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Dr. Fox: That is an important point and I am sure that you will have taken note of it, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the smaller parties that would like to have their say.

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The whole debate is an insult to patients in England; it is an insult to the House itself. The contempt it reveals in the Prime Minister's regard for the House shows that the House of Commons has become little more than Downing street in Parliament.

1.12 pm

Mr. Michael Weir (Angus): I shall be relatively brief, as I do not want to eat into the time.

We in the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru also oppose the programme motion, but for different reasons. The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) said that the measure does not impact on Scotland and Wales; indeed, this morning, I heard an hon. Member say on the radio that the Scots should keep their noses out of English business. In fact, however, significant parts of the Bill will directly affect Scotland and significant parts will have secondary effects in Scotland, including the provisions on foundation hospitals.

We believe that much more time is needed to debate the full implications of the establishment of foundation hospitals in England for health service provision in both Scotland and Wales. For example, the programme motion could give as little as two and a half hours fully to debate the implications of foundation hospitals, and although clause 1 states that foundation hospitals will be only in England, there is increasing concern in both Scotland and Wales that there could be severe knock-on effects on health service provision owing to the operation of the Barnett formula.

Scottish and Welsh health care is funded from the block grant, which is driven by Barnett consequentials, based on English funding for services devolved to Scotland and Wales. Although the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Government decide what proportion of the block is spent on health care, the extent to which the size of the overall block is affected may affect the choices open to them.

We do not believe that the timetable motion gives enough time for a full debate on that issue. Wider debate, involving the Treasury as well as the Department of Health, is required on the whole funding issue.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): Ours is a national health service and the whole kingdom has been proud of it over the years. Because there is movement across borders, it is important that we look at the measure in greater depth than is proposed today.

Mr. Weir: I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. The proposals for foundation hospitals give rise to serious issues that affect Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For those reasons, we need more time to debate the measure both on Report and on Third Reading than has been provided under the programme motion, so we oppose it.

1.15 pm

Dr. Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest): As one of the unwhippable Members to whom the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) referred, I speak on behalf of many ordinary people who are amazed and concerned that we are given

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only eight hours to discuss this extremely important Bill. Other right hon. and hon. Members have pointed out the limited number of hours for each item.

What makes it worse is that we have been presented with so much new information in the last 24 hours. The paper on the GP contract has 53 pages. The response to the Select Committee on Health report on foundation trusts, which amazingly came out only yesterday, two months after the report was published, contains a further 30 pages. The Bill is so vast that only a small proportion of it will be covered today.

May I remind the House of an old proverb? My book claims that it is an English proverb, but it would be close to the hearts of Scottish people, too. It is:

Wilful waste of parliamentary time on less important issues has led to a woeful want of time to debate all the vital issues raised by the Bill.

1.16 pm

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): I have some sympathy for the remarks of the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) about the consequences of devolution, but I have complete sympathy with, and subscribe wholeheartedly to, the rest of his views on the programme motion.

Part of the reason for our despair at the short time for the debate is that it is difficult to hold a proper and wide debate in Committee of issues such as foundation trusts when none of the Committee's members share the strongly held views of the Labour Members who have tabled so many of the amendments. All their concerns have to be expressed and all their points made on Report, where time is always limited, rather than in Committee. Even so, it seems astonishing that such a Bill should be allocated only one day on Report. Indeed, when I heard that the new proposals on the GP contract would be dealt with only on Report I thought that we should need three days rather than two, so to find that only one day had been provided was a bitter disappointment, not only to those of us, on both sides of the House, who want to scrutinise the Government's proposals, but also to our electors who expect us to do that job.

The part of the Bill that deals with the future and independence of the quality inspectorate is even more important than the provisions on foundation hospitals. Despite representations from the Liberal Democrats in the Standing Committee and in the Programming Sub-Committee, we did not reach many of those clauses in Committee, even though, compared with other Committees on which I have served, we made brisk progress. Indeed, a whole section on the social services inspectorate was not covered at all. Under the timetable, it is extremely unlikely that we shall reach the clauses on the inspection of children's services and social care.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Given that there is no desperate urgency about the passage of the Bill, and that the programme motion provides for less than one minute to be devoted to debate on each new clause and amendment relating to foundation hospitals, can the hon. Gentleman think of any reason for the programme

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motion other than a desire on the part of the Government to limit to an absolute minimum the opportunity for their Back Benchers to excoriate them?

Dr. Harris: The hon. Gentleman's suggestion is the favourite runner. There may be other reasons, but I have heard none more persuasive.

The new clauses on the GP contract are also of concern. Presumably, they were prepared on the assumption that GPs would support a contract that they had negotiated, before the realisation that someone had got their sums wrong so the contracts would have to be renegotiated and the ballot postponed. One has to ask why we were presented with the new clauses on the Order Paper only yesterday and why, uniquely, a letter dated 3 July and sent to hon. Members by internal post arrived only yesterday. That is a technique that many students use with the essays; they date them long before they post them.

I should have thought that we would be given more time to consider such serious issues and to suggest amendments. Indeed, the only amendment that has been selected to those new clauses is, of necessity, starred. I suppose that I am grateful that it has been selected at all, but hon. Members have not been given time to consider those new clauses. In effect, we will have no real scrutiny of those new clauses.

The Government have to understand that the impact of our failure to give proper scrutiny to those new clauses in this House makes it much more likely not only that the other House will despair of the ability of this House to hold the Executive to account, but that the Lords will feel it incumbent on them to do so, and I would support them if they considered that factor.

If we could debate and divide on some of those measures, the Government's objection to being held up in the House of Lords might have more merit, but their failure to provide the House with the ability to scrutinise gives more power to the arm of those in the House of Lords who desire to ensure that adequate scrutiny takes place. So I join the hon. Member for Woodspring in being appalled at the short time that we have been given to debate these serious matters.

1.21 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I do not always agree with the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), but I agree with everything that he said in his brief speech. I am appalled that we have such a short time to debate the Bill, and I would have hoped that the Secretary of State for Health would be appalled too. He was beginning to show the House that he was a robust defender of the House's privileges, when he was Leader of the House, all too briefly. He was beginning to show the House that he understood the importance of holding the Government to account. He was beginning to show the House that he really believed that legislation should be properly scrutinised and thoroughly debated before passing on to the statute books. He was beginning to show the House that he thought that this House, as well as the House of Lords—the other place—should debate things thoroughly, with care and diligence.

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After 10 short weeks, the right hon. Gentleman was translated into a new job, and he seems to have forgotten all the principles that he was beginning so impressively to embrace. I find that deeply distressing because he is now party to an exercise that is an insult to each of our constituents—frankly, Mr. Speaker, it is an insult to you too—because the House is not being given an adequate opportunity to debate a measure that directly or indirectly affects the lives of each of our constituents. That is monstrous. The Government's distortion of priorities is shown by the fact that, just over a week ago, we spent a whole day on fox hunting, time which could have been devoted far more properly and profitably to this measure, which touches the lives of our constituents far more than fox hunting does.

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