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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 16:07 GMT
Labour MP attacks 'cosy' Morgan
Chris Bryant
Chris Bryant became Labour MP for Rhondda in 2001
A Welsh Labour MP has made an outspoken attack on First Minister Rhodri Morgan, claiming his NHS policy encourages patients to turn to the private sector.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant says "political cosiness" in Wales may mean poorer public services for his constituents.

In a pamphlet, he criticises the "clear red water" established by Mr Morgan between Cardiff Bay and Westminster.

Mr Morgan told AMs on Tuesday it was "nothing more than a pamphlet... not based on any serious research".

The first minister spoke in the chamber after the assembly government had said earlier that it would not comment, and it was for Mr Bryant to discuss what he had written.

We in Welsh Labour should never adopt or refuse to adopt a policy simply because it has or has not been advocated by new Labour in Westminster
Chris Bryant MP

Mr Morgan has prided himself on putting distance between his assembly government and Tony Blair's administration.

But in his pamphlet for The Smith Institute think tank - set up in the memory of former Labour leader John Smith - Mr Bryant said this could mean longer NHS waiting times than in England and foster a dependency culture.

He wrote: "A political cosiness that refuses adequately to challenge vested interests within public services may fail to deliver properly progressive public services.

Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan has criticised more competition as 'amoral'
"We in Welsh Labour should never adopt or refuse to adopt a policy simply because it has or has not been advocated by new Labour in Westminster.

'Mistaken ideology'

"Deliberate 'red water' as a policy per se is a mistaken ideology."

Mr Bryant said the Welsh NHS was not improving as quickly as its English counterpart, with patients "regularly" waiting four or five weeks for an ordinary GP appointment.

He said the assembly government's approach "seems like an ideologically driven decision that reduces the health opportunities of the poorest in the Rhondda".

Who is in charge of health policy in Wales... is it Westminster or Cardiff?
Conservative Nick Bourne
Last year, Mr Morgan criticised more competition in health and education as "amoral," and defended his decision to tread a different path to Mr Blair.

Mr Morgan said in a lecture in October 2004 that the "competitive model" of offering public services seemed to regard people like tenants, patients, pupils and parents as "some sort of shopaholic, always on the lookout for new ways of elbowing their way to some new smidgin of fresh personal advantage".

But Mr Bryant has attacked this rejection of choice.

The MP wrote: "The virtual refusal of the Welsh assembly to use every means at its disposal to increase capacity in the NHS at speed (such as private finance initiatives) has in effect encouraged more and more patients to go private as they hear of long local waiting lists and shortening ones in England."

Mr Bryant also questioned whether other assembly government policies, such as free swimming, free prescriptions and lower tuition fees would subsidise the wealthy.

He also said incentives to Welsh students to go to Welsh universities could limit their opportunities.

He said: "If we fail to use this period of Labour rule in Westminster and Cardiff to good effect, if our public services do not radically improve, then we shall have failed the people we seek to represent.

Plaid Cymru's Rhodri Glyn Thomas said: "One has to ask the question who runs New Labour in Wales?

"The people of Wales know that voting New Labour means that London will always be pulling the strings whatever ministers in Cardiff Bay like to say."

Nick Bourne, leader of the assembly Conservatives, said: "It is absolutely essential that Rhodri Morgan and Health Minister Brian Gibbons respond to these claims.

"They clearly affect the direction of the Welsh Assembly Government and raise serious doubts about who is in charge of health policy in Wales. Is it Westminster or Cardiff?"

Liberal Democrat assembly leader Mike German said: "It's clear to me that the differences we want to see in Wales are not a matter of dogma, but a matter of delivery.

"You can have different systems in England and Wales - that's what devolution is all about - but quality of services is ultimately what matters."

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