Clegg makes NHS funding pledge


Published: Friday 27th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The NHS would receive billions of extra funding if the Liberal Democrats have a hand in the next UK government, Nick Clegg has told his party faithful.

The Lib Dem leader pledged to give an additional £8 billion to the health service in England – and an extra £450 million for Wales – by the end of the next parliament.

Mr Clegg made the promise during a rally in Cardiff – where earlier, alongside Prime Minister David Cameron, he announced UK Government plans to give more power to Wales.

In his address to supporters, the Deputy Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to creating a fairer and more equal Britain – as well as championing his party’s policies on education.

And with around nine weeks to go until the UK general election, the gloves appeared to be off as he took a number of swipes at Tory leader Mr Cameron and his coalition partners the Conservatives.

He said: “With Liberal Democrats there is light at the end of the tunnel. After 2017/18, we will invest again in our public services as the economy grows.

“That means we can commit to giving the NHS the money it needs to stay strong. For the NHS in England that means an additional £8 billion a year by 2020.

“And that means an extra £450 million a year for Wales by the end of the next parliament.

“Make no mistake, the Welsh health service needs that cash injection.

“I want to see that money used to improve the Welsh health service, spent on Welsh health priorities. But as Welsh Labour has shown, that is not guaranteed.

“Wales needs more nurses.

“Welsh nurses care for more patients per member of staff than anywhere else in the UK.

“They are overstretched and unable to spend the time with each patient that they need.

“While Labour is failing on the NHS, the Conservatives are showing their true colours.

“I want a better health service for Wales than Labour has delivered or the Conservatives want to deliver.

“But I won’t set England against Wales as David Cameron did when he said the difference between England and Wales is the difference between life and death.

“Liberal Democrats want opportunity for everyone, no matter where in the United Kingdom you are from.”

The Lib Dems’ decision to form a coalition government with the Conservatives has been described as a “bitter pill to swallow” by senior party figures.

However, Mr Clegg insisted his party’s role in Downing Street had been in the national interest.

During his 30-minute address, he voiced his annoyance at how the Conservatives in Westminster and Labour in Cardiff Bay had pinched Lib Dem policies before passing them off as their own.

After speaking about his party’s policy to give more cash for disadvantaged children in Wales, he said: “If you ever want proof that a Liberal Democrat policy is both popular and working, watch the other parties try to nick it.

“We’ve seen the Conservatives try to pull that one over and over again with the Liberal Democrat tax cut for millions of working people – a policy David Cameron told me to my face, live on television, could not be delivered.

“And you’re seeing that in Wales as Welsh Labour try to claim the pupil premium – sorry, the pupil deprivation grant – for themselves.

“It takes a hell of a nerve to throw mud at us the way they do while trying to trumpet one of our proudest achievements as their own.

“But don’t worry, Labour renaming the pupil premium is like Vincent Tan making Cardiff City play in a red shirt. No one is buying it.”

Mr Clegg also insisted the Lib Dems would cut £38 billion less than the Conservatives and borrow less than Labour.

He added: “Labour’s plan means they will borrow £70 billion more than us by 2020, as well as spending an extra £4 billion just paying the interest on our debt – money that could be spent on schools and hospitals instead.

“The Conservatives have absolutely no intention of sticking to the balanced economic approach we have taken in coalition – and they’re quite open about it.”

And referring to the UK Government’s earlier announcement to give more powers to Wales, he said the country had moved “another step towards Home Rule” – something that would not have happened without the Lib Dems.

He said: “The nature of coalition means that I made this announcement standing alongside David Cameron. But make no mistake, this would not have happened without the Liberal Democrats. Giving away power does not come naturally to the Conservatives.

“Silk would not be being implemented at all without Liberal Democrat ministers sitting at the Cabinet table, making the case over and over again for devolving power to Wales.”

However, he admitted the UK Government pledge on more powers did not go far enough and he wanted to take things a step further.

Before leaving the stage to the song Firework by US pop star Katy Perry, he said: “We will continue to campaign to give Wales more control over its own affairs in areas like policing and transport.

“We can make a difference to people’s lives. But that work starts with every vote we win, every councillor and every assembly member we get elected and every MP we send to Westminster.”

Published: Friday 27th February 2015 by The News Editor

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