Wales politics

Cameron Welsh NHS death line 'offensive', says Miliband

Ed Miliband and Carwyn Jones
Image caption Ed Miliband and Carwyn Jones at the joint cabinet meeting in Nantgarw

Ed Miliband has said David Cameron's claim Welsh hospital care is so poor that Offa's Dyke is a "line between life and death" is "pretty offensive".

The Labour leader said the prime minister should "do something" about England's NHS problems, rather than use Wales' NHS as a "political football".

Mr Miliband and the shadow cabinet met Welsh ministers at Nantgarw, near Caerphilly, on Friday.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Wales was "leading" the UK economic recovery.

But Welsh Secretary David Jones said the suggestion Welsh economic recovery was "entirely down" to the Welsh government" was "at best fanciful".

Mr Miliband told BBC Wales Mr Cameron's comment about hospitals in Wales, at the Welsh Conservative conference in April, was a "pretty offensive thing to say".

Mr Cameron regularly attacks the performance of the Welsh NHS, claiming the service in England would suffer if Labour took power in Westminster.

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Media captionEd Miliband visited Caerphilly and took his shadow cabinet to meet First Minister Carwyn Jones's

Mr Miliband said: "Here's the reality - if you look at some areas, the Welsh health service is doing better, like the speed of treatment on cancer, and there are some areas where the Welsh health service faces bigger challenges.

"But what the experts have said, the Nuffield Trust, is that no one health system is doing particularly better than any other across the UK.

"Sure there are challenges, Carwyn (Jones) and Mark Drakeford, the Welsh health minister, are completely aware of those, wanting Wales to rise to those challenges.

"But I don't think David Cameron should be using the Welsh NHS as a political football, I think he should be doing something about the problems there are in England."

Mr Miliband also defended Labour's decision to impose an all-women shortlist to select its general election candidate in Cynon Valley, where MP Ann Clwyd is standing down.

The local party is vigorously opposing the central party's ruling the candidate chosen must be female.

"I understand the feelings that there are of local people, but I'm in favour of an all-women shortlist," he said.

"It's a decision of Labour's National Executive Committee, but I'm in favour of it.

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Media captionShadow chancellor Ed Balls says he believes Wales is "leading the UK into economic recovery"

"Because less than a quarter of our MPs in Wales are women, I think we need to do a lot better than that."

Youth unemployment spotlight

Earlier, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Wales was "leading the whole of the United Kingdom into economic recovery".

He said Welsh Labour ministers had achieved a bigger fall in unemployment and UK Labour would "copy" their policies if it gains power in next year's poll.

Observing construction work on a new college campus in Cardiff, Mr Balls said: "We've come here to see Wales leading the whole of the United Kingdom, finally, into economic recovery.

"We're seeing Wales here seeing a bigger fall in unemployment.

"It's being delivered by Welsh Labour, falling youth unemployment as well."

"Here, Jobs Growth Wales has done a good job for youth unemployment," he said.

"I've come here to learn what we can do if we get into government next year, to copy Wales and get young people back to work across the rest of the UK."

'Sweet nothing'

Carwyn Jones said earlier this month in the Welsh government's annual progress report that the Jobs Growth Wales programme had created more than 13,000 job opportunities.

Over the past year, Wales has seen the largest increase in the rate of employment and a lower rate of unemployment than the UK average.

Responding to the shadow chancellor's claims, David Jones said: "It is at best fanciful, at worst an outright misrepresentation of facts to suggest that the economic recovery in Wales is entirely down to the Welsh government's actions."

Private sector employment in Wales, he said, had increased by 93,000 since 2010, while Jobs Growth Wales had filled around 10,000 posts.

UK ministers "long-term economic plan" was working, he said, and allowing Labour to "wreak havoc with our economy again would be disastrous".

A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman said: "Wales doesn't need an awkward, one-off blind date with a shadow cabinet that has very little understanding of the needs of our economy and communities.

"Wales will not be duped either by their 'sweet nothing' statements on jobs when youth unemployment here is well above the UK average and in some areas in the valleys it soars to above 40%."

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