political crisis that would affect our membership of the EU
The list goes on and on. In fact, it is easier to make the point the other way around by asking how many Whitehall ministries would be left fully in control of their own affairs. The answer is one: the Department of Health.
Wrong, not any more
Today the European Court of Justice has given its backing to a British grandmother in her battle to get reimbursed for a hip operation carried out in France.
The Luxembourg-based court ruled that patients facing an undue delay in obtaining treatment on the NHS should be reimbursed if they choose to have the operation performed elsewhere in the European Union. The Times
Hansard 30 Mar 2004 : Column 1498
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend clarify a matter that concerns me? If, in the course of demands for harmonisation, it was decided that the principle that the national health service should be free at the point of use was incompatible with health systems throughout the Community, which rely almost entirely on insurance-based schemes that are differently organised so that up-front payment is essential, would we be able to retain our system, or would we be told that it was incompatible owing to European law?
Mr. Straw: I very much doubt that that would ever happen. In any event, the issue of primacy is not affected by the draft treaty. Let me be clear, however, that if the European Court of Justice sought to do that, there would be a political crisis that would affect our membership of the European Union and be a matter for concern for all Members on both sides of the House.