Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

PM: Miliband showing 'lack of substance' on NHS

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband have once again clashed over the NHS, with the PM accusing Mr Miliband of showing "a complete lack of substance" over the issue.

The Labour leader opened their exchanges during prime minister's questions on 22 February 2012 by mocking the PM's conference about the health service, held in Downing Street earlier in the week.

Mr Miliband branded the summit "ridiculous" and claimed it excluded the "vast majority of groups" representing the NHS.

The PM wanted to listen to NHS staff during the so-called "listening exercise" last year, but now he could "not even be in the same room as the doctors and nurses", Mr Miliband claimed.

But Mr Cameron told MPs his government was putting more money into the health service and claiming that Labour "used to be in favour" of reform.

The Labour leader should "stop worrying" about the prime minister's diary, and "start worrying" about his own "complete lack of substance", Mr Cameron said.

The prime minister goaded Mr Miliband for not asking a question about the government's decision not to publish NHS risk register, a subject which MPs were due to debate on a Labour motion later in the day.

"Are you going to ask a question about it, or are you frightened of your own motion?" the PM asked.

He brandished a copy of Labour's brief for the debate, claiming it showed that Labour's Andy Burnham had blocked the publication of the risk register in 2009 when he was health secretary.

This demonstrated that Labour were a "bunch of rank opportunists", Mr Cameron said.

But Mr Miliband continued on his theme, claiming that "no one" believed or trusted Mr Cameron on the NHS, and that he had "lost the confidence" of the public.

The Health and Social Care Bill, currently passing through Parliament, would become "his poll tax", the Labour leader claimed.

Earlier in the session, both leaders paid tribute to the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed by shelling in the Syrian city of Homs.

Mr Miliband described her as a "brave and tireless reporter" who was an "inspiration to women", while Mr Cameron said her death was a "desperately sad reminder" of the conflict in Syria.

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