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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Labour pledge massive u-turn on er..... Labour's PFI scheme

The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, stood up before the Labour Conference and announced his flagship policy, he pledged to bring at least some private finance initiative (PFI) contracts “back in-house”.

What he was not so specific on was how big a commitment this is. What is going to cost and how is he going to pay for it. So far, so Labour manifesto - expensive, uncosted, unfunded and very expensive.

The Guardian says that McDonnell himself refers to a figure of £200bn for payments “over the next few decades”, while John Appleby of the Nuffield Trust is quoted by the BBC as giving a figure of £56bn for NHS projects alone by 2048.

They say that may suggest Labour is promising transformative changes to public spending and public services, but the expenditure and policy implications may well be of more modest dimensions.

I happen to agree with the paper that if Labour are talking about taking back some of the revenue costs of PFI contracts back -in house then that may be worthwhile doing and could save money. Taking the assets back into public ownership however may prove too expensive, especially as there may well be penalty clauses.

But wait, what is this nasty Tory policy that Labour are determined to destroy? Well, actually it was largely brought in by the Labour Party itself. Over on Facebook, the former Lib Dem MP for Torbay , Adrian Sanders reminded me of some of the history.

He points out that the very first bill put forward by the Blair government in 1997 was tthe NHS (PFI) Bill:

I quote Tory MP John Maples: “The Lib Dem amendments seem that if they were agreed to they would kill PFI stone dead” (Hansard 14th July 1997) 

And Labour MP Alan Milburn: “The Lib Dem amendment would prevent any transfer of services under PFI” (Hansard again) 

Now here’s a biggie…. Anyone want to guess the name of a current senior MP who voted for the NHS (PFI Bill) at every opportunity? 

You guessed it right. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t say a word against Health PFI in 1997 and voted for it at every chance. 

So it wasn't just a New Labour/centrist plot. Even 'Mr Rebellion' himself voted for PFI in health care at every chance. Only the Lib Dems opposed it.

Well done Jeremy. Just don't tell John McDonnell.
The thin end of the wedge of PFI was inserted by John Major, but as you say was banged in with a bloody great mallet by Blair and Brown. That great champion of the people, John Prescott, tried to shake off Tory associations by renaming it PPP, but that never really caught on.

As I recall, the bulk of PFI in the English education sector was incurred towards the end of Blair-Brown as Labour desperately tried to make good on their promises of rebuilding after years of dithering.

One wonders at the motives of Corbyn in knowingly helping to saddle the education and health sectors with so much debt.
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