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Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con):
Last week in north Northamptonshire, a series of health cuts was announced including, in the Labour marginal constituency of Corby, the closure of the minor injuries unit. Yesterday, that decision was reversed, and
we learned that the cuts would occur in the Wellingborough and Kettering constituenciestwo Conservative marginal seats. Is the Leader of the House able to investigate the matter?
Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman knows very well that the minor injuries department in Corby is remaining open. This stuff about there being some kind of political list is absolute nonsense. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will be perfectly happy to go through the whole list. It is complete nonsense. Moreover, the minor injuries unit in Corby does not have a rule that it can treat only people from Corby. The hon. Gentleman knows that very well. It shows the poverty of policy of the Conservative party that it has to resort to this kind of rubbish.
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): Following the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) for a debate on rural issues and farming, the problem is that the debate on the Queens Speech on environment, food and rural affairs will be so focused on the environment and climate change that our British farmers will not get a look in. We need a separate debate on dairy farmers and the crisis in dairy farming. I have dairy farmers in my constituency who are awaiting their payments from last year, which is absolutely unacceptable. If we do not do something about that, our country will not have a dairy industry in five years time.
Mr. Straw: I understand the hon. Gentlemans concern. I have farmers in my constituencydairy farmers and sheep farmers. Of course I am aware of the concerns of farmers across the country, and so, more particularly, is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He has been very forthcoming in making statements to the House. He made one just before prorogation and he will be here for the debate on Monday next. The debate may be dominated by concern about climate change, but that will not be the exclusive cover of the debate, and there is every reason why, if the hon. Gentleman feels strongly, as he does on this issue, he should question my right hon. Friend during the course of that debate.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP) rose
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am usually very keen to call the hon. Gentleman, but hon. Members must be in the Chamber to hear the Leader of the Houses statement in order to be called.
Mr. Secretary Hutton, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Alexander, Mr. Secretary Hewitt, Mr. Secretary Hain, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Straw, Ms Harman, Mr. Jim Murphy and Mrs. McGuire, presented a Bill to make provision about social security; to amend the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979; and for connected purposes: And
the same was read the First and Second time, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80A (Carry-over of bills) and Order [24 July], and stood committed to a Public Bill Committee in respect of clauses 34 to 69 and schedules 3 and 5 to 8. Bill to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 1].
Mr. Secretary Alexander, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Straw, Mr. Secretary Darling, Secretary Jowell, Secretary Miliband and Mr. Tom Harris, presented a Bill to make provision for a railway transport system running from Maidenhead, in the County of Berkshire, and Heathrow Airport, in the London Borough of Hillingdon, through central London to Shenfield, in the County of Essex, and Abbey Wood, in the London Borough of Greenwich; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First and Second time, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80A (Carry-over of bills) and Order [31 October], and stood committed to a Select Committee. Bill to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 2].
Secretary Jowell, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Hain, Secretary Kelly, Mr. Secretary Hutton, Mr. Secretary Alexander, Ms Harman, Mr. Woodward and Margaret Hodge, presented a Bill to make provision about the disclosure of certain information for purposes connected with digital switchover: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday next; and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 3].
Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Hain, Mr. Secretary Alexander, Mr. Timms, Dawn Primarolo, John Healey, Ed Balls and Margaret Hodge, presented a Bill to confer power on the Financial Services Authority to disallow excessive regulatory provision by recognised investment exchanges and clearing houses; and for connected
purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday next, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 4].
Secretary John Reid, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Hutton, Hazel Blears and Mr. Sutcliffe, presented a Bill to create a new offence that, in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, is to be called corporate manslaughter and, in Scotland, is to be called corporate homicide; and to make provision in connection with that offence: And the same was read the First and Second time pursuant to Standing Order No. 80A (Carry-over of bills) and Order [10 October], and to be considered on Monday next. Bill to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 5].
Secretary John Reid, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Beckett, Ms Secretary Hewitt, the Solicitor-General and Joan Ryan, presented a Bill to make amendments of and in relation to section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday next, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 6].
Mr. Secretary Hain, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary John Reid, Secretary Des Browne, Mr. Hanson and Ms Harman, presented a Bill to make provision for preparations for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland in accordance with the St Andrews Agreement; to make provision as to the consequences of compliance, or non-compliance, with the St Andrews Agreement timetable; to amend the Northern Ireland Act 1998; to make provision about district policing partnerships; to amend the Education (Northern Ireland) Orders 1997 and 2006; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday next, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 7].
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [15 November],
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign.
We, Your Majestys most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both House of Parliament[ Alun Michael.]
The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): It is a great pleasure to open todays debate on health and education.
A few weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills and I visited the Sure Start childrens centre in Church street, Westminster. We met Jo White and some of her outstanding team of health visitors, child care workers and therapists working in this inner-city estate in a community that is so ably represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck). In 1997, there were no Sure Start childrens centres; today, there are 1,000, and by the end of 2010, 3,500 will be transforming childrens lives. Opportunity and security in action is the central theme of this Queens Speechthe 10th consecutive Labour Queens Speech.
I thank all the dedicated staff who work in our education and health services. We can see the improvements in our own constituencies and in communities all around the country. There is now a nursery place for every three and four-year-old whose parents want it; nine years ago, there were very few. Child care places have doubled, literacy and numeracy standards are up, the number of failing schools is down, and more young people are getting good GCSEs than ever before.
The NHS is treating more patients faster and better than ever before. In the past 12 months alone, cancer treatment has been transformed. A year ago, for most cancers, one person in three of those urgently by referred by their GP with suspected cancer had to wait more than two months for tests, diagnosis, out-patient appointments and the start of treatment. Today, almost 95 out of 100 such people are diagnosed and start their treatment within 62 days. That has happened because of the outstanding work of NHS staff300,000 more NHS staff than there were in 1997. It has happened because we set a targeta target that the Conservatives have said they would abolish. It has happened because a Labour Government have been willing to investwith, by 2008, education budgets doubled and health
investment trebledand because, in health as in education, we have matched investment with improvement and reform.
David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): That may be the case for cancer services, but is the right hon. Lady aware that since the changes to primary care trusts cuts have been made in some NHS-provided services such as acupuncture and homeopathy? Does she recognise that her Department has provided no framework for delivery, nor any guidance of any kind? Will she be kind enough to allow me to come to her with a small delegation to discuss these issues?
Ms Hewitt: I will of course ensure that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are seen by me or by one of my ministerial colleagues. His area has more funding than ever before, and the local NHS, in consultation with local people, needs to decide how best to spend that money. We have asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, as it considers treatments for a different range of conditions, to take into account the contribution that acupuncture, homeopathy or other complementary therapies can make.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): The right hon. Lady and I share the same general hospitals in Leicester. Two days ago, I spoke to a man in his 30s in Leicestershireour own countywho has an embarrassing and painful problem. Eighteen months ago, he was told by his GP that he had to have a circumcision and was referred. On Tuesday, he went for his pre-op medical. How can that be described as speedy treatment in Leicestershire?
Ms Hewitt: I am not aware of the circumstances behind that case, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has taken it up with the University Hospitals of Leicester trust. I am sure, too, that he would wish to recognise that when his party was in government, people waited more than 18 months for the operation after they had been put on the operation list, whereas now the maximum is just six months. There have been real improvements that he and his party are not willing to acknowledge.
Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): The extra investment in the local health economy in Stockport has meant that my constituents are waiting only weeks for operations for which they used to wait years. It does not become the Conservatives to fail to acknowledge the huge investment in health. Does my right hon. Friend agree that PCTs must be able to invest in community services and public health initiatives, as investment in those areas can often prevent hospital admissions?
Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend is right on both points. Medical technology now enables hospitals to work in completely different waysday case surgery is an example of that. It is also possible to move many treatments and out-patient appointments into the community, which means that we need fewer beds and sometimes fewer staff in some of the acute hospitals, and that we can provide better and much more convenient care to patients close to their homes.
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): Before the Secretary of State gets too carried away discussing waiting list comparisons with her hon. Friends, I should remind her of what I was told in reply to a parliamentary question on 8 November when I asked what percentage of patients on in-patient waiting lists were seen within six months in each year, going back to 1990. In 1997-98, 85 per cent. of patients were treated within six months. In 2004-05the last year for which data were availablethe figure was 87 per cent. Perhaps the right hon. Lady would like to comment on that.
Ms Hewitt: I am not sure what point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. The latest figureshospital by hospital and area by areaas he knows, show that whereas thousands of people used to wait more than 18 months, then more than 12 months and then more than six months for their operations, almost nobody now waits more than six months for an operation. I readily acknowledge that much more remains to be done. There are new challenges to face and peoples expectations are rising. People want public services to give them more personal services. Education and health services should be built on the needs of different individuals instead of people having to fit around the needs of the system.
Ms Hewitt: Let me make a little more progress.
We have been discussing waiting lists. We have cut the waiting time for elective operations, hip replacements and so on from more than 18 months under the Conservatives to a maximum of six months and, for most people, far less. By the end of 2008, we will have cut waiting times from 18 months [Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. I ask hon. Members to allow the Secretary of State to make her speech. It is unfair that Opposition Front Benchers sometimes pose questions to the right hon. Lady but do not listen to the answers.
Ms Hewitt: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. By the end of 2008, we will have cut waiting times from 18 months for an operation to a maximum of 18 weeksfar less for most peoplefrom GP referral to the operating theatre, including all the tests and the out-patient appointments in between. Of course, that means more change and that is not easy. For most patients and most operations, it will mean the end of waiting lists as we have known them. What an achievement that will be for the 60th anniversary of the national health service.
Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab):
Will my right hon. Friend help me to resolve an impasse in Staffordshire? The health authority has told the ambulance trust to stop the magnificent community first responders administering 13 drugs, procedures and medicines when they are first on the scene of serious injuries and illnesses. All Staffordshire Members have asked by what authority the responders cannot administer the drugs. I have personally written to the health authority, the Department and the regulatory authority, and that seems to have thrown them all into confusion. May we have a definitive
reason why the community first responders cannot administer those important procedures?
Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend refers to the work of community first responders, who do a wonderful job in Staffordshire and many other parts of the country in helping to save the lives of thousands of people. However, the drugs to which he refers include controlled drugs. A question has arisen in Staffordshire about whether the community first responders have the legal authority to administer the drugs. The appropriate authorities are examining the matter and a decision will be made as quickly as possible to ensure that community first responders administer drugs in an emergency in full accordance with the laws that are designed to protect patient safety.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware of discussions between Telford and Wrekin borough council, the Shropshire County primary care trust, the Telford and Wrekin primary care trust and the Royal Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals NHS trust about the £20 million debt in respect of maternity, paediatric and neonatal services? If she is aware of them, will she tell the House whether the borough councils saying that it will help out with that debt will mean a sharp rise in council tax for the people of Telford and Wrekin, and, indeed, in Shropshire generally? Is it not time that the Government recognised that people pay their national taxes and deserve good services for it? They do not expect to suffer from yet another hike in next years council tax increases.
Ms Hewitt: I am somewhat flabbergasted by the hon. Gentlemans point. I am certainly aware of the overspending that has been going on in the NHS in his areaoverspending that needs to be brought under control by making the local NHS more efficient and effective, giving patients better care with more effective use of resources so that they do not take money from other NHS services in other parts of the country. I am not aware of the proposal made by the hon. Gentlemans local council, but it appears to be a constructive proposal aimed at helping to protect services in the short term. The hon. Gentleman seems to be against that; no doubt he has told his constituents so, but I am sure that this issue should be resolved locally.
Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD) rose
Ms Hewitt: Before I give way again, I should like to make a little more progress.
We have been discussing the issue of faster treatment, which is vital, but is only one element in a better national health service. For far too long [Interruption.]
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab) rose
Ms Hewitt: I shall give way to the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb) on waiting times, and then I shall give way to my hon. Friend.
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