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Cross-Border Health Issues

3. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues about cross-border health issues. [146393]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alistair Darling): I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on a wide range of subjects.

Sir Nicholas Winterton : Unlike that answer, I would like to be helpful to the Government. The Secretary of

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State will be aware that the Labour Government supported—and many Scottish Members voted for—foundation hospitals for England, but that the Scottish Executive took a different decision. Should we not be seeking the provision of the best possible health care for all people of the United Kingdom? If foundation hospitals are supposed to provide that for the people of England, will he share with me the reason why the Scottish Executive reached a different decision and opposed foundation hospitals in Scotland?

Mr. Darling: They did so because they were entitled to take that decision. The whole point and consequence of devolution in Scotland, Wales and London is that it is open to the devolved bodies to take different decisions on devolved matters. That is a logical consequence of devolution, and it is why the Scottish Executive took that decision.

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the publication of Scotland's proposed sexual health strategy? While the number of people dying from AIDS in Scotland has been dramatically reduced, is he aware that those who survive face a growing threat from resistance to anti-HIV drugs? Will he encourage Ministers in the Department of Health to consult their Scottish counterparts on that and other HIV issues, not least because the number of people diagnosed with HIV in Scotland is again approaching record levels?

Mr. Darling: My right hon. Friend is right to raise a matter in which he has long taken an interest. It took people a long time to realise how serious HIV and AIDS were, especially in Scotland. It took longer than it should have done for people to realise that action needed to be taken. I know that both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and the Scottish Executive share the same concern. The last thing that we need is to become complacent about HIV and AIDS, because they are as much a threat now as they were all those years ago.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): The Secretary of State will be aware that Scotland is losing four out of 10 of its newly trained medical graduates. Does he think that that figure will increase or decrease when England secures better finance and resources for foundation hospitals?

Mr. Darling: Scottish universities get a higher portion of funding per head of population than universities in England at the moment. The big issue is to ensure that we get more funding into all universities, both north and south of the border. The Government have been increasing funding. The issue in relation to student finance in England is making the system fairer and getting rid of top-up fees up front—I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is against that. We must ensure that there is adequate funding for Scotland and England over a long period. We have found over the years that other countries have done better than us. The people who oppose the legislation that we shall discuss in the House shortly must ask themselves how they would get

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more money into higher education. The hon. Gentleman does not have an answer for Scotland, and he certainly does not have an answer for elsewhere.

Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of my constituents travel to Cumbria, and Carlisle in particular, to avail themselves of both basic and specialist NHS treatment? Is it not the duty of every hon. Member to participate in debates and vote on a truly national health service for the entire UK?

Mr. Darling: We are all Members of the House and we vote as we think appropriate. I was interested by an article that appeared today in The Scotsman. The Conservative spokesman on Scotland seems to take the same view, because I note that he voted for the Mersey Tunnels Bill. It is difficult to conceive how that legislation could possible affect Scotland. He also voted for the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill. The article reports that he said in mitigation that

He should have looked at the short titles of those Bills, because it was clear to everyone else exactly what they referred to.

Fishing Industry

4. Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): When he last met representatives of the Scottish fishing industry to discuss the Scottish fishing industry. [146394]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire): I regularly meet representatives of a wide range of organisations in Scotland, and I keep in close touch with developments affecting the Scottish fishing industry.

Mr. Salmond : We all wish the Scottish Fisheries Minister, Ross Finnie, well in his present medical condition. Last Thursday, however, he said that the fishing deal in Brussels had an "unintended consequence" and he might have to go back to Brussels to change parts of it. The deal is vital for the survival of the white fish fleet in Scotland, so can the Minister tell us whether the Secretary of State for Scotland will give Mr. Finnie his full support as a Cabinet Minister and participate in those discussions?

Mrs. McGuire: I echo the hon. Gentleman in wishing Ross Finnie well for his forthcoming operation. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House send him their best wishes.

My understanding is that Ross Finnie said that he was prepared to look with the fishing industry at the issues that it raised about the Fisheries Council decision and that, where possible, he would consider ways of investigating some of the issues that it raised about the practicality of the new fishing regime. The Fisheries Council decision gave Scottish fisheries in particular an increased quota, which the hon. Gentleman has been demanding of our negotiations for many months. In fact, we now have an increase in the haddock quota of

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66 per cent. It is disappointing that, in making what may be valid representations on behalf of his constituents, he has not welcomed the fact that we came out of tough negotiations with an increased haddock quota—the very thing that he has been demanding for months.

Mr. Calum MacDonald (Western Isles) (Lab): It is correct that there was a significant and welcome increase in the haddock quota and a breakthrough establishing the twin principles of decoupling and spatial management. The Minister will know that there is some concern about the operation of the cod box, which is a designated area north of the Hebrides in which cod fishing is banned. However, we have ended up with a ban on all fishing in that area, including pelagic fishing and the potting of crab. The Minister will know from her own family experience of the crab industry that it is not particularly easy to catch a cod in a crab pot, so the cod box may need to be adjusted. Will she take that on board and raise it in discussions with her colleague, the Scottish Fisheries Minister?

Mrs. McGuire: I should say for the sake of clarification that I do not moonlight as a lobster or crab fisherman, but my hon. Friend is right that I have some knowledge from family associations of the fishing industry and the difficulties experienced by fishermen who go out in all kinds of weather to catch the fish that we like to eat. I accept the point that he made, and I am sure that similar representations were made last week to Ross Finnie, who has given a commitment to look at such issues.

Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale) (Con): Will the Minister confirm one positive benefit to Scots fishermen accruing from 30 years' membership of the common fisheries policy?

Mrs. McGuire: If that is a coded question about whether I think we should withdraw from the European Union, I am afraid that I am not going to fall for that bait no matter how attractively it is packaged. I remind the hon. Gentleman, his colleagues and people who criticise the common fisheries policy—we all have our criticisms of the CFP—that had it not been in place, we would have had to reach an international agreement about how we manage fishery stocks, particularly in the North sea and around our coast. I hope that he at least has the courtesy to recognise that we came out of those negotiations with a better deal than anything that was ever negotiated by his party.

Mr. Duncan: We did not do very well with that question. Is the Minister aware of comments by the Scottish Executive, who said that the objectives of the December Council had been achieved, including

Does she recognise those outcomes and, given her family acquaintance with the subject, would she invest in a fishing boat today?

Mrs. McGuire: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not willing to face the reality. The difficulty that must be balanced by our Fisheries Ministers at Westminster and in Scotland and the European Union is that there is a

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conservation issue, as well as a fishing issue. I am deeply sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not willing to recognise that one of the challenges that we face in managing our fisheries is how we conserve them so that there will be a future for the fishing industry and for fishing communities, including members of my own family, across the whole of Scotland.

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