On the Politics Show, Sunday 17 May 2009, Jon Sopel interviewed Andrew Lansley, MP, Shadow Health Secretary.
Andrew Lansley: 'He has been responsible for much of the decision making that has led to this'
JON SOPEL: The Shadow Health, Andrew Lansley joins us now. Welcome to The Politics Show. Thanks very much for being with us.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Good afternoon.
JON SOPEL: Just let's be clear what you're set to announce - tests for every five year old.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Yes, during this week I'll announce our policy for dentistry, during this week and within that, a policy in relation to children. A policy that every child at the age of five, when they go to school, should have dental screening.
We'll find seventeen million pounds from within the planned dentistry budget, in order to do that - that's six hundred and eighty thousand children and then, from that, we will also be a position to be able to look at where tooth decay is in those children and we want to change the contract so that dentists have a greater incentive for preventative work, including contracts to look after children, whether or not their parents are having NHS dentistry.
JON SOPEL: The Oral Health unit, the independent national forum, says that screening does not lead to any improvement, does nothing to reduce inequalities between rich and poor.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well, I'm afraid what we've seen in recent years is a two thirds increase in the last nine years in the number of children having their teeth extracted as a consequence of tooth decay; a two thirds increase in nine years. We have a hundred children a day going in to hospital as a result of tooth decay, that is going up year by year; so the policy at the moment isn't working.
Andrew Lansley MP
Now there are components to this policy. I have no doubt that dental screening and a responsibility in schools, forms a part of a process by which we also have to make sure through the dental contract there is an emphasis on prevention because it is absurd at the moment, that there are millions of people and families, including increasing numbers of children, who simply don't see NHS dentists at all.
JON SOPEL: I've got say I'm slightly confused Mr Lansley because we've invited you on this programme a number of times, you've told us that you know, the problem with the Health Service is all these government top-down targets and here you are, sitting here today and saying, and what we're going to do is to introduce a national screening programme, which is (interjection) why not leave it to the local Health Authority.
ANDREW LANSLEY: National Screening Programmes is about getting our public health right. I've never, for a minute come here and said to you that I want to get rid of the process by which we screen for public health purposes. You know, everything from cancer screening, all through to screening for disease in teeth for children. Screening is a vital part of public health. (injection)
JON SOPEL: Why not leave it to the local health authorities?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well, because actually where it, because actually, it's clear that the government said to the local Primary Care Trust, it's down to you whether you do this and only a fifth of them are doing it.
Four fifths of them stopped doing it and has the situation got better? Are children, are more children going in to school with tooth decay, more children going in to hospital with tooth decay. Yes, more children are going in to hospital with tooth decay. So it isn't working is it.
JON SOPEL: Yes but the local trusts are saying, well, they're listening to the experts who are questioning whether it's worthwhile doing.
ANDREW LANSLEY: No. What they're doing is they're focusing their money on treatment, because that's the way the contract is constructed and not on prevention. And I'm afraid, well they would say that wouldn't they, cos they are the very organizations who have a responsibility to secure that kind of prevention and they're not achieving it.
So we have to make sure that we put the investment where it's needed, which is in prevention, rather than cure. The evidence internationally, it's absolutely clear, if we can have children whose teeth are good when they are younger, we are likely to have adults who have good teeth for the rest of their lives.
JON SOPEL: Right. Let us move on from teeth and I'm sure it must be a welcome relief for you to be able to talk about actual government policy, rather than just about MPs (interjection)
ANDREW LANSLEY: We've talked about our policy which - that's a relief yes.
JON SOPEL: Right. Okay, I want to talk to you a bit, I've got to talk to you a bit about MPs expenses. I want to first of all start with the position of the Speaker. Should he go?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well, let me put it like this. I, I think - two things. It would be a mistake for us in Westminster, to give the impression that these, the responsibility lay with the Speaker alone - it lies with all of us. But it does rely with the Speaker, not least because he embodies the authority of the House and he has been responsible for much of the decision making that has led to this. So, if you said to me, Do I think the Speaker should look at the criticisms, look at whether he has the confidence of the House, he is the servant of the House - if I don't think the Front Bench, be it Conservative or the government, should (interjection)
JON SOPEL: I'm listening and not getting an answer.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Okay, that we should not criticize the Speaker directly, because he embodies the authority of the House.
JON SOPEL: Yeah, you've said that.
ANDREW LANSLEY: What the Speaker should do is go away and think very hard, take advice, literally do soundings amongst senior backbench Members of Parliament and determine (interjection)
JON SOPEL: And if he comes to the conclusion he has no support, he should go before he's forced out.
ANDREW LANSLEY: If he reached the - yes, because it is much better for the authority of the House, that the Speaker should make a decision, based on whether he has the confidence of Members of Parliament, in private, rather than there to be an open challenge of the Speaker in the chamber itself. Still less should the government or the opposition front benches think it is their responsibility to push the Speaker about.
JON SOPEL: Do you agree with your colleague William Hague, that this needs to be resolved in a matter of days not weeks?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Yes, I think he was right because the authority of parliament frankly has been brought in to crisis point and that authority needs to be re-established not just in relation to the Speaker, but in so many other ways, which is why tomorrow for example, the scrutiny panel that David Cameron has established, that is going to be looking not only at making sure that everything we do is transparent and reasonable in the future on clear, unambiguous rules, but we are going to look back, as indeed we've done in the Shadow Cabinet and said, it's not about whether we were within the rules, it's not about whether it was legitimate, it's actually about whether we have done something which is unreasonable, which the public would not regard as acceptable and that, that test, that tougher test is one we've applied to ourselves and we will apply throughout the Conservative Parliamentary Party.
JON SOPEL: Andrew Lansley, thank you very much for being with us.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW
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The Politics Show Sunday 17 May 2009 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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