Cameron rejects Corbyn's concerns over looming NHS 'winter crisis'

Jeremy Corbyn MP

David Cameron has dismissed questions from Jeremy Corbyn about a looming winter crisis in the NHS and the impact of cuts to tax credits by joking about Labour’s move to the left under the new leader.

The prime minister declined an invitation from Corbyn to guarantee that the NHS will avoid a winter crisis this year and instead joked that he would award the Labour leader “full Marx” for creating his own winter crisis in his party.

Cameron also dismissed a warning from Corbyn that the proposed cuts to tax credits would leave a private in the army with two children and a partner more than £2,000 a year worse off. The prime minister replied that the Labour leader was in no position to talk about soldiers because they would be out of a job under his plans for the armed forces.

Tim Montgomerie, founder of the ConservativeHome website and one of the party’s leading compassionate Conservatives, questioned the prime minister’s approach. Montgomerie tweeted: “Corbyn talking about the NHS and tax credits. Cameron talking about Corbyn’s advisers. Not a good contrast for the PM #PMQs.”

Montgomerie tweeted after Cameron had failed to answer Corbyn’s question about a winter NHS crisis. The prime minister said to Corbyn: “If he wants to know who is heading for a winter crisis I would predict that it is the Labour party that is heading for a crisis. Look at his appointments. His media adviser is a Stalinist, his new policy adviser is a Trotskyist, and he is economic adviser is a communist. If he is trying to move the Labour party to the left I’d give him full Marx.”

The Labour leader hit back at the prime minister, saying: “The issue I raised with the prime minister was the NHS, in case he had forgotten … Will he just get real? The NHS is in a problem, it is in a problem of deficits in many hospitals, it is in a problem of waiting lists, it is in a problem of the financial crisis that is being faced with so many others. Can he now address that issue and ensure that everyone in this country can rely on the NHS which is surely the jewel in all of our crowns?”

The prime minister made light of the situation after Corbyn quoted Dr Cliff Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, who said the looming winter would be worse than last year which was the worst winter on record for the NHS. “Can the prime minister guarantee there will be no winter crisis in the NHS this year,” Corbyn asked, prompting Cameron to say the NHS was benefiting from an injection of £10bn not supported by Labour at the last election.

The Labour leader accused the prime minister of sidestepping questions about the winter fuel crisis, as he said the King’s Fund had warned that the NHS would face a rapid deterioration in patient care unless the financial crisis was resolved. “Could I ask the prime minister which is rising faster – NHS waiting lists or NHS deficits?”

The prime minister replied that he had dealt with the financial challenge by appointing Simon Stevens as the chief executive of NHS England, who called for an extra £8bn in funding, which the government had increased to £10bn.

Corbyn had opened the weekly session of PMQs by repeating the question Cameron had sidestepped on six occasions last week – whether he could guaranteed that nobody would be worse off under his plans to cut tax credits. The prime minister said he would answer the question on 25 November when George Osborne outlines new proposals for tax credits after the government’s defeat in the House of Lords.

Corbyn cited the example of Kieran, a veteran from the first Gulf war, who wrote to the Labour leader about his fears over the impact of the cuts to tax credits. “Is this how the government treats veterans of the armed services,” Corbyn said, prompting the prime minister to say that soldiers would benefit from the raising of the personal tax free allowance.

Cameron added: “What I would say to the serving soldier is that he is now dealing with an opposition party, the leader of which said he couldn’t see any use for UK forces anywhere in the world at any time. That serving soldier wouldn’t have a job if [Corbyn] ever got anywhere near power.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 4th November 2015 13.34 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010