Page 8, and I rather enjoyed reading about my friend and colleague, David Davies, MP for Monmouth making a mighty song and dance about free prescriptions in Wales bringing about the demise of a 'National' Health Service. While I shared his opposition to the policy, I think he is over-doing the impact. But in another article on the same subject on page 25 of today's Telegraph, the increasingly hysterical writing of Simon Heffer just made my hackles rise. Regretably, I will soon be placing Heffer in the same catagory as Peter Hitchins - and just pass over the page whenever I see their names. If a writer is going to be offensive to a nation, he should at least try to be logical. This is what he wrote under the headline 'The English keep taking the medicine'
"So let us look at our good friends, the Welsh whose Assembly (funded with vast amounts of English money) has this week voted for the ridiculously expensive and pointless policy of free NHS prescriptions for all, provided they are registered with a Welsh GP........Now, the Welsh say that this £30 million a year stunt will stop people not getting medication because they can't afford it. And it will, of course allow them to spend the money on booze and fags instead,. Its nice to know what we English taxpayers work ourselves into the ground for, isn't it"
Apart from his sheer offensiveness, his logic seems to dictate that every nation and region of the UK should be allocated public money on a per capita basis. This pursuit of 'universalism' would be far more stupid than the free prescriptions policy which he so mocks - in effect, a policy of 'give to those who have'. The position at present is that Treasury spending in Wales is around £900 per capita more than it is in England - calculated by the Barnett Formula. In Scotland, it is around £1500 per capita higher. Most economists would argue that the per capita difference would not necessarily be lower in Wales (unlike Scotland) if Treasury spending was allocated on a 'needs' basis. Some economists claim that spending in Wales would be higher. So what the h**l is Heffer talking about.