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8 Jan 2003 : Column 173—continued


12.31 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to debate an important matter that requires specific and urgent consideration, namely

This three-minute application is certainly not the occasion to parade my own passionately held views. Instead, it reflects requests yesterday from Members in all parts of the House, including the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) at column 27 and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) at column 31, that the House of Commons should have an opportunity seriously to consider the many important issues that were mentioned by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister today and the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday.

For example, we should consider the whole issue of the threat to neighbours by Iraq and the whole issue of effects on the wider Islamic world. We may rue the consequences of going to war, which may be as rueful as those suggested by Ministers in other contexts. We should consider the whole issue of international law and the moral basis on which forces are being sent. We should consider the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency and precisely what the position of a report from the inspectors will amount to.

We should also consider what is meant by non-compliance at any time. For example, we should consider the effect on world oil prices and the whole

8 Jan 2003 : Column 174

issue of the requirement for reserves. Indeed, we should consider the issues raised by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) of the effect on hospitals and the health service of taking doctors as reserves. That is only one of many, many questions.

I come to the crucial issues. Let us suppose that British and American armour gets to Baghdad, what will happen then? Is it contemplated that a regime will be set up under General Tommy Franks along the lines of that set up under Douglas MacArthur all those years ago in Japan?

I have only three minutes to make my point, but we should consider the very crucial question that was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Lyons) yesterday. If the United Nations decides to take no military action against Iraq, will British troops join American troops in invading Iraq? The House of Commons needs to explore such issues.

I passionately believe that if we send British troops to risk their lives, they are entitled to know that it is the settled and overwhelming conviction of their countrymen that their cause is just and that they are doing something that is urgent for Britain. That settled conviction does not exist at the moment; only by a Commons debate can such a conviction be arrived at.

Mr. Speaker: I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman and I have to give my decision without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter that he raises is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24. I cannot therefore submit the application to the House.

8 Jan 2003 : Column 173

8 Jan 2003 : Column 175

Point of Order

12.35 pm

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 1 February last year I wrote to the Secretary of State for Health requesting his assistance with handling constituency issues. I asked whether the Department of Health had a diagram or spreadsheet to show what was happening with health service reforms, who was responsible for each aspect of health care and to whom we should address any problems on behalf of our constituents. I said that such a document would be helpful for us all. In December, I received a reply from the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, dated 25 November 2002, a considerable time after I first wrote. I will not reprise for the benefit of the House the stream of verbiage in the Under-Secretary's letter, although you, Mr. Speaker, will have seen it. There was no response to my specific request for assistance, not only for me, but for all Members of the House.

There are two specific issues on which I would be grateful for your advice, Mr. Speaker. Is it acceptable for the Department of Health to take such an inordinate length of time to reply to hon. Members? Is it frankly acceptable for requests for assistance in how we manage complaints on behalf of our constituents to be dealt with in such a contemptuous manner, as you have seen in the terms of the letter?

Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order and for showing me the correspondence to which he refers. Members are entitled to prompt replies from Ministers that address the issues raised. In this case, the hon. Gentleman is entitled to feel disappointed on both counts. I have asked the Secretary of State to review the correspondence. [Hon. Members: XAnswer."] Order.


Health and Safety at Work (Offences)

Lawrie Quinn, supported by Mr. Tony Lloyd, Mr. Michael Clapham, Mr. Roy Beggs, Mr. Frank Doran, Mr. Richard Allan, Mr. Bob Laxton, Ian Stewart, Mr. Malcolm Savidge, Rob Marris, Mr. Andrew Dismore and Judy Mallaber, presented a Bill to make provision about the prosecution and punishment of offences which are, or are treated as being, offences under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 or the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 31 January, and to be printed. [Bill 37].

8 Jan 2003 : Column 176

Opposition Day

[1st Allotted Day]

Foundation Hospitals

Mr. Speaker: I must inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

12.38 pm

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): I beg to move,

If anyone had any doubts about the rising panic inside the Government because of their failure to deliver on health, they only had to read the report by Michael Barber, the head of the Prime Minister's delivery unit, in this morning's Financial Times. It says:

It goes on to say that the report

Most of us would drink to that.

There can be no clearer evidence of a split in the Government than to contrast Mr. Barber's report with early-day motion 351. He says that the report

Contrast that with early-day motion 351, which states:

It is signed by 109 Labour Members. The only real omission from the list is the person who is most in sympathy with those objections and most able to block the policy: the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has put obstructions in the way at every possible point.

The background to today's debate is what Labour promised before it was elected, and what it has done since. Three questions need to be asked. Have Labour's policies actually worked? Is the approach behind the policies correct? What needs to be done to address the

8 Jan 2003 : Column 177

situation? Everyone inside and outside the House will remember hearing, before 1997, Labour's great slogan, X24 hours to save the NHS"—but I doubt that any thinking member of the Labour party, or even the Prime Minister in his embryonic rampant egomania, believed that the NHS could be changed within 24 hours. What they meant was: when they were in office, those wicked Tories starved the NHS of money, and if we only throw more money at the system, everything will be all right.

The Labour Government have spent a lot of money—there is no doubt about that. In the past two years, real-terms spending on the NHS has increased by more than 20 per cent.—but there has been an increase of only 1.6 per cent. in finished consultant episodes, which is one of the main ways in which we measure hospital activity, and last year there was a 0.5 per cent. fall in the number of hospital admissions. The Prime Minister says that schools and hospitals are the priority, but if such a sum has gone into the NHS and activity levels have risen by only a fraction, what has gone wrong?

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