Full Version: Press Cycle 8 - Hospital Parking Charges
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Deadline 23:59 on the 30th April
In taking the lead on abolishing parking fees at NHS hospitals, the Conservative Party is proving that even in Opposition we are determined to honor the commitments we made to the British people during the last election. I commend my friend the Shadow Health Secretary for putting a motion before the House of Commons calling on the Government to take action to scrap these unnecessary, unfair fees within the year. The Conservatives campaigned on abolishing the fees, and just because we don't currently find ourselves in Government doesn't mean we won't do everything in our power to see to it that we get this done. Visiting family and loves ones in hospital can be one of the most challenging, emotionally draining experiences of ones life. The last thing people should have to worry about when a loved one is ill is if they're going to be able to afford to be there with them in the hospital. The Conservative Party is taking action, where the Health Secretary has refused to do so, to rectify this issue and remove these outdated fees. 

In this pivotal moment in our country's history, we Conservatives recognize that our role is to act more than just as a traditional official Opposition. We must be prepared to lead, to make up for this Coalition's inadequacies, and prove to the British people we are ready to return to Government at a moments notice. The Shadow Health Secretary's work to get parking fees abolished serves as a testament to this fact, and highlights our readiness to step up where the Government has faltered.
While the Tories are 'taking the lead' by messing about in the carpark, the Government is faced with remedying nine years of neglect inside the hospital. The good news is that we have a plan, something that the Conservatives apparently lacked, leaving what was handed to them in 2010 - a world class health system - to wither on the vine. Far from inadequate, the manifesto we took to the people sets out our plan to invest in the NHS, including launching a national hospital and clinic building programme and scrapping the privatisation of health in this country. Free carparking is a fine idea, but don't confuse this with a real policy on health reform. There's no use in a free park if you can't afford the healthcare inside.

The fact remains that the Tories had nine years to do anything productive with regards the health sector - even abolish parking fees - and they failed to do any of it. Sorry, Mr Grey, the British people won't be so easily fooled.
We knew that any Government formed from the Parliamentary arithmetic of the election results would have difficulty on supporting and passing legislation that did not have cross-party support, however I never thought this would apply to something as so straightforward as abolishing hospital car-parking charges. The motion that I presented was done as the Governing Coalition, on numerous occasions, failed to voice their support for the abolition of these charges. It was not a pledge in any of the Coalition parties individual manifestos. It wasn't mentioned in the Queen's Speech. I gave the Governing Coalition the opportunity to voice their support for an abolition of hospital car-parking charges then, even in principle - they did not do so.  Mr Lascelles, the Health Secretary, had four opportunities to voice his support of abolishing car-parking charges, even just supporting the principle of it. He decided not to. The Government, through Mr Lascelles' actions, have failed to state that they will scrap car-parking charges in hospitals. He spent more time waffling about the fact that the Queen's Speech is not an exhaustive list of policies, but couldn't quite bring himself to state that the Government supported a move to scrap car-parking charges, even in principle. He spoke about how reasonable policies would be "considered" by the Government, and that we needed to evaluate the nations finances before considering policies such as scrapping car-parking charges - when we know already how much car-parking charges bring in. 

All the Government had to do was to say that they supported the idea in principle, but they couldn't even do that. All we had was a throw-away comment in the middle of a lengthy speech by the Prime Minister saying that we should be doing this. Yet, something vitally important as this proposal to scrap car-parking charges didn't find its way into the manifestos of the Coalition Parties, it wasn't mentioned in the Queen's Speech, the Coalition Agreement or the confidence and supply agreements either - ten occasions for this to be mentioned, and we still do not know whether the Government support this because after being criticised by the a member of the Governing Coalition for responding to a press query rather than speaking in Parliament, members of the Governing Coalition took to Twitter rather than responding to the motion that was before the House.

They have spent more time arguing about why car parking charges were not scrapped earlier than they have of discussing the motion before the House and whether or not they support it. We can argue back and forth about who could have done this - Labour could have done this prior to 2010, we should have done this earlier - that really isn't the right debate to have.

I do not believe for one minute that scrapping car parking charges is a policy that will solve all of the NHS' various issues. I understand that a lot more funding is needed and that more hospitals are needed to be built - after all those were our manifesto pledges, and the Conservative Party will support the Government on these providing what they do is reasonable.

 The argument that patients are being charged for their healthcare is false. The argument that we need to focus on hospital building and investment before dealing with car-parking charges is a lie - they can be done side by side. We can now see the true colours of the Coalition. They believe that scrapping car parking charges for people who are sick, potentially dying, and their friends, relatives and carers is "messing about" - they believe that there's no use in a free car park!
"Messing about in the carpark." That's what Labour thinks about abolishing parking fees in NHS hospitals. To the out of touch Labour Party scrapping parking fees may be nothing more than "messing about," but for the hardworking British people it amounts to the elimination of hundreds of millions of pounds of fees annually. Last year the public collectively paid over £200 million in parking fees. That sum may be insignificant to the Labour Party, but it is very significant indeed for the countless people who are forced to determine if they can afford to visit their loved ones in hospital. Mr. Quinn says the Government has a plan for the NHS, but we certainly haven't seen it. All we have seen is the Health Secretary dodging one question after another and refusing to even do the bare minimum to ensure the Government honors its campaign promises. 

The Conservatives will not apologize for taking the lead where the Government has failed, and we will continue to deliver for the British people even while in Opposition.
Words can't describe how arrogant it is to claim that delivering a change that will scrap what is essentially a tax on our NHS workers and the families of people who are ill as "messing about in the carpark." Once again, Labour MPs are showing us that far from their claims that they are the only party who can stand up and defend our NHS, they only really care about changes when there's elections to be won. Joe Quinn continues to peddle the fact that Labour was elected on a manifesto promising radical change for the NHS. It was such a great manifesto, in fact, that the minute they got into power they dropped most of their pledges and appointed an ex-Tory to run the NHS instead. As well as that, Conservative ideas like a cross-party committee on social care reform that weren't good enough for Labour during the election have now become government policy. Joe Quinn should apologise for his remarks, and back our motion to secure this important change.
I know the Tories want some congratulations on their proposals to scrap parking fees- and a pat on the back in the hopes that they can undo mismanagement and poor decisions during their nearly ten years in Government. At any point in almost ten years the Tories could have scrapped parking fees or made changes to the regime, but they didn't.

The Shadow Health Secretary, who took to Parliament to lambast the Government for not making a change, noted that this is a simple move, that it's the right thing to do, and that the budget can easily afford to make up for the reduced revenue to NHS trusts throughout England. But they don't note the fact that this is something that could have done before. They didn't care to think about this in 2013 when they lowered the top rate of tax from 50p to 45 p- a move that benefited only the wealthier in society and saved the super-owners in the UK almost £2 billion annually since this budget. With that money the Tories could have eliminated parking charges for the NHS workers and families they care about- but didn't. In fact they kept a pay cap in place to make sure to squeeze them more.

The Tories say they're taking the lead where the Government has failed- but the reason NHS car park charges still exist is because the Tories did nothing about them. They supposedly had the will- since they do now, and they did nothing. They supposedly knew the cost and how easy it would be; just the tiniest change to their tax policies designed to benefit the uber-wealthy in society would have paid not only to eliminate the charge but to build dozens of new carparks, and they did nothing.

We believe in providing relief to NHS workers and to the families that use NHS services. We believe in NHS investment. But the Tories' record is louder than their motion today. Some of the loudest Tories had been in Government since 2010 and had the chance to solve the car park concerns- and they did NOTHING. Labour will make up where they failed, motion or no.
We do not want congratulations on the motion to propose to scrap car-parking fees in hospitals. That isn't why I made that pledge in the election manifesto. It isn't why I questioned it in the debate on the Queen's Speech. It isn't why I questioned Mr Lascelles in the House of Commons. I've done this because this is something that I believe that needs to be done, and the reason that I have presented a motion on the matter isn't to be congratulated, its because the Government has not yet said that they will support the move to do so. All Mr Lascelles needed to say was "yes, we support it".

As I have said we as a Government should have done something earlier about this - its not something we could have done immediately upon taking office - but it should have been done earlier, I agree. But saying that, Labour could have done something when they were last in government - that argument gets us nowhere - we need to be focussing on what is happening now. 

And what is happening now? The Coalition is refusing to state in Parliament whether they will scrap these charges, they are taking to Twitter rather than debate a motion on scrapping these charges, and they are saying that the proposal to do so is "messing about".
There has always been a divide between parties in the UK but that has been more evident and fierce than ever since 2016 and the Referendum on our membership of the European Union. The divide has been in our communities, in our families as well as internal party divides on issues. And the hatred between Labour and Conservative has grown with both parties choosing a side of the 52 or 48 to represent. Resentment has grown across our country and with that there has been intolerance of anyone else’s ideas. The debate has become nasty and personal and has driven many people away from politics.

‘But what does this have to do with hospital car parking charges?’ I hear you ask. Well, finally, there is something I think all sides of the house are hopefully agreed on. Something that Labour or Conservative, Brexiteer or Remainer, we can agree on. It may seem like an insignificant thing but it shows a step away from the nasty and divided debate we have seen. A movement away from the intolerance I spoke of earlier which has only caused more hatred and further division in our society.

Scrapping hospital car parking charges is something I agree with, no matter which party is proposing it. And I hope the whole house will come together to support it and we can make a small step towards unity again. If the political parties can work together for something, hopefully that sets an example for the rest of the country to follow and we can put a close on this chapter in our countries history. Although, it does beg the question, the Conservative Party did have 9 years to scrap hospital parking charges, why didn’t they do it then instead of the violent assault they launched against our National Health Service through cuts and austerity!
Hospital car park charges should be scrapped, alternative measures should be taken to ensure hospital car parks are not abused by people who are not using the hospital. I am glad the Tory party are now campaigning against their 9 miserable years in power and hope they continue to rail against their own failures.
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