we get as a response? We got a downgrade of the four-hour A&E target.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt) indicated dissent.

Jonathan Ashworth The Secretary of State shakes his head and says, “Nonsense”, but let me remind him of what he said in the House on Monday:​ “we need to have an honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments.” He began by saying he wanted to provoke a discussion. He has certainly provoked a backlash, not least by blaming the public, it seems, for turning up at A&E departments. He went on to say that the four-hour target “is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within four hours”, but he added a little clarification, continuing: “but not all health problems, however minor.”—[Official Report, 9 January 2017; Vol. 619, c. 38.]

That is what he said in the House, and now we have seen the letter from NHS Improvement to trusts a few weeks ago, which talks of “broadening our oversight of A&E”. On the four-hour standard, it said that it believed “there is merit in broadening our oversight approach, beyond a single metric”.

So in the interests of that discussion the Secretary of State wants to engage in, perhaps he can answer our questions, although I know he avoided the questions on Sky yesterday. Does he recall that in 2015 when he asked Sir Bruce Keogh to review these matters on waiting times, Sir Bruce said: “The A&E standard has been an important means of ensuring people who need it get rapid access to urgent and emergency care and we must not lose this focus”? Sir Bruce continued: “I do not consider that there is a case for changing the 4 hour standard at this time.” Does the Secretary of State still agree with Bruce Keogh? If he does, why did he make his remarks on Monday about needing to have a discussion about the future of the A&E standard?

If the Secretary of State wants to lead a discussion about the future of the four-hour A&E standard, will he tell us what discussions he has had with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine? It argues that the four-hour standard is a vital measure of performance and safety, and believes the standard should apply to at least 95% of all patients attending emergency departments. If he says he is still committed to that four-hour standard, is he still committed to maintaining it at 95%?

Does the Secretary of State agree that the four-hour standard is a reasonable proxy for patient safety? Does he agree that every breach of the four-hour standard can be regarded as a potentially elevated risk?

Seema Kennedy (South Ribble) (Con) If the hon. Gentleman were to read the Government amendment, he would see that the Secretary of State says he “supports and endorses” the 95% target for A&E waiting times.

Jonathan Ashworth I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the work she is doing on tackling loneliness. I know that all Labour Members very much appreciate the work she is doing on that, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves). The Government amendment is conspicuous in not referring to all patients.

The Secretary of State did distinguish between “urgent” and “minor”—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) says I should get a haircut. Did he say that? No? I beg his pardon, but he heckles so much it is sometimes difficult to hear what he is saying.

Can the Secretary of State tell us how he would define the difference between “urgent” and “minor” care for instances relating to this four-hour standard? Can he tell us what will be the minimum severity of physical injury or other medical problem which will be needed for a patient to qualify for access to an A&E? How will we determine these new access standards? How quickly will they be available? Will patients with visible injuries be exempt from a new triage system? If so, which injuries will qualify? If the Secretary of State is not moving away from this four-hour standard, he needs to clarify matters urgently, because the impression has been given that he is doing so. [Interruption.] Not by me, but by his own remarks in the House on Monday. If he is not moving away from that standard, will he guarantee that he will not shift away at all from it throughout this Parliament and that it will remain at its current rate?

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con) I, too, was in the Chamber on Monday and I listened carefully to the Secretary of State then. He was challenged by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) on the target and was asked whether he was watering it down. He said explicitly that “far from watering down” he was recommitting the Government to it. He was generous to the Labour party in saying that it was one of the best things the NHS did. I think that was very clear.

Jonathan Ashworth Let me say to the former Chief Whip that the Secretary of State said that “we need to be clear that it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within four hours, but not all health problems, however minor.”—[Official Report, 9 January 2017; Vol. 619, c. 38.]​

The Secretary of State did not need to come to the House to make those remarks and set these various hares running, so the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) should make his objections not to me, but to the Secretary of State.

If the Secretary of State is not abandoning the four-hour standard, as he insists he is not, we look forward to hearing him make that absolutely clear. He also said and has implied that we need to educate the public better so that they do not turn up at A&E departments. That was the implication of his remarks on Monday. Will he tell us how he is going to do that? What will be the cost implications of explaining to the public that they must not turn up at A&E departments? Are we expecting to see a large advertising campaign? Will the cost fall on local authorities’ public health budgets, which have already been cut? Will local authorities be given more resources for this new public education campaign?

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab) My hon. Friend is making an important point. The key similarity is that back in 1997, when Labour took over, the health service was in crisis, and it is again today. Is not part of the problem that people are having to go to A&E because they cannot get in to see their GP?

Jonathan Ashworth Absolutely. It is so difficult to get to a GP, which is why there are all these pressures on our A&Es. Of course, it is only going to get worse, because this year we are going to see cuts to community pharmacies—3,000 will be lost from our towns and streets because of the cuts that are being pursued. Let us not forget that the figure of 3,000 community pharmacies being lost was what the previous Minister, the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), told MPs.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con) I led a debate in Westminster Hall this morning on pharmacies and integrated services in the NHS, and not one single Back-Bench Labour MP could be bothered to take part—not one!

Jonathan Ashworth Labour MPs have been raising these matters in this House for weeks, including at urgent questions and in Opposition day debates.

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab) I presume what the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) meant to say was that two Back-Bench Labour Members took part in the debate—I was one of them. Does my hon. Friend agree that the point about community pharmacies, GPs and investment in social care is that they save the Government money? That is why they should invest in them now to take pressure off A&Es.

Jonathan Ashworth I thank my hon. Friend for correcting the record about that debate in Westminster Hall. The Secretary of State denies that he is going to water down the A&E target; we welcome that, but we will watch carefully to ensure that he does not sneakily water it down throughout the remaining years of the Parliament. Will he tell us what he expects to happen next as we go through the winter? Weather warnings have been issued, and we could be heading for a cold snap. Will he update us on what urgent preparations he is putting in place to ensure that the NHS can cope? Is the NHS prepared for a flu outbreak, and what is his assessment of whether overstretched hospitals will be able to cope if there is one? It appears that, so far, Ministers have been burying their heads in the sand, but that will no longer do.

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con) My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) both made the point that the issues in the NHS are historical. On Radio 4 this morning the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) said he accepted that the previous Labour Government had not spent the right amount of money on social care. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that these issues are historical—they are not new—and that Labour does not have all the answers?

Jonathan Ashworth The hon. Lady refers to history; under this Government the NHS is going through the largest financial squeeze in its history. When we had a Labour Government we more than doubled investment into the NHS.

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con) I agree with the shadow Secretary of State that we need to have an honest debate, so does he accept that he stood on a general election manifesto that would have seen Labour spend billions less on our national health service? Will he set out for the House exactly what NHS services he would be spending less on now?

Jonathan Ashworth We stood on a manifesto that would have delivered more doctors and nurses for our NHS; the hon. Gentleman stood on a manifesto that said the Conservatives would cut the deficit and not the NHS. They are cutting the NHS and failing on the deficit.

I have a few direct questions for the Secretary of State about Royal Worcestershire hospital. I was grateful for his remarks on Monday, but I want to press him a little further. It has been reported that NHS England was warned of a bed crisis as early as 22 December. Will he update the House on what urgent meetings he is having on Royal Worcestershire? When will we be closer to knowing the outcome of an inquiry? In that context, there is a proposal in the sustainability and transformation plan for the Worcestershire area for a significant reduction in the number of acute beds. The Secretary of State will ​say that these are local plans and so on, but in the context of the issues in Worcestershire, will he comment on whether he thinks that is the right proposal to follow?

On STPs more generally, the NHS is going through a winter crisis, and it is about to go through another top-down reorganisation—[Interruption.] Someone says it is bottom-up, but it is not; we know it is coming from the top. Those making the STPs are being told that they have to fill a financial gap of £21.764 billion—that is the reality that STPs throughout the country now have to face. We have seen the plans, so we know that that is going to mean a number of community hospitals being closed, a number of A&Es being downgraded, and acute beds being lost.

In places such as Devon, where the STP talks of an over-reliance on hospital beds, the implication is that beds will be lost. Closures and downgrades are being considered throughout Somerset, with their priority list of vulnerable services including maternity and paediatrics. In London, a city with the very worst health inequalities, the STPs are expected to deliver better health outcomes for the city’s growing 10 million residents with £4.3 billion less to spend. Will the Secretary of State explain to the House how he expects the NHS to perform in future winters, when we have a growing elderly population and STPs are pursuing multibillion-pound cuts to beds, A&Es and wider services?

James Heappey (Wells) (Con) I was recently briefed by an excellent and well-respected local GP and a clinical psychiatrist, who were the authors of our county’s STP. Will the shadow Secretary of State explain how on earth they are responsible for a top-down reorganisation?

Jonathan Ashworth Because they were being told by NHS England, which was in turn told by the Secretary of State.

Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab) The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) mentioned infections spreading in the NHS. Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the infection that is spreading on the Government Benches? It is the infection of arrogance, complacency and being completely out of touch with the patients and their families who are suffering under the current crisis. We are witnessing inaction on an epic scale.

Jonathan Ashworth My hon. Friend makes his point extremely well, although I would not want to be so mean about the Secretary of State—[Hon. Members: “Go on!”] No, I am not going to be mean about the Secretary of State.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab) In the past few moments, we have heard the ludicrous suggestion that Labour did not deliver on either spending or performance, but in fact our track record was excellent. That is not just my opinion; the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, said in 2011: “I refuse to go back to the days when people had to wait for hours on end to be seen in A&E, or months and months to have surgery done. So let me be absolutely clear: we won’t.”​

He knew that Labour had a good record and that the NHS used to be good; why will these Tories not admit it?

Jonathan Ashworth My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Indeed, I remember, when we were in government, shadow Health Secretaries standing at this Dispatch Box opposing every penny piece of money that Labour was putting into the NHS. I remember a shadow Health Secretary, who now sits in the Cabinet as the Secretary of State for International Trade, standing at this Dispatch Box and saying that the A&E target was “indecent.” That was the Tories’ attitude when we were in government, so it is no wonder that we are sceptical about the Government’s intentions for the A&E target when we look at their history.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con) The shadow Secretary of State is talking about the Labour record on the NHS; does he recall Labour closing not only maternity at Crawley hospital, but accident and emergency in 2005?

Jonathan Ashworth I do not have the details of the Sussex STP to hand, but presumably if it contains any suggested closures the hon. Gentleman will be campaigning against them and knocking on the door of the Secretary of State, if those remarks are an indication of his point of view on these matters.

James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con) The hon. Gentleman is saying that everything was rosy under Labour, but he should remember that it was 10 years ago when the scandal at Mid Staffs broke, in which hundreds more elderly patients died than was projected. It was a terrible scandal and he should remember that. What our shadow team was doing at the time was holding the Labour Government to account.

Jonathan Ashworth I take all deaths in hospitals seriously. My commitment to patient safety is unswerving. I will continue to raise matters, whether it is at Royal Worcestershire or elsewhere, but not in a partisan way with the Secretary of State—[Interruption.] I was not being partisan when I was asking questions about the Royal Worcestershire. The Government Whip, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), really needs to calm down. I will raise these matters, because that is the responsible thing to do. It is unbecoming to play politics with patients in that way.

Culpability for the state that the NHS is in today lies at the door of Downing Street. The Government promised to protect the NHS and to cut the deficit, and they have not done so. The Government give away billion-pound tax cuts to corporations—[Interruption.] Yes, this Government. The Government waste billions, pushing the NHS in the direction of fragmentation and greater outsourcing while ignoring the ever-lengthening queues of the sick and the elderly in all of our constituencies.

Yesterday, we saw the Secretary of State on Sky losing his ministerial car and being chased down the street. It was his whole approach laid bare: not a clue where he is going; nothing to say; and not facing up to the problems. Last year, he blamed the junior doctors. On Monday, he blamed the patients. Today, he blames Simon Stevens. Tomorrow, he will blame the weather. It is time that the Health Secretary started pointing the finger at himself and not at everybody else. The NHS is in crisis, and Ministers are in denial. I say to the Government, on behalf of patients, their families and NHS staff, please get a grip. I commend our motion to the House.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt) I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “House” in line 1 to the end and add: “commends NHS staff for their hard work in ensuring record numbers of patients are being seen in A&E; supports and endorses the target for 95 per cent of patients using A&E to be seen and discharged or admitted within four hours; welcomes the Government’s support for the Five Year Forward View, the NHS’s own plan to reduce pressure on hospitals by expanding community provision; notes that improvements to 111 and ensuring evening and weekend access to GPs, already covering 17 million people, will further help to relieve that pressure; and believes that funding for the NHS and social care is underpinned by the maintenance of a strong economy, which under this administration is now the fastest growing in the G7.”

Labour’s motion was defeated by 295 votes to 209.