Julian Bray writes: It was back to school for our MPs and as Stewart Jackson MP had trumpeted that he would 'contribute with' the debate on Hospital Car Parking charges; we naturally scoured Hansard to see if he is in reality 100% against charging for Hospital car park spaces, or just treading water......
So we invite you dear reader to see where Mr Jackson actually proclaims Hospital Car Park charges are wrong and should be immediately abolished. True to form wrapped up in purple prose (ready for UKIP perhaps??), Mr Jackson totally wastes his evening opportunity with a philosophical journey culled from Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. To our mind a wasted opportunity leaving the hapless MP effectively out in the cold and sitting on the fence over the matter...
One hopes, the King family, parents currently rotting in different Spanish jails at the behest of the NHS, (Portsmouth City Council having made Aysha King, a Ward of Court on Friday) would have featured in the debate, and the Prime Minister waving an air ticket in his hand, and saying he was on his way directly to Malaga to sort out the mess and reunite the family, brave young frightened Aysha must be going through a living hell, Spanish police guarding him (is he even handcuffed to the cot?) and his clearly devoted parents behind bars in a Spanish hell hole. You really cannot help wondering how the blundering Cllr Sheila Scott (Conservative Cabinet Member for Peterborough Childrens Services) would have handled the situation if the King family actually lived in Peterborough?
6.42 pm Monday Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I join in the congratulations to my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and for Harlow (Robert Halfon). This is precisely the type of issue for which the Backbench Business Committee was established, so that we can try to alleviate the problems of people who feel their voice is rarely heard when set against a big bureaucracy.
Parking charges are an important issue because there are both philosophical and practical problems with them. Philosophically, it was never the intention that patients should be forced into a back-door stealth tax by virtue of the fact that they drive a car and need to park at a hospital. Health care has always been funded through general taxation, not patient charges, and that principle has been established by all parties. Also, surplus income has been ring-fenced for NHS activities. We run the risk of undermining the philosophical underpinning of the NHS. I accept that this is a cross-party matter, because Labour also sought to deal with it when it was in government.
In practical terms, parking charges cause real hardship for the simple reason that they are a regressive type of taxation that hits the elderly, the poorest and the sickest at the most vulnerable times in their lives. We have heard about various cases today. There are bigger issues involved in the debate, too, including our friends the West Lothian question and the Barnett formula. There is a question of fairness and equity, because people in Wales and Scotland do not suffer a similar encumbrance. Effectively, my constituents in England make a capital payment for free parking at health care facilities in Wales and Scotland, which cannot be right.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) said, there is a bigger strategic financial issue to consider—the impact of the private finance initiative, particularly schemes such as that in my local trust, the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which incidentally has a structural annual deficit of £40 million and so finds it difficult to deal with such matters. Both the Treasury and the Department of Health should consider the irreducibility and intractability of the debt encumbrance on such trusts, which forces them to seek finance in that way. I hope that Ministers will think in such wider strategic terms.
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