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Mr. Newton : As to the usual channels, I am grateful for the indication that the hon. Gentleman is ready to talk to us about the handling of these matters. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will discuss the matter with him in the spirit in which he raised it.
I should make it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) that, when I referred to a debate, I should have referred to the laying of the order.
[That this House calls upon the Right honourable Member for Yeovil to disassociate himself from the description by Tom Dommett, a Liberal Democrat County Councillor, of his constituents in Somerset, as Yids, Nig- nogs, Ities and Pakis no better than New Age scum and vermin' ; believes that the use of such grossly offensive language about people of other nationalities and races is wholly unacceptable in public life ; notes that this is yet the latest example of blatant racism within the Liberal
Column 1046Democrat Party ; and calls upon the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, the Right honourable Member for Yeovil, to expel Councillor Dommett from the party forthwith.]
It refers to the remark by a Liberal councillor in Somerset that his constituents were no better than "Yids, Nig-nogs, Ities and Pakis". Would not a debate give the leader of the Liberal party an opportunity to explain to the House how he can stomach having someone like that in his party?
Mr. David Rendel (Newbury) rose--
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth) : I draw the attention of the Leader of the House once again to the deep anxieties about the engineering steel industry. May we have time in the House for the Government to make it clear and give an assurance that the British engineering steel industry will not be taken out by unfair competition from heavy subsidies paid in the EC?
Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest) : Given the much-vaunted European political organisation, especially the extradition agreement within Europe, may we have a debate on foreign affairs to discuss the recent appalling action of the French Prime Minister in refusing to extradite to Switzerland two Iranian nationals who are wanted there on murder charges? Could we explain to the French Prime Minister that a consistent application of extradition should depend on issues of justice and not merely on French commercial interests?
Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich) : Is the Leader of the House aware that domestic violence accounts for 25 per cent. of all reported violent crime? I draw his attention to early-day motions 357 and 383.
[That this House congratulates the Association of London Authorities on its Zero Tolerance Campaign, London's first major crime prevention campaign on the issue of violence against women ; notes that a local London survey found a third of women questioned had experienced domestic violence and nearly two-thirds of men said they would be violent towards their partner in certain circumstances ; further notes that domestic violence accounts for a quarter of all reported violent crime ; calls for active prevention of crimes of violence against women and children, adequate provision of support services for women and children and appropriate legal protection for women and children who are victims of violence ; and calls on the Government to implement in full the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee report on Domestic Violence.]
That this House congratulates Edinburgh District Council on the launch of the second phase of its Zero Tolerance Campaign, an initiative which is now being replicated throughout Britain ; notes that Tayside and Strathclyde Regional Council, Aberdeen District Council and the Association of London Authorities have been at the
Column 1047forefront of supporting Edinburgh's initiative ; and calls upon the Government to ensure a fair and reasonable amount of funding for women's aid and rape crisis groups.
They highlight the excellent work being carried out by the Association of London Authorities and Edinburgh city council in crime prevention. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on domestic violence so that we can discuss the full implementation of the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee?
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : May I ask my right hon. Friend for a debate next week on the speed and flow of traffic in London-- especially in west London and, within that area, in Northolt at the Target and White Hart roundabouts where phased traffic lights are urgently needed- -so that the House can press Ealing council to introduce traffic lights which are urgently required?
Mr. Newton : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is due here to answer questions next Monday. As I have done on one or two previous occasions, perhaps I shall give him advance warning of a point that might be raised.
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East) : I remind the Leader of the House that on 29 October 1993 the Government, by the back-door method of a written answer, announced the termination of the readaptation benefits scheme for the steel industry. Meanwhile, the industry is being plagued by subsidised foreign competition. When will we have a debate on this vital industry?
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point) : Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on "BB""--not "back to basics", but the evil of badger baiting? Anyone who saw the television programme on the subject earlier this week will know how sickening that practice is, and will know that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Mr. Newton : It is just possible that my hon. Friend will get an opportunity to raise that matter next week, when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be answering quetions. In any event, I will bring my hon. Friend's remarks to her attention.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) : In the light of the soaring crime rate in north Wales and the continued refusal of the Home Office to allow an addition to the complement figure of that area's police force, when may we reasonably expect a debate on that important subject so that the people of north Wales are given the services of an adequate police force? With the best will in the world, they cannot do the job without resources.
Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh) : May we have an early debate on investment in safety in the railway industry in the light of the announcement yesterday of nearly 200 redundancies in my constituency in the railway maintenance yards? Is my right hon. Friend aware that technology has been developed at Eastleigh for secondary door locks? Those locks could not only save the many lives which are lost through passengers falling out of moving trains, but could also secure many hundreds of jobs in the railway works at Eastleigh.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Will the Foreign Secretary make a statement about what representations, if any, have been made to the German authorities about the massacre of British troops who were taken prisoner at Dunkirk in 1940 and about the role of the notorious and fanantical Nazi, Mohnke? If we are concerned, as we should be, about present-day butchers such as the man who presently rules Iraq, should not we be equally concerned about the butchers responsible for the massacre of our troops? Should we forget about it just because it happened 54 years ago?
Mr. Newton : Certainly not the latter. The hon. Gentleman will know that the jurisdiction in that case lies with the German authorities and that the British authorities have given full and active co-operation to the German authorities in the investigation.
Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On the Order Paper yesterday there was a question from myself to the Secretary of State for Employment. I asked a straight and factual question about whether a firm called Coltman Precast had notified his Department of impending redundancies, and what the date of that notification was. The answer I received from the Minister was that the information required under those provisions was given in confidence.
Is it in order for a Minister to refuse to answer a direct question from an hon. Member when the law says nothing about confidentiality? Is that an example of Ministers attempting to aid and abet employers who seek to evade their statutory responsibilities?
Madam Speaker : First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. I am sure that he appreciates that Ministers are solely responsible for their answers to parliamentary questions. It is entirely a matter for the Minister in question, and is not a matter for the Chair. However, I want to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman who might seek parliamentary opportunities to pursue the matter. Although I do not give guidance across the Floor of the House, he may like to come and see me. If he wishes to reflect on the matter, he may well know how to raise it in some other appropriate way.
Column 1050order for hon. Members, and in particular the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), to invite and bring in to this building members of Sinn Fein? Given that the Government are still awaiting the renunciation of violence from the IRA, surely people who will not renounce violence should not be invited into this building.
Madam Speaker : I am, of course, not prepared to discuss security matters, but what took place was perfectly in order providing that the room was booked in accordance with the relevant regulations, as I understand was the case in this instance. I dealt with the matter earlier this week. Had the meeting not been in order, I would of course not have allowed the use of the room.
Mr. John McAllion
Mr. Robert Ainsworth
Mr. David Alton
Mr. Tony Benn, supported by Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Diane Abbott, Mr. Harry Cohen, Mr. Bob Cryer, Mr. Bill Etherington, Ms Mildred Gordon, Mr. Bernie Grant, Mr. Ken Livingstone, Mr. Bill Michie, Mr. Dennis Skinner and Mr. Alan Simpson, presented a Bill to terminate British jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, and for purposes connected therewith : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 20 May and to be printed. [Bill 36.]
Madam Speaker : I must inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. Because of hon. Members' great interest in the debate, I have had to limit speeches between 7 pm and 9 pm to 10 minutes. I make the strongest plea to those who speak outside those hours to limit their speeches voluntarily so that I may call as many hon. Members as possible.
Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside) : I beg to move, That this House deplores the lack of accountability, the growth in bureaucracy and waste of resources which have occurred at the expense of patient care arising from the implementation of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990.
Before I begin my speech, may I appeal to the Secretary of State to make Government time available for an open and non-party debate in the House about infertility and embryology research. During the Christmas recess, great concern was expressed about that issue and the House should have the opportunity to debate it in Government time.
I mention Government time because it is two and a half years--it was 1991-- since the Government last came to the House, voluntarily, to debate the national health service. It is exactly a year to the week since we had a debate on the NHS and, just like today, it was held in time allocated to the Labour party. That was not surprising, because the Government have a great deal to answer for.
The Government have created chaos in the greatest health service in the world ; they have undermined the confidence of those who work in the service at every level ; they have created a situation where instead of money being spent on patient care, it is spent towards servicing the system ; they have created a situation in which 100,000 more people are on waiting lists than at the time of the general election. In the first half of this financial year, there was a jump of 25 per cent. in those waiting for more than a year. Last year, there was an increase of 37 per cent. in the number of complaints made.
The Government have deliberately created two-tier access to services with the creation and encouragement of general practitioner fundholding. Their record is a disgrace. In the past year, one in five accident and emergency units were closed. Since the Government came to office, one third of all beds have been lost and one quarter of all hospitals have been closed. That has happened without commensurate investment in care in the community and localised community care facilities. That is a sorry record, but the Government try to blame it on those who work in the health service.
The Secretary of State for Wales said that it was all the fault of the men in the grey suits. It is not their fault, but the fault of the Secretary of State for Health. She is responsible for what has happened to the health service and its work force. We are defending, promoting and encouraging the NHS as we know it--and we created it.
Column 1052We are fighting against corruption, commercialisation, privatisation, waste and the politicisation of the service at every level.
We must do that because the Government, during 15 years in office, have forgotten the definition of the proper conduct of public business. From Westminster and Wandsworth borough councils to the hon. Members for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) and for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth), to quangos and trusts up and down the country, every inch of public life is being packed by the Conservative party supporters.
Mr. Michael Bates (Langbaurgh) : Does the hon. Gentleman include in the trusts that he accuses of being packed with Conservative party supporters the new chairman of the Priority Health Care Wearside trust, Mr. Joe Mills, former chairman of the regional Labour party in north-east England?
Mr. Blunkett : The exception proves the rule. A recent survey showed that 70 per cent. of those prepared to declare a political conviction were Conservatives. Figures placed in the Library by the Government on Tuesday reveal that 60 per cent. of all chairs of trusts in England have a business or financial background ; 50 per cent. of non-executive members have a business or financial background ; and only 4 and 6 per cent. respectively have any connection whatever with the national health service.
The Secretary of State for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley) : Does the hon. Gentleman also include Helene Hayman, chairman of the Whittington trust? Does he include his own spokesman in the House of Lords, Baroness Jay, who is a member of the health authority?
I draw attention to the position in south Wales, Scarborough, Glasgow and Gravesham. Let us take a little look at Gravesham. The five non-executive members of the Dartford and Gravesham trust were announced just a few weeks ago : Professor Kelly is a neutral ; Kenneth Shaw, a banker, is a Tory councillor ; Malcolm Nothard, who is in insurance, is a Tory councillor ; Eileen Tuff is a chair of the local Tory association ; and Janet Dunn happens to be the wife of the local Tory MP.
May I mention the names of a few other spouses? Mr. T. Shephard of King's Lynn ; Mrs. S. Taylor of Southend ; Mrs. S. Biffen of Shropshire ; and Mrs. Gardiner of Surrey ambulance service--who are they married to? [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett- Bowman) shouted,"Sexist." [Hon. Members :-- "She is not here."] There is nothing sexist about mentioning both sexes. Several hon. Members rose--
What about ex-Members of the House, from before the last election? Mr. T. Flavell, Lord Jenkins, Lord Hayhoe and Sir Timothy Raison were all appointed to trusts. Trusts are a bit like Woody Allen films. We start out with husbands and wives and end up seeing crimes and misdemeanours.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central) : My hon. Friend neglected mentioning the former Member for my constituency, Mr. Ian Grist, who lost his seat at the last election. He is now chairman of the health authority in
Column 1053South Glamorgan and today he announced the closure of the acute unit of the district hospital in my constituency-- formerly his constituency. He should have been here to protect it and was then appointed chairman of the health authority to close it.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : I should be sorry if the hon. Gentleman omitted to mention my wife. His comments raise an interesting question in relation to Labour party policy. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that a woman who has worked for more than 20 years in the national health service and allied jobs, and who, long before she married a Member of Parliament, had built up a considerable reputation for expertise in the subject, should automatically be denied a presence on a trust simply because she is married to a Conservative Member of Parliament?
Mr. Blunkett : Certainly not. I make no such presumption. I merely know that the people who are declared as, or declare themselves as, Tory councillors or Tory Members, or who are married to, or have been married to, Tory Members, are committed to the Tory cause. When, last week, the Secretary of State rushed out a response to the working party investigation on corporate governance, she expected us to take seriously the message that major changes would be made to bring about accountability in the service. She spoke of staggering changes, such as the fact that, for the first time, health authorities would have to publish annual reports and, for the first time, non-executive and executive members would have to declare any interests in relation to the health service and in relation to their own trusts.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) rose --
Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow) rose --
In the Health Service Journal last week, the Secretary of State said :
"Accountability is one of the key ideas and issues that will be concerning the health service in 1994".
It certainly will. We shall want to hold to account those who are making decisions and need to answer to the public about what they are doing. When we table questions in the House, we are met with the blocking response that the information is not collected centrally. We are referred to local trust chairmen and chief executives who are appointed by the Secretary of State, whose remit and survival depend on the Secretary of State and who have no direction to give us the answers.
The pay of those chief executives, chairmen and non-executive members will not be directed by the decision made by the Secretary of State last week on corporate governance, despite the fact that over Christmas the Secretary of State, in the numerous interviews that she gave to the press, gave the impression that it would.
There will be no change ; there is no intention to open up the health service. The Secretary of State's proposals on regions make the opposite presumption--instead of regional board members there will be a "respected local
Column 1054figure". The respected local figures for the eight new zones will, even now, appear on the Conservative central office computer.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) : Is my hon. Friend aware that we in Staffordshire face the prospect of losing our ambulance trust, directly as a result of the Secretary of State's failure to be accountable for what is going on? That is simply because there are so many players who are trying to get rid of a good public service and are concerned only about money. Where does accountability lie for the reduction in the rates of pay of my constituents, who are sitting in the Gallery, from £4.85 to £3.26 an hour?
Just before Christmas, I was sorry to hear that the Secretary of State had had her handbag stolen. It was stolen from the back of the official car at 11.30 pm, while it was waiting for her outside Annabel's night club after a Tory party Christmas bash. I mention that not merely to draw attention to the fact that the Conservatives have lost any understanding of the line to be drawn between what is right in terms of political responsibilities and what is expedient in terms of personal and political interests, but to show that the Secretary of State should set an example.
When expense on hospitality in the Department of Health goes up by 46 per cent., it is not surprising that people fail to take seriously calls to cut down on waste. The Secretary of State spent £45,000 on overseas visits --the most of any domestic Government Department, and nearly as much as the Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs and for Defence. She spent £1 million on the good news unit, using our money to promote her propaganda.
Mr. Blunkett : The estimates by the Department of Health equate entirely with the incompetence with which it runs the rest of its budget. If Ministers underspent and still had a 46 per cent. increase, Lord help us if they had really been trying.
At Quarry house in Leeds, home of the NHS Management Executive, the Department spent £55 million and provided hand-woven carpets. It cost £30,000 for just three people to travel between Leeds and London. The A to Z sent out from the health service cost £368,000 and contained a wonderful definition of a bed. People up and down the country know all too well that a bed is not a trolley.
Circulars have increased by 100 per cent. in one year and pamphlets cost £800,000 last year. The Secretary of State for Health has become the task force queen of the Government. A task force has been set up for every single month that the right hon. Lady has been Secretary of State for Health.
Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle) : When the hon. Gentleman has finished his long list of personal attacks, smears and innuendo, perhaps he will take some time out to explain the Labour party policy on NHS trusts. He has made contradictory statements in the past and I hope that he will allow us to have a proper debate by clarifying where Labour stands on that matter.
Mr. Blunkett : I will clarify our policy in my own good time. However, our policies will have something to do with treating patients, quality of care and what goes on in the service. I raised issues relating to the Secretary of State because she is in charge and what she does and says matter. Her attitudes pervade the entire service.
It is worth drawing attention to a 19-year-old boy called Dominic who wrote to every member of the Cabinet just before Christmas asking for a donation towards a £1 million appeal to charity.
Mr. Blunkett : It has absolutely everything to do with what we do and how much we care. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a tenner, the Chief Secretary gave a fiver. It is relevant, because the Secretary of State for Health sent him a photograph of herself. Sincerity ratings and opinion poll ratings reflect that.
Mr. Blunkett : I drew attention to what is said and done. We are talking about £1.2 billion being spent on introducing the new system ; we are talking about waste and the use of the new market system to increase profits in the private sector by 19 per cent. in the past year ; we are talking about he misuse of money merely to manipulate and service the system rather than to provide care.
We are also talking about the ridiculous position of London with the specialty reviews, the Tomlinson review and the Peckham reviews. University College hospital is not threatened by any of those reviews but by the market itself, and the Secretary of State has had to intervene to save that great hospital and its facilities from herself.
Those things matter greatly to every single person. They matter to those who have been waiting 14, 18, 19 or 22 hours on trolleys. They matter to those who have been waiting for operations that have been cancelled again and again. They matter to people who have been told that they could have their operation done if only their GP belonged to a fundholding practice. They matter to people who have seen waste in every area of the service. For example, salaries have risen for senior managers, people have undertaken trips abroad, conferences on waste have cost thousands of pounds.
Nadene Ghouri rightly said in the Evening Standard a day or so ago that one waits for hours and is then told that, if only one would pay, one could have a bed--which was already there and available--for £270 at King's, and that one could be taken off a trolley and given the care that one deserves if one were prepared to pay the money. We know why people believe that the health service is not safe in the hands of the Secretary of State. We know why people are so angry and frustrated. We know why people wish us to raise the issue of waste at every opportunity. We know why people are asking us, day in and day out, to raise their concerns, which they express at every surgery : why waiting lists and waiting times have
Column 1056gone up ; why there are hidden waiting lists ; and why they must wait to see a consultant--the crucial time--so that it can be assessed whether there is an urgent case to be dealt with and urgent treatment to be undertaken.
Those things matter to everybody, but no statistics on those matters are kept nationally. They are not added to the waiting times. The Secretary of State will shortly give instructions for getting waiting lists down for those waiting more than a year. Nobody takes the statistics of those who have never been put on a waiting list, because they have been told that they cannot be given a time and therefore that there is a pending list on which they have to be kept. Nobody would forgive us if we did not raise again and again the need for every pound of our money not to be spent on peripheries, not to be wasted on incompetence, but to be spent on patient care.
Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester) : Given that the hon. Gentleman wants to see more money spent on patient care, why did he oppose compulsory competitive tendering, which is producing some £130 million extra for patient care? That is what the debate is about.