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Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford) : Now that there will be a further rapid rundown of the mining industry, will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate to enable us to discuss Government policy to enable mining communities to attract alternative employment for young miners?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I take note of the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, but the Coal Industry Bill is currently before the House.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) : Following the overwhelming vote at the end of the debate on war crimes, can my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House when he anticipates the publication of a Bill based on the Hetherington report?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The Government are currently considering the form that legislation might take, in the light of the views expressed in both Houses. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary hopes to make an announcement before too long.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : May I take the Leader of the House back to the question asked by the

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hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) about the need for mature consideration when we have been deluged with statistics? I make no complaint about that, but surely the House should have the opportunity before next Thursday's debate, having given mature consideration to the statistics published today, to question the Secretary of State in the Chamber so that the debate makes sense.

We were told during the passage of the poll tax Bill that there would be no diminution of information and opportunities available to the House to hold Ministers to account. We will have lost that if we lose the oral statement, which could easily be made on Monday after the weekend, when we have had a chance to look at the figures, and the ability to make use of it in the debate.

The fact that Birmingham's poll tax will be more than £400 is a direct result of the operation of the revenue support grant and the unified business rate. We need answers to questions before we can make a valid argument for our constituents in the short time available in next Thursday's debate. Can we please have that statement on Monday?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The point that the hon. Gentleman raises and the needs of local authorities, among other things, are intended to be met by the fact that we have an early debate, no more than a week, away of the matters that have been laid before the House today.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : May I return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe)? It is in the nature of politicians that they are often bursting to say something, but it is equally the nature of an assembly composed of 650 professional and semi-professional politicians that it is often difficult to find the opportunity to say what one has to say. The ten-minute Bill has been the opportunity where, by sheer force of will--I have twice queued all night--if one really wants to say something, one can make the effort, queue all night and get 10 minutes of prime time. It would be reprehensible if that traditional system were replaced by a balloted system, and I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to reconsider.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand my hon. Friend's point, but of course there are opposing arguments to be put, which led to the motion being tabled.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : In view of the continuing concern about the substantial outside financial interests of Members of Parliament, would it be possible for the Leader of the House to arrange a debate in the near future? Does he agree that it is highly undesirable that a number of companies use and pay Members of Parliament for their commercial interests, but Members do not necessarily have to declare an interest, certainly not at Question Time? These are matters of public concern, about which there should be a debate as soon as possible.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The matter has been considered and debated a number of times in the context of hon. Members' interests generally, and the Register is available to deal with it. The matter raised by the hon. Gentleman can be considered further in due course.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford) : In view of the importance of next Thursday's debate, will my right hon. and learned Friend resist any temptation from the

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organisers of Government business, or from any other source, to put a statement in front of the debate, particularly since, as I understand it, he is refusing the House the opportunity sought by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) to have a statement some time in the week before the debate?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : Yes, I certainly take account of my hon. Friend's point. It is a matter which I try to take into account more generally, but it is not always possible to do so. I shall certainly keep it in mind for that day.

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower) : Will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate on the seemingly shortened lead-in time between the time when legislation is enacted and when its provisions come into force? Specifically, I think that it is entirely unsatisfactory that there should be provisions in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 for changing the sliding scale for, and means-testing of, home improvements grants for thousands of people. It is still the case today that neither the Secretary of State for the Environment nor the Secretary of State for Wales has seen fit to lay before the House the regulations necessary for local authorities and people who have major problems of house disrepair to know where they stand. Will he please look into that and arrange for it to be done as soon as possible, so that people are certain what the Government will introduce?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : In the context of all legislation coming before the House, legislation under consideration by it or by Committee, attention should be, and is, focused on the relationship between the commencement date of an Act and its provisions ; it is entirely right that that should be so. I cannot answer the particular point that the hon. Gentleman has raised, but I shall draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Wales.

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. I will call the three hon. Members who have been rising, but this is an Opposition day. I ask hon. Members to keep their questions brief.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) : Will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on the future funding of the national museums in the light of yesterday's report by the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, which recommended, most regrettably, compulsory admission charges? Such a debate would give the Government the opportunity to account to the House for their neglect and underfunding of national museums

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over the past 10 years and to explain why they are abandoning the long-standing tradition of free access to our national museums.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I cannot offer any undertaking of such a debate, but no doubt the House will wish to consider the report of the Select Committee at an appropriate stage.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Will the Leader of the House reconsider the reply that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) regarding the need for a statement on the Government's new pay policy which has developed over the past few weeks? Is he aware that we should like to question the Chancellor of the Exchequer about who is in the pay policy, what is the hidden agenda, what is the pay norm and why company directors received 28 per cent. last year without the Government taking a blind bit of notice, yet when ambulance crews are offered 6.5 per cent. and then try to fight for more, the Government introduce a pay policy to stop them and other low-paid workers of a similar kind?

It is high time that the Government took the wraps off and told the nation the truth--that after 10 years their economic policy is in ruins, and that they have now resorted to putting a curb on free collective bargaining for low-paid workers, especially those ambulance workers who are fighting at this time.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : That is in no sense an appropriate question on the business of the House. If the hon. Gentleman wants to make a speech, he should try to find the opportunity in the course of the two economic debates which I foreshadowed in my earlier answers.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) to make a full personal statement to the Commons to answer the single question that I have asked him in Committee on many occasions and on the Floor of the House of Commons? The question has been asked repeatedly in the Scottish media : by newspapers, by radio and by television interviewers. The question is whether, when he is no longer a Minister, he intends to return to the firm of Michael Forsyth Ltd. When that question is answered, the matter will be finished.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) has behaved in respect of these matters with complete propriety and he has done his best to answer as he should the allegations made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) under the cover of parliamentary privilege. If the matter is as important as the hon. Gentleman has said, he might take the opportunity of raising it outside that cover.

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Points of Order

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raise this point of order immediately following the point made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). This morning, in Standing Committee E, he attempted once again to raise the allegations that he made on 19 December and on Tuesday, and he was ruled out of order by the Chairman of the Committee.

I want to raise two points for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, on which you can, perhaps, make a ruling at a later date. First, if an hon. Member, having made an allegation in Committee, has had those allegations refuted by the hon. Member about whom the allegations have been made, is it in order for the hon. Member on subsequent occasions, in Committee or in the House, to make the same allegations that have been refuted? That is tantamount to declaring that the other hon. Member is a liar and that one does not believe what he has said.

My second point relates to page 389 of "Erskine May", which says : "Where one Member makes an allegation against another Member"-- in talking about a Member's interests--

"he is required to do so in writing to the Registrar, who refers the allegation to the Committee and informs the Member concerned." That has not been done in this case, so may we have your ruling on both points of principle?

Mr. Speaker : First of all, unhappily, it is not possible for me to comment in the House on what happens in Standing Committees. I hope that what the hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon is not true, in view of the solemn undertaking by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell- Savours), which the whole House heard. It was the reason why the Leader of the House withdrew his motion on Tuesday, so I hope that what has been said is not the truth.

On the second point, there is a distinction between the private interests of Members of Parliament and ministerial interests, which come under different rules. I hope that we shall always deal with each other in this place in total fairness, and as men and women of honour across the Chamber. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should persist in this conduct.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you confirm that one of the problems with the present Register of Members' Interests is that it records what has happened and what is happening now, but not what may happen in the future? That is the nub of the complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). The wider issue is to ensure that people do not do things now as a Minister or as a Member of Parliament that might bring them further financial reward. Until that issue is resolved, there will continue to be disquiet in the House.

Mr. Speaker : I think that the whole House will agree that it would be marvellous if we could tell what would happen in future, but if the hon. Gentleman wants the rules to be changed, he must approach the Select Committee. This is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : I attended Standing Committee E for its entire sitting on

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Tuesday morning and this morning. I also attended our sitting on Tuesday afternoon. From the Committee's discussions, it was my understanding that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr.

Campbell-Savours), through the shadow Leader of the House, had given an undertaking that he would not return to these issues. He now says that he only gave an undertaking not to disrupt the Committee. On Tuesday morning, by his repetition of his allegations, despite the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes), the Chairman, to stop him doing so, he disrupted the Committee. May we have a clear ruling that the hon. Gentleman will not use the privilege of the House to indulge in McCarthyite smears of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, when my hon. Friend has given the clearest assurances that there is nothing in such smears?

Mr. Speaker : Again, I have to say, that I do not have direct knowledge of what goes on in Committee. However, in the light of what happened last Tuesday, I have looked at the Committee Hansard. I understand that the Minister concerned made a declaration and an open expression of what his interests were. I hope that the hon. Member for Workington and the whole House will accept that undertaking.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise, first to you for going on a bit yesterday in my question to the Secretary of State for Social Security, and, secondly to the ambulance workers, for slightly delaying the start of today's debate. I would not have raised this point of order had it not been for the presence of the two Ministers involved in my complaint. I had not phoned their offices to say that I was going to raise it. I require a ruling--

Mr. Speaker : Order. That indicates that it is a matter for the Ministers rather than me.

Mr. Ewing : It concerns the Order Paper.

On 6 December, I tabled a question to the Secretary of State for Scotland about regulations covering the poll tax in Scotland, which the Secretary of State was responsible for laying before the House. On the morning of 7 December, when the Order Paper was published, the Secretary of State for Scotland immediately transferred my question to the junior Minister at the Department of Social Security, the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mrs. Shephard). That question was on the Order Paper from 6 December until 20 December, when it was published for written answer by the junior Minister at the Department of Social Security.

On 20 December, I received from the junior Minister in the Department of Social Security a holding reply stating that she would reply to me as soon as possible. A simple yes or no is all that I require--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman is saying is extremely important, but it is not a point of order for me in the Chamber.

Mr. Ewing : It is, because I wrote to the Secretary of State for Scotland asking on what basis he had transferred my question. I have still not had an answer to that letter. I am asking you to rule that, when a Minister is responsible for legislation which is to come before the House, in no circumstances will that Minister be allowed to transfer

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questions relating to that legislation. If we are to allow Ministers to transfer questions on legislation for which they are responsible, hon. Members will not know to whom to put their questions.

The final point is that this is 11 January and my question has still not been answered, although it has been on the Order Paper since 6 December.

Mr. Speaker : It has never been the responsibility of the Chair to decide whether questions should be transferred. That is a matter for the Department. On the delay in answering the hon. Member's question, he mentioned that the Secretary of State and the Minister are here. I am sure that they will have heard what was said.

We must move on ; we have a busy day ahead of us.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : Is it not a fact, though, that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is using every opportunity to play fast and loose with the rules of the House to smear other hon. Members?

Mr. Speaker : Order. I hope that what I have said about this matter will be taken to heart by the whole House. We must deal with each other according to our rules. If any hon. Member wishes to criticise another hon. Member, or the conduct of another hon. Member, that must be done by motion and not in any other way.


Social Security

Mr. Secretary Newton, supported by Mr. Secretary Walker, Mr. Secretary King, Mr. Secretary Clarke, Mr. Secretary Rifkind, Mr. Secretary Wakeham, Mr. Secretary Patten, Mr. Secretary Brooke, Mr. Secretary Howard, Mr. Peter Lilley, Mr. Nicholas Scott and Mrs. Gillian Shephard, presented a Bill to amend the law relating to social security and to occupational and personal pension schemes ; to establish and confer functions on a Pensions Ombudsman and a Registrar of Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes ; to make provision for the payment of grants for the improvement of energy efficiency in certain dwellings ; and for purposes connected therewith : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 51.]

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Opposition Day

[2nd Allotted Day]

Ambulance Dispute

Mr. Speaker : I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. In view of the number of hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate, I shall put a 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 and 9 o'clock. I hope that those hon. Members who are fortunate enough to be called to speak before that time will bear that limit in mind.

4.25 pm

Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston) : I beg to move,

That this House recognises that ambulance staff provide an essential emergency service ; notes that four-fifths of all ambulance crews are fully qualified to provide skilled attention to the casualties of accidents and to patients with critical medical conditions and that many of the others are recent recruits ; records its appreciation of the commitment staff have shown to the ambulance service and the courage they have often displayed at the scene of accidents ; is conscious of the overwhelming public support for a just pay award to ambulance staff and for a pay mechanism to avoid disruption of this emergency service in future years ; expresses its dismay that the current industrial dispute has remained unresolved for four months ; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to commence early negotiations to secure a settlement.

Those words record our recognition of the commitment and dedication of the ambulance service. They call for an urgent settlement of the dispute. There is not a breath of criticism in those words of the Secretary of State. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will well understand that that being the case, the motion does not express my innermost thoughts about his conduct in office. I read in the newspapers--in some surprising newspapers these days--that the Secretary of State is thought to have got himself into a hole. I must advise my hon. Friends that our duty on this occasion is to throw down ropes to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and, heavy though the burden may be, haul him up until he is within reach of a settlement. If that disappoints my hon. Friends, I assure them that there will be plenty of occasions in the future when they can shove him back down the hole.

If we are to rescue the Secretary of State tonight, we need the co- operation of Conservative Members. Some of them have already tried bravely to get the Secretary of State to see the case for a settlement. Perhaps the most remarkable of those was the present Minister for the Environment and Countryside and sometime Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State when he was last at the Department of Health. The Minister for the Environment and Countryside wrote to the Secretary of State in December saying : "I can see the logic of the ambulance staff claim."

I understand that since then he has recanted and has let it be known that he did not understand the full ramifications of the dispute. I have no doubt that the full ramifications--

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) rose --

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Mr. Cook : --of the dispute have been pointed out to him with vigour and clarity. I am in no doubt about that because I read in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph on Tuesday that :

"when visited by the ambulance staff last week, he was very offensive and said we had made his life hell in Government". Mr. Kenneth Clarke : I had not intended to intervene so early in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but to be fair to my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside- -who is not in his place and who presumably was not warned that the hon. Gentleman would refer to him--it should be pointed out that the management has made a much improved offer since my hon. Friend wrote that letter, and that seems to represent a significant change in circumstances.

Mr. Cook : I shall return to the management's allegedly improved offer later in my speech. That improved offer would mean converting 6.5 per cent. over 12 months into 9 per cent. over 18 months. I doubt if even the offensive, aggressive and, I read in the article from which I quoted,

"disgusting and disgraceful"

Minister for the Environment and Countryside would try to claim that there was a substantial difference between 6.5 per cent. over 12 months and 9 per cent. over 18 months. But I do not expect to see the Minister for the Environment and Countryside voting with us at the end of the debate.

Nor do we table this motion of studied moderation in the hope that Conserviative Members will vote with us. I have stood at the Dispatch Box often enough to know that if I were to move, "That this January is warmer than usual", that motion would be voted down because it was moved by the Opposition. Indeed, the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes) would probably have intervened by now to disagree with me. Therefore, I do not expect Conservative Members to join us in the Lobby tonight, but I ask them to speak for their constituents in this debate and to express the public view.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : As the Secretary of State said that, since the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier) wrote that letter, there has been an improved offer, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be a good idea if all the other hon. Members who feel the same were to write letters to the press, because that might get the whole thing settled?

Mr. Cook : Yes. I hope that Conservative Members will treat the debate as a debate about a service in crisis. That service is an emergency service. I repeat that it is an emergency service. The crisis in that service has left people lying in pain and distress for longer than any civilised society should tolerate. It has left people in a state of collapse without the skilled treatment that they need at the point when they are attended.

The Government's amendment expresses appreciation of the police and the Army. I have no doubt whatsoever that thousands of policemen and service men in the past four months have given of their best to provide the best cover that they can. But if we are serious in appreciating what they have done, we must listen to what they say to us about the cover that they can provide.

We must listen, for instance, to Mike Bennett, the chairman of the Metropolitan police branch of the Police Federation, who has stated :

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"At the end of the day apart from being totally unqualified to run an efficient service, we are using vehicles which really any self-respecting prisoner would complain about, let alone a patient. We have a standing instruction not to convey people with head injuries in police vehicles, and yet here we are doing it. The vehicles are not designed for this they are designed for carrying goods not people If the money is there why can't it go to solving the dispute?"

There are plenty of cases on record to show that the emergency service that has been brought in as a substitute for the ambulance service cannot cope with emergency calls. Last month I was contacted by Nigel Harris, who is known to Ministers because he appeared at one of their press conferences during the last general election. He is an orthopaedic surgeon. In December, he attended a window cleaner who had fallen three floors. In the course of the fall, the window cleaner had fractured his spine, tibia, ribs, pelvis and forearm. Understandably, the window cleaner was in a state of shock and in acute pain and distress. He was, of course, in fear for his own survival.

It was 50 minutes before a reply could be obtained from the 999 service and two hours and 10 minutes before an Army ambulance appeared at the scene of the accident. When the service men arrived--this is meant to show no disrespect or criticism of them--they did not know how to handle a patient with such multiple fractures and had to be advised by the orthopaedic surgeon how to lift the patient ; yet a wrong decision on how to handle that patient could have resulted in paralysis for life.

There are many questions that we could ask the Secretary of State about what he has done in the past four months and about what he tried to say last weekend, but there is only one answer that matters today from the Secretary of State--that is, how he sees the dispute being resolved and how he sees the public getting back a full professional ambulance service.

I have read with care everything that the Secretary of State has said over the past fortnight, and I am bound to tell him that I cannot see in anything that he has said over the past two weeks any strategy for the dispute being settled other than by the unions surrendering their total claim. This is the most serious issue affecting patients in the Health Service at present. It is a dispute that has now been going on for four months. I have put it to the Secretary of State that the priority for him is to make it his job, in the interests of the patients, to ensure that the dispute is brought to an end.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : What level of increase would the hon. Gentleman agree for those less highly skilled and qualified ambulance men--the majority of ambulance men? What would he say to the 85 per cent. of Health Service employees who have accepted wage increases in the middle 6 per cent. range?

Mr. Cook : There are two responses to the hon. Gentleman's last point. First, 85 per cent. of Health Service staff did not settle at 6.5 per cent. Doctors and dentists settled at more than 7 per cent., administrative and clerical grades at more than 9 per cent. and professions allied to medicine at 7.7 per cent. There have been a whole score of settlements in the NHS above that which is being offered to the ambulance staff.

The average public sector pay settlement during the four months of the ambulance dispute has been 8.6 per cent. We cannot know what will settle the dispute until the Secretary of State or his

representatives come to the

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negotiating room and negotiations start. If that average public sector pay settlement of 8.6 per cent. was offered to the ambulance crews, the Secretary of State would find himself within a whisker of settling the dispute. I hope that the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) will not try to tell us that that settlement cannot be afforded because the Secretary of State cannot find the money. As the chairman of the Metropolitan police branch of the Police Federation pointed out, the Secretary of State has found the money to pay the police and the Army to do the job of the ambulance staff-- it is a great deal of money.

The Association of London Authorities estimates that during the dispute the cost of police cover in London alone has been £3.5 million. There are 14 other areas outside London where the police have been active for the past two months. From figures that I obtained yesterday, I estimate that the total cost of police time in those areas has been £4.4 million. On Tuesday the Minister of State for the Armed Forces announced in a written answer that to 30 November the cost to the Army--for which it was billing the Department of Health--had been £850,000. By now that must represent a figure of £2.5 million. If we add together those three figures, the cost of paying the police and the Army to do a job that would be better done through paying ambulance staff to do it is £10.4 million. There is a poignant resonance to that figure. The difference between the 6.5 per cent. offered by the Secretary of State and the 11.4 per cent. demanded by the ambulance staff is 5 per cent. Each 1 per cent. on the ambulance staff pay bill is £2 million. In short, it would cost £10 million to settle the claim in full.

The Secretary of State has said that, if he found that £10 million, wards would have to close. Why is it that the Government cannot find the money to settle the dispute but can find the same amount of money to prolong it? Why is it that paying ambulance staff to meet their claim would mean closing wards, but paying policeman the same amount to do the job of ambulance staff does not?

There is one reason why the dispute has been so prolonged. That is the happy knack of the Secretary of State for finding the phrase that inflames tempers whenever he intervenes. I did not think so at the time but in retrospect I think that his original strategy of going into hiding and leaving public comment to Duncan Nichol was a wise one, especially in the light of the amount of debris left behind by his recent interventions--the most spectacular of which was his letter to his constituent, Miss Mitchell.

I do not often congratulate the Secretary of State, but may I congratulate him on the candour with which he conducts his constituency correspondence. I am sure that it must be a perpetual delight to his political opponents in his constituency. There are two points at issue between the Secretary of State, Miss Mitchell and the ambulance staff. The first is whether the ambulance service is an emergency service. It has been repeatedly maintained during the past four months that the ambulance service is not an emergency service on a par with the other two.

It was not always thus. In 1978, the current Prime Minister sent a letter to two ambulance persons which made it clear that she then regarded the ambulance service as one of three emergency services. I have no doubt that in

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recent weeks the Secretary of State has taken aside the Prime Minister and, like the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, she has had the full ramifications of the dispute spelt out to her.

Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow) : The hon. Gentleman spoke about the so- called Prime Minister's letter, of which I have seen a copy. It was written before the Clegg report, which ruled out some of the things of which the hon. Gentleman talked. It was written by Matthew Parris, who is now a sketch writer for The Times.

Hon. Members : Where is he?

Mr. Cook : I am disappointed to hear the cries of, "Where is he?" because I had thought that the hon. Member for Harlow had secured a mention by Mr. Parris in the press tomorrow. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct to say that the letter was signed by Mr. Matthew Parris--I presume the same man--written on notepaper headed in the name of the current Prime Minister and signed on behalf of the then Leader of the Opposition. It is quite explicit in the letter that the office of the then Leader of the Opposition accepted that the ambulance service was one of three emergency services.

In his letter to Miss Mitchell, the Secretary of State contests this claim, on the basis that emergency cases represent one in 10 of all patients carried. I have tried to find out where that figure comes from. It is not an easy figure to find. In a parliamentary question on 19 December, the Secretary of State was asked if he would estimate

"the average time spent by an ambulanceman on transporting (a) emergency cases and (b) non-emergency cases."

The Minister's answer to the question was :

"This information is not available".--[ Official Report, 19 December 1989 ; Vol. 164, c. 165. ]

Where does that figure of one in 10 come from? It is available from some local ambulance services. I have the figures for London for the first nine months of last year--the period before the dispute-- [Interruption.] I am not sure whether the cameras caught that incident. However, if my hon. Friends look the other way, we may be able to hear the answer in the fulness of time.

I have the figures for the first nine months of last year--before the dispute--for London. They show that, of calls to the London ambulance service in the first nine months of last year, the number of emergency cases was not one in 10 but one in four. I repeat the question : where does the figure of one in 10 come from? If that figure is to be the basis for comparison, can we have the figures for the other two emergency services?

The most comprehensive study of how police spend their time is a study of the Merseyside police. It showed that the police spent 9 per cent. of their time responding to crime incidents, 1 per cent. responding to traffic incidents and 2 per cent. responding to other incidents. That gives a total of 12 per cent. of their time spent responding to incidents, not all of which were emergencies. I would not for one moment suggest that the police are not an emergency service. It would defy common sense to suggest that. However, by the same token, it defies common sense to tell ambulance crews that they are not an emergency service.

On Monday night, the whole country-- [Interruption.] It is clear from the events taking place at the back of the Chamber that the Secretary of State has brought his own emergency service with him.

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