The government have been accused of using Private Finance Initiative schemes to finance investment in the NHS 'like an out-of-control shopaholic with increasing credit card debt and monthly payments that are spiralling out of control'.
The charge came during a Treasury questions session in the Commons from Tory accountant-MP Nick Gibb, after demanding a statement on PFI commitments in the health sector.
Gibb said PFI commitments had risen to the point where repayments due in 2007 have risen from £3.7bn forecast in 1999 to £5bn forecast now.
He asked: ‘Has the government set themselves a Golden Rule for a maximum figure for such payments?’
Chief Treasury secretary Paul Boateng evaded the question with the retort: ‘What we are doing is investing in the NHS…actually building hospitals.’
He said the government had build 25 new hospitals using PFI, with 114 still under construction, which was ‘good news for the NHS, good news for patients and good news for clinicians’.
And he paid tribute to Coventry North West Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, the firmer Treasury minister, claiming he was owed ‘a debt of gratitude for his contribution to the successful development and implementation of PFI’.