Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Millennium Compliance (Hospitals)

2. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): What representations he has received concerning the millennium computer bug in hospitals in Wales. [50268]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): None, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Swayne: How many mission-critical systems affect life and death, and what guarantee can the Minister give that those systems will function securely after the millennium?

Mr. Hain: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's interest in the matter and thank him for raising it. We are taking the matter much more seriously than the previous Conservative Government. We have already issued four NHS circulars to trust and health authority chief executives, we are establishing an NHS steering group, and we shall be tackling the matter as best we can to ensure compliance as early as possible in 1999.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): The Audit Commission's report on the progress of public bodies in tackling the millennium bug problem has been described as "chilling", and the Government's reaction to it as "astonishingly complacent", as evidenced by Labour Members' lack of interest in asking a supplementary question on the matter. As the cost of tackling the millennium problem in the NHS has been estimated at between £230 million and £850 million, and the average information technology spend within the NHS each year is about £100 million, from where will the extra money come to ensure that the life-saving equipment necessary to keep hospitals functioning will be working effectively after 1 January?

Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman is right to identify the life-saving issues at stake in the NHS, but why, when we took office, had virtually nothing been done by the Conservative Government to tackle the problem? We have put in place a series of systematic measures, rigorously tracked through by Ministers and health officials, to ensure that there is full compliance in the health service by 2000, and earlier if possible.

Countryside Policies

3. Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): If he will make a statement on his policies for the countryside. [50269]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ron Davies): I am committed to policies that conserve the countryside within a sustainable development framework that will improve economic, social and environmental conditions for the people of Wales.

Sir Sydney Chapman: When does the Secretary of State expect to publish the separate White Paper on an integrated transport policy for Wales as foreshadowed in the White Paper on the future of transport, published earlier this week? Will he assure the House that it will

22 Jul 1998 : Column 1105

address the distinct and different needs for public transport services in the Welsh countryside and, in particular, the need for better bus services?

Mr. Davies: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his genuine and obvious interest in the problems of rural transport. On Friday, the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), intends to publish the Government's proposals for the development of such an integrated transport system in Wales--I shall arrange for the hon. Gentleman to receive a copy.

I very much understand the case for developing distinctive policies in the countryside; if we are to have integrated transport systems for the whole country, we must reflect the particular needs of the countryside. The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made £50 million available in the Budget specifically to improve mobility in the countryside. In Wales, the greater part of the money will be spent on the development of new and improved bus services, but there will also be small-scale imaginative projects to develop informal transport links for the remotest communities.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): It is astonishing that no Labour Back Bencher stood up to express interest in countryside issues in Wales. What policies will the Secretary of State introduce to ensure that new entrants can gain access to farming in Wales? Does he understand farmers' anxiety about the next generation's prospects of gaining access to the land? What positive news can he give them other than sympathy, which pays no wages?

Mr. Davies: Most of my hon. Friends were at the royal Welsh show in Builth Wells earlier this week, where they had the opportunity to talk at first hand to countryside people about the problems facing the countryside. In direct answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, it has never been my intention to offer sympathy to the people of the working countryside in Wales; I have always made it clear to them that I understand--and shall work with them to try to resolve--the problems.

I give the hon. Gentleman a list of our achievements over the past 15 months. We have ensured that the end of the beef ban is now in sight, and I remind him that the Conservative Government were responsible for the waste of billions of pounds of public money and the collapse of the beef industry through their failure to tackle the problems of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

We have introduced new initiatives, including a food promotion policy and schemes to implement agri-environmental policies. We are consulting on the restructuring of the agricultural community, and we are considering how hill livestock compensatory allowances can be reorganised. The hon. Gentleman will understand that a new vibrancy is afoot in the Welsh countryside; Welsh farmers and others who work in the countryside know that, in Labour, they have a Government they can trust.

NHS Trusts (Reorganisation)

4. Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): If he will make a statement on proposals for the reorganisation of health trusts in Wales. [50270]

22 Jul 1998 : Column 1106

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Win Griffiths): Public consultation on proposals to reduce the number of national health trusts in Wales from 26 to 15 started on 22 June and will end on 21 September. Copies of the relevant consultation documents have been issued to hon. Members who represent constituencies in Wales and have also been placed in the Library of the House. Final decisions on the proposals will be taken later this year, after we have fully considered all responses to the consultation.

Mr. Smith: Will my hon. Friend explain why he proposes in his consultation document on health trusts in Wales that the health trust to serve my constituency will cover a population of some 550,000, together with people in the catchment areas of Herefordshire and south Powys, whereas the health trust to serve his constituency will cover a population almost half that number? Is he not worried that, in this year when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national health service, he is considering implementing proposals that almost no one in my constituency--which can rightly claim to be the birthplace of the NHS--supports?

Mr. Griffiths: On the size of the new NHS trusts--if they are approved after consultation--the proposal for one trust for Gwent and for two for Iechyd Morgannwg were drawn up by the health authorities after wide consultation in their areas; moreover, that proposal, which I consider reasonable, is being put forward for wider public consultation. I believe that, at this stage, the one-trust option in Gwent offers the greatest savings, which will provide more money for health care in Gwent. It will also enable a much better match between local authority social services departments and the NHS in Gwent.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): How many representations has the Minister received opposing the reorganisation of health trusts in Wales?

Mr. Griffiths: Across Wales, remarkably few. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the exact number, but I am quite prepared to provide that in writing and to put a copy of that answer in the House of Commons Library. I have had quite a few representations from Gwent, Powys and Llanelli, but not that many from elsewhere in Wales.

NHS Trust (North Gwent)

5. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth): What representations he has received concerning the case for a separate NHS trust for north Gwent. [50271]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Win Griffiths): The Welsh Office has received 13 representations in respect of a separate trust for north Gwent since public consultation started on proposals to establish a single NHS trust to serve the Gwent health authority area on 22 June. Before the consultation, I received more than 50 individual representations from hon. Friends and other interested parties, as well as petitions signed by 26 hospital consultants and more than 4,000 members of the general public.

22 Jul 1998 : Column 1107

Mr. Edwards: I thank my hon. Friend for agreeing to meet a delegation that will include me and my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) tomorrow morning, when he will receive the compelling case for having a separate trust for north Gwent. That would ensure greater accountability of health services in north Gwent and maintain the integrity of Nevill Hall hospital as a district general hospital. When my hon. Friend receives that evidence, will he give serious consideration to having a separate trust for north Gwent?

Mr. Griffiths: I look forward to meeting my hon. Friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent and other community representatives tomorrow and to reading the detailed proposal for a two-trust option. However, there is no danger whatsoever of services at Nevill Hall hospital being adversely affected by the one-trust proposal. When considering proposals for the Gwent health authority area, I shall be looking at which proposal of all the ones available to me is likely to provide the best health service and more money for patient care.

Next Section

IndexHome Page