|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks): It is customary to begin by welcoming the Bills in the Queen's Speech with which one agrees. The difficulty is that those I would have agreed with have been left out. I was looking forward to a Bill on adoption, but there is not one--nor is there a Bill to reform mental health legislation.
I pressed the Secretary of State about five hours ago as to why he gave a Bill to ban tobacco advertising greater priority than the necessary Bills on adoption and mental health, and his answer was revealing--it was in the Labour manifesto. That is why it has a higher priority. Incidentally, he answered me on adoption, but he did not tell me what has happened to the proposed reform of mental health legislation. Perhaps the Minister of State could assist as he has been responsible for the matter.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to put the record straight. In the summer, we answered a parliamentary question of which I am sure he is aware, in which we made it clear that we would publish a White Paper on reform of mental health legislation before Christmas. That is still our intention. As a former Minister, he will agree that it would be unusual to produce a Bill ahead of a White Paper.
Mr. Fallon: I accept that and I am grateful for the explanation. I rest my case on the general point that mental health was a Government priority when they came to power. Before the election, they talked big about it and I should have hoped that something would have been done by now. If it is done in the next year, I will welcome it.
Much of the rest of the Queen's Speech seems to be a great deal of fuss. I welcome the Bill to reform again the law on special educational needs and want to take an interest in it. The Prime Minister's phrase yesterday was revealing. At one point he said:
We need more nurses and teachers in our public services and less bureaucracy. We have to subject all the proposed Bills--Home Office, education and health Bills--to the street test. Will they help the delivery of front-line public services? Will they make things easier in our hospitals? Will they make things easier for the police? Will they help our teachers to teach?
The fastest and the most important way to help the health service to improve is to assist it with recruitment and retention. One problem is the high cost of living and the way the Government are tackling it. They have become very confused with their various initiatives to help nurses, teachers and the police to find accommodation in higher-cost areas.
The Government have a starter home initiative, which has got to the Green Paper stage. A young teacher in my constituency who teaches at Fawkham primary school and who is getting married next year asked me on Friday what had happened to that initiative, which was supposed to assist young professionals like her in the public services. I had to tell her that I did not know. The Green Paper has been published, consultation finished in July and the money was earmarked for the start of the new financial year--£50 million from April--but as yet we do not know which areas it will cover, which public service workers will qualify or how the scheme will be administered.
The Home Office is running a separate scheme. It is giving an extra £3,300 to Metropolitan police officers. That has had an immediate effect on areas around the metropolis. We face the absurd situation that police officers serving in Essex or north Kent can resign and then join the Metropolitan police and receive that extra sum. They are still in the police service, but in a different force just across the border. The Home Secretary is aware of the problem and proposes a 30-mile radius around London where other areas might also qualify for that sum. I am not clear whether that will extend from the centre of London or from the London boundary.
That beings me to the national health service. When the Secretary of State for Health announced his plan last month, he said that he was introducing a cost of living supplement for high-cost areas outside London. He read out a list of counties that qualified--Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Sussex and Surrey, but not Kent.
When I visited the brand new Darent Valley hospital, which the Secretary of State will visit next week, I was asked the same question that he will be asked: why does Kent not qualify for that supplement? Why should a nurse receive more just over the boundary in Sidcup than in Kent? Perhaps Kent qualifies, but it was not in the list of counties that he read out. I was even more puzzled when the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) was told that Portsmouth and her part of Hampshire qualified for the cost of living allowance.
The Government need to join up those matters. If there is a problem in finding accommodation in high-cost areas for those people whom we want to attract into nursing, policing and teaching, we do not need separate allowances, operating from different dates in overlapping areas. I urge the Minister to address that matter with his colleagues in order to achieve some coherence across the Government.
We are promised more reorganisation in the health service. Since I re-entered this place in 1997, the trusts with which I deal have changed constantly. Every few months, I receive a letter saying that this trust is to be merged with that trust--the names keep changing. That process will continue; there are to be primary care trusts and the community health councils will be abolished. We are to have more and more reorganisation. The NHS does not need that.
When I read the NHS plan, I was struck by the series of bureaucracies that are to be created--agencies, boards and commissions--a huge amount of extra bureaucracy. If that is what the proposed Bill is about, I urge the Minister to take it away and find a better way to help those in the front line of nursing and hospital care. The last thing they need is even more reorganisation.
I was struck by a note of humility in the Queen's Speech: the Government will introduce a Bill to reduce the regulatory burden--there will be more regulation to reduce regulation. After three and half years, that is an extraordinary admission. They need to reduce the burden that they have created. The best way--indeed the only known way--to reduce that burden is not to heap regulation on to business in the first place. It is absurd to produce more regulation, designed to
The Government could introduce more sunset clauses, as we propose, so that some bureaucracies and regulations disappear when they have served a useful purpose. The Government could copy the techniques of regulatory budgeting used in other countries, whereby Ministers are not allowed to add to the statute book unless they undertake to remove unnecessary and redundant legislation in the same field.
What was missing from the Queen's Speech--as it has been from all the Government's programmes--was a serious attempt to reform welfare. Furthermore, there are no measures to encourage rather than to over-regulate small businesses.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister admitted that transport is in chaos, but the Queen's Speech proposes no action to deal with the chaos that our constituents have to face day after day as they commute into the capital or take longer journeys across the country. Connex South Eastern told me yesterday that it has now been told by Railtrack that the commuting delays into London will last well into February. There is something for the Government to get on and try to sort out, instead of introducing all this unnecessary, fussy regulation. This is a Government, after all, who had a huge majority, who could have passed any law that they wanted, who started off with big popular support, who had an economy in good shape and who have plenty of public money to spend; and, nearly four years later, what have they got excited about? This Parliament will be remembered for getting rid of the hereditary peers, changing the law on homosexuality, and now the attempt to ban hunting.
Hereditaries, homosexuals, hunting--these are all interesting causes, but they are not, I think, of direct consequence to people in my constituency. The NHS is short of nurses. Its staff are demoralised. There are fewer police in Kent than there were when Labour started back in 1997, and our teachers and the schools are overwhelmed by bureaucracy. Those are the priorities, but they are not the priorities of the Government.
Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): You can imagine how pleased I am to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, having sat in the Chamber almost continuously for six hours. It is a considerable relief.
It is a great pleasure to follow the Kent Members, my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon)-- I nearly said Darlington--and my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), who entertained us and made some serious points about law and order, and some religious issues.
I am very relieved to see the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton), on the Front Bench. I apologise to those on both Front Benches because, owing to a long-standing engagement of some months, I may have to leave before the winding-up speeches are complete. It is a pleasure to see the Minister because there was some very real concern on the Opposition Benches earlier that when some speeches were made no Health Minister was present. That is very regrettable.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates) has been in this place for 26 years. I have been here for only half that time, but I cannot remember speaking in a Queen's Speech debate and there not being a relevant Minister on the Front Bench when we were addressing issues pertaining to a particular Department. It is a sadness because the Minister would have heard, in particular, the eloquent plea by my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire about the catastrophic circumstances at Queen Alexandra hospital, where not enough surgical instruments are sterilised for operations. I am not sure whether the Minister was present to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) say starkly that waiting times had lengthened from 12 to 18 months. Those were very powerful contributions.
I want to try to help the Minister this afternoon. [Interruption.] I saw his smile disappear and the corners of his mouth turn down when I said that. In a way, I do want to help him. This afternoon, we heard from the Secretary of State that there would be problems in the NHS this winter--we know that from Conservative colleagues--but we also heard of some of the plans for the future of the performance fund, which will increase from £500 million to £1,000 million, and of intentions to strengthen the power of patients and to give more power to the public. I want to suggest to the Secretary of State ways that he may not yet have considered to implement those intentions.
The Secretary of State says that he wants to break down the barriers between the services, improve help for older people and provide new health facilities. Most of those are recommendations in the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology report on complementary alternative medicine. It will be no surprise to some colleagues that I choose to speak on that topic this afternoon, as I have had such a long-standing interest in it since my election in 1987.
I put it to the Minister that it really is time for Her Majesty's Government to embrace complementary and alternative medicine. When I was preparing these notes, I remembered a speech made by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who has just celebrated 50 years of service in the House, although it was broken once. What he said is very apposite to the arguments that I want to make about complementary medicine. He said:
When I entered the House in 1987 and started talking about osteopathy and chiropractic for the health service, I was thought to be coming from some sort of loony health tendency. These were disciplines that doctors despised and would have nothing to do with. If one went to a chiropractor, one certainly did not tell one's doctor. When in 1983 I was treated by a chiropractor for a fracture of the spine, I certainly did not tell my doctor. The chiropractor solved the problem.
Paradoxically, those disciplines that in 1987 were seen as completely off the wall are now not only formally on the wall, but have gone past the Table and are now more or less enshrined in statute law. That is perhaps a reason why the issue has attracted so much interest in the House. It will not have escaped the attention of the Minister of State that yesterday 131 Members from all corners, backgrounds and parties signed the early-day motion in my name, which supports the acceptance of some of the ideas in their Lordships' report on complementary medicine. In fact, they constitute one fifth of the House of Commons and that is a fair reflection of the population who use complementary medicine.
If McKinsey or another management consultancy were given the opportunity to visit the Department of Health and the Secretary of State told them that we were going to have another health problem this winter, they might ask to look at the health resources available. Sooner or later, down the list past the doctors and nurses, they would find 50,000 complementary and alternative medical practitioners. They would ask him what was happening about those people and he would say, "Actually, because the regulation is not quite right and because we have not conducted clinical trials on all their disciplines, we don't use them very much. We don't have much to do with them."
In his speech the Secretary of State said that the health service was in a period of expansion. That is a contentious remark. It is certainly not the case with complementary medicine, which is in a state of contraction. Under the old GP fundholding arrangements, which this Government have much maligned, doctors could allocate some of their budgets to complementary practitioners who took pressure off the hard-pressed doctors.
Since the primary care group system has been introduced, the amount of treatment has decreased. I have written to the Secretary of State and his Ministers about this with examples. That happened because when the primary care groups were set up there was not enough time or expertise to shop around for complementary therapies. Today the Secretary of State said that we want more doctors, nurses, beds, GPs and consultants. He said that we shall have more money, but there was nothing about more complementary care in the health service.
In a sense I want to help the Minister. The powerful report from the House of Lords gets him off the hook because it categorises the complementary world into three sections, which The Independent described as the acceptable, the not so acceptable and the unacceptable. It is a list of the so-called big five. I have already referred to the first two--osteopathy and chiropractic care. They are regulated by statute and doctors recommend them. That is fine; they are almost in mainstream health. It then lists homeopathy. The Faculty of Homeopathy has existed for a long time and has a charter. Other homeopaths are sorting themselves out and are almost ready for statutory regulation. The list also contains herbal medicine, which has been around since time immemorial, and acupuncture.
There is no reason why the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton), cannot expand such activities. Already in the past 12 months a new homeopathic hospital has opened in Glasgow, but the Royal London Homeopathic hospital NHS trust has had to cut back because the local health authority decided to chop the budget. That confirms a point that I made earlier. The Minister of State should tell his colleagues to implement the first list and make more use of those treatments. If he did so, he would take pressure off the hard-pressed doctors and hospitals in the winter. Complementary practitioners are effective in dealing with what, behind closed doors, doctors call heart-sink patients--those whom they cannot treat. The Minister of State could make life much easier if he got the big five more involved.
If someone goes to a doctor's surgery with a terrible cold, the doctor will almost certainly say, "I can do nothing for you." Unfortunately, no doctor is present at the moment. [Interruption.] I apologise to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Dr. Brand); he was obscured by another distinguished colleague. Doctors might say that about colds, but that is not so with homeopathy. I have a list of nine remedies for colds, which I pulled out of a box that I keep at home. The list includes aconite, allium cepa--which is onion--bryonia, dulcamara, gelsemium, hepar sulph, nux vomica, phosphorus and pulsatilla, and they all deal with different symptoms. The hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) may not help his career if he nods in favour of my speech, but I am grateful to him for doing so. The list of remedies includes the symptoms, such as:
The Minister of State must act on the recommendations in the report on standards, regulation and training. If he does so, he could move more complementary practitioners into the main stream of health. Some of the recommendations in the Select Committee report are aimed at the Government. It recommends a central mechanism for
The Minister of State is off the hook on the first five categories; they are covered by Act of Parliament and are well regulated. The second category that the House of Lords drew up--including aromatherapy, reflexology and healing--is more difficult. They found that the governing bodies were insufficiently co-ordinated. Aromatherapy, which I know well, has about 12 different governing bodies. The problem is that they do not have the resources to get together. If the Government can find the time and money to draw those bodies together, they could achieve statutory regulation. At Hinckley in my constituency, Shirley Price Aromatherapy trains nurses at the Leicester Royal infirmary to use aromatherapy oils to prepare patients for operations. That is an important category of treatment.
In respect of reflexology and spiritual healing, there are 14 different healing organisations in the country. Most of them are regulated by the Confederation of Healing Organisations. Those people treat terminally ill patients among others. Organisations such as the National Federation of Spiritual Healers do not even accept payment; it is a free service. It can help patients and augment doctors' work.
I have some problems with the third category in the report, because the House of Lords almost ran out of steam in its consideration of it. It included in the category of so-called questionable therapies Ayurvedic medicine from India and traditional Chinese medicine. It was a terrible mistake to suggest that neither of them is proven.
Ayurvedic medicine goes back 3,000 years. Of it it has been said:
I am astonished by the report's view of traditional Chinese medicine. Beijing university offers postgraduate courses in traditional Chinese medicine to doctors in London. There are about 60 universities across China. I shall give the Minister an early Christmas present--a House of Commons box of chocolates--if he can guess, with a margin of error of 10 million, how many patients in the world are treated with traditional Chinese medicine. I see that he is not going to rise to the Dispatch Box, so I shall tell him: 1 billion patients--between one fifth and one quarter of humanity--are treated with traditional Chinese medicine. However, the report from the other place states that the case for it is not proven. Traditional Chinese medicine has been around--and has been proved--for thousands of years.
Complementary medicine can help to treat patients with cancer. That subject is important in the House, which has three or four cancer groups. Yoga can help with cancer,
All the therapies listed in the Lords report, even crystal therapy, have validity. To finish, I shall quote Professor Karol Sikora, professor of international cancer medicine at Imperial college school of medicine, Hammersmith hospital. Speaking at a cancer care conference last week, he said that by 2020 all the complementary therapies would be integrated into the health service, alongside other therapies, and would be part of a formal care package offered by the national health service.
I think that patients will expect that from the doctors; the doctors will provide it. It is only a question of time. Either the Minister will ignore the issue of alternative and complementary medicine, in which case he will be overtaken by it, or he will swim with the current. I wish him well.