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Mr. Chisholm: Does the Minister realise that, in some ways, the centralisation plan was sold under the cover of having community services for antenatal care, yet in the original acute services strategy, it was proposed that antenatal care should be given in the community, so the issue of antenatal care is separate from that of a mega-unit?

Mr. Stewart: Yes, but in the context of the strategy as a whole, antenatal care is a key issue. The hon. Gentleman and I do not disagree about that. If those principles are taken together, they represent an impressive list of commitments and the key principle of the strategy is a major move towards community-based ante and post-natal maternity services. I am not pre-empting anything that my noble Friend the Minister of State may decide by saying that those principles are to be welcomed.

The hon. Gentleman concentrated on the key issue of whether facilities should be supplied in addition to those already proposed by the board. The Government welcome the evaluation of the midwife-led model of care for deliveries. In proposing the unit to which he referred for the Western general hospital, the health board has been mindful of the experimental midwife units that have been set up in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Kirkcaldy, as well as south of the border. We are now starting to learn about the key conditions that need to be met to ensure that such units can work effectively and safely, especially if they are not alongside an obstetric delivery unit. The support

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of all participating professionals is needed. Midwives running the units need the necessary skills and confidence. That is common ground.

To sum up, I congratulate the health board on coming up with proposals for maternity services which clearly demonstrate its commitment to delivering the highest possible quality of service. I welcome its concern to

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deliver greater choice in delivery, to ensure the highest standards of safety and further promote the availability of accessible and flexible services based in the community.

I congratulate the hon. Member on raising this debate, in such timely fashion, on these important matters and assure him that my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State will take his comments fully into account before final decisions are made. Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute to Ten o'clock.

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