Oops. Tory health committee member lets slip: no more free healthcare

There was a very interesting little passage on the BBC’s ‘Sunday Politics’ show yesterday. Chaired by Andrew Neil, the show’s ‘Head to Head’ segment featured Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the UK Huffington Post in a debate on welfare spending with Tory MP and Health Select Committee member Chris Skidmore.

The debate wasn’t on health but, as is often the way with these things, it was touched on in an aside that was even more revealing than the debate on the main topic.

That Chris Skidmore should be arguing for cuts and caps to the welfare state is unsurprising. He is a member of the Free Enterprise Group and co-authored ‘Britannia Unchained’, a ludicrous book that lies freely about the facts in order to smear British workers that “[o]nce they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor‘.” Britons actually work the longest hours in Europe, retire later than people in most other European countries, especially as retirement age rises to 68, and have the fewest national holidays and the lowest statutory leave in the European Union. I wrote an article on this poor excuse for a book back in August. in case you want to read more on it.

But the most interesting passage in the discussion was when they started to talk about universal welfare benefits – the idea that some benefits are available to everyone, regardless of income. Skidmore was arguing for more means-testing (assessing people’s income and only paying the benefit if it’s below a certain threshold), and Hasan responded that means-testing actually costs more while helping fewer people. But for anyone who, like me, is passionate about the NHS, the conversation took a very interesting turn. Here it is, with just a couple of omissions for brevity that don’t affect the meaning of what’s said:

Hasan: Means-testing benefits lowers the rate of uptake, it’s much more complex bureaucratically, it costs more to actually administer means-testing benefits than universal benefits, and it leads to higher rates of fraud.

Skidmore: In the longer term, with an ageing population, it will not cost more. It is not fair..for an MP on a final-salary pension of £65k to be claiming a winter fuel allowance or receiving a free TV licence. I don’t believe that’s fair, do you?

H: On that basis, you shouldn’t get free healthcare. We have a universal welfare state..

S (interjecting): Yes, exactly.

Skidmore then backtracks, denying Hasan’s accusation that the Conservatives want to introduce a US-style healthcare model and repeating the Tories spurious claim – for which they had already been reprimanded by the head of the UK statistics authority – that they have increased NHS spending.

But the truth had already slipped out. Hearing the unexpected, hypothetical supposition that we shouldn’t get free healthcare if other benefits need to be means-tested, Skidmore’s instinctive response is:

Yes, exactly.

They say the truth will out. No matter how hard the Tories try to pose as being pro-NHS and on the side of the ‘strivers’, the longer these malignant people are in power, the more often the truth slips out – just like last week with David Cameron’s freudian ‘We are making more money for the rich“.

We need to make sure people hear when it happens.


  1. Are you sure he wasn’t responding to the latter part of the comment (i.e., “you pay in, you get out”)?

      1. Okay, I didn’t hear it and, given the background, it isn’t surprising.

  2. Milliband says he cant roll back all the Coalition NHS Reforms but doesnt say which ones, if Labour get in 2015, we will be hearing the mantra we hear from this Coalition, “the last Governments Legacy”…

    1. Labour needs to listen to its grass roots support and be a real Labour party. I hope it will under Ed Miliband, though I think the current policy of trying to appear ‘serious’ to the markets is ill-advised and they would be better being much bolder, as I’ve written. I think the new, clear stance on benefit cuts and caps may be the start of it.

      In any event, Labour is people’s only real hope of getting out from under the financial oppression and divisiveness of the coalition.

    2. Yes the Current coalition and the Labour Party are all one in the same, whilst they may disagree on minor matters they all agree on the same major ones in the interests of the financiers backing them

      1. I’d disagree with that, but as I’ve written on various occasions, I think Labour needs to do a much better job of differentiating itself, and to be considerably bolder in its stance and the way it offers a different interpretation of our situation – the ‘crisis’ everyone is treating as fact is largely a construct based on assumptions that are taken as read but there are other ways to view everything.

        I am hopeful that Labour’s announcement that it will oppose the benefits ‘uprating bill’ is the start, but we’ll see!

      2. Steve Wilkins like me you recognise the Enemies of The Vulnerable, in 2003 [ no banking crisis mind] Labour began their assault on the Weakest [ as all Governments do] by remocviong the ring-fencing of resident wardens, with almost 1m Elderlty, Sick, Disabled Sheltered Housing Residents, the Horrors of that exist today, and all The Parties jumped on the Bandwagon when Labour under 6 Prensions, thug, expenses cheat who conned the working class in Hull for 40 years [ finally caught on PPC]. Then in 2005 they upped the Assault on the Vulnerable with Welfare Reform, contacts to Atos then Serco, and of Course Freud , in 2008 Brown told Freud to hush the Atos bit , but press mums going to work, only a lunatic or a petty party self-server doing the doggy work, for the Party Mafia would tell you had Labour been elected in 2010 [ you know were they would only cut £8 for every £9 the oppositoion would honestly!] One thing i love about General Elections is making those mentioned shown up just as they were first created. This vile rotten coalition is no different than Labour, too many Goldfish swimming in My Island. ps Dont Forget Remploy Closures in Wales 2008 etcetc

      3. New Labour was awful, in the end. We need a return to real Labour values – I don’t believe there’s another option that offers a prospect of both winning the election and changing things for the better.

  3. It’s about time someone reminded the Tories – and many others – we don’t have FREE health care, pensions or any other benefits. Throughout our working lives we pay our insurance premiums, albeit to central government, to provide for these. All that has happened is that succesive governments have either been incompetent or have seen a way to fatten their own bank balances after leaving parliament.

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