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So Hertfordshire and my constituency have been victims of over-enthusiastic electioneering. We are now
left with the Lister hospital and Watford. We were led to believe that if the hospital in Hatfield did not go ahead, which is the case, Watford general would receive some additional investment. We thought that that would be more than £300 million.
Mr. Walker: We thought that it would be £350 million, but we now hear that it could be well below £300 million. That decision was taken without consultation or any warning. It was just announced at a meeting. That is giving us all cause for great concern. The Lister hospital has fantastic staff and they do an excellent job within the resources that they have, but the Lister hospital too is looking tired. There are problems with the infrastructure and structure there, so investment is needed.
This type of electioneering, whether it is done by the Labour party or even the Conservative party, does bring politicians into disrepute. We really must not promise, for short-term political gain, things that we cannot deliver or have no intention of delivering.
That brings me to the funding of the NHS. Only recently a gentleman in his early 50s, a police officer, came to my surgery. He has secondary bowel cancer. He, his wife and his family are desperate to get him a treatment made by the pharmaceutical company Merk, to help stem the spread of that cancer and perhaps give him a future. That drug is not provided on the NHS; one has to get it privately and it costs between £20,000 and £25,000. There are more of these drugs in the pipeline. I hope that the House will agree that this is a serious point: I am concerned that no matter how much goodwill there is in this Chamber for the future funding of the NHS, the NHS within its current structure and current confines will not be able to find the resources to provide those drugs. It is incumbent on the great brains on the Labour side of the House and the great, huge brains on the Opposition side of the House to provide this country with an NHS that can meet the demands of an increasingly sophisticated user group. And perhaps, in doing that, we need to have more cross-party discussions on the best way of providing these health services to all our constituents, regardless of which constituencies we represent.
I am concerned, but also interested, to hear that there is to be a mental health Bill. I am interested to hear that because mental health is of huge importance to me and my constituents. We have an excellent mental health trust within Hertfordshire, which has seen its resources diminished over the past year. It had to make a £6 million saving last year and it will have to make a similar saving next year. I do understand that within the area of mental health there is an argument for reducing the number of hospital beds and transferring services into the community to destigmatise mental illness, but I am concerned that in our county, St. Julians ward in St. Albans is being closed while at the same time we are reducing services in the community; so we are getting a lose/lose situation as
opposed to a lose/win situation. I hope that the mental health Bill will reaffirm the Governments commitment to providing first class mental health services, because there is some concern in Broxbourne that they are being run down and that they will not be able to meet peoples expectation.
On the issue of mental health, like many Members, I have seen some tragic cases that I find very moving, particularly in the area of schizophrenia. There are families who are at their wits end when a loved onea child, a mother, a father, a son or a daughteris suffering from that disease. When I look at my children, I think, if they are going to get an illness, please God do not let it be schizophrenia, because for many it is a life sentence. It is an illness that never leaves and, at best, can be controlled. For that reason, I hope that we can work collectively, as politicians, to destigmatise that awful illness.
I missed some of the speech from my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), but in the 10 minutes that I caught he made some powerful points. Although, of course, we have an obligation to protect the public, the last thing that we want to do is lock up people with an illness, with no hope of getting out, meaning that they lose all hope of having a future. That would be a huge sadness to me and I could not countenance ever supporting it.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: I have taken a particular interest in this area. Is my hon. Friend aware that many who suffer from schizophrenia benefit hugely from the therapy of a mental hospital? That is because of the serenity, the quietness, the tranquillity and the security of a hospital that specialises in the treatment of schizophrenia. It is a critical disease. We do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and close all those wonderful hospitals that do such an excellent job.
Mr. Walker: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I am totally opposed to the institutionalisation of people with an illness, but there again, those hospitals provide specialist and loving support. There are nurses, doctors and other staff dedicated to getting sufferers of schizophrenia on the road to recovery.
David Wright (Telford) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need flexible living settings for people who have mental health problems? We need a range a providers and partnersfor example, housing associations and health bodiesto work with us to get those. We need flexible settings so that some people can go back into a hospital environment for a limited time, when they need to, and then out into independent living when they are able to cope with that.
Mr. Walker: I take the hon. Gentlemans point. In my constituency, there is an excellent charity called Working Together, which provides facilities to help people reintegrate into the community. If someone has had a serious episode of schizophrenia, they cannot just go back to living on their own, but they may not want to be in a hospital. The charity provides an intermediate service: for example, sheltered accommodation in a flat, where, if things get on top of someone, they can get the support that they require to ensure that they do not relapse.
I hope that there is consensus across the House that, when dealing with the illness of schizophrenia we will put the sufferer foremost in our mind. With that, I shall conclude. I have plenty more to say, but I am sure that we will have a wide-ranging debate on the Second Reading of the mental health Bill, which I believe is being published today. I am sure that many Members will want to be in the Chamber at that time to show their support for people with mental health suffering. When we talk about mental health in our constituencies or at functions that we attend, people come up to us quietly to say, Thank you so much for speaking about mental health. It means so much to us because we get so little support and we feel that there is so little support out there for our family and the people who are suffering within our family.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): It is a great pleasure to take part in the debate on the Queens Speech. I am grateful that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills is in his place, because I am going to say something nice about him. I wish him well in his leadership, or deputy leadership, bid. I lose track of what is going on, because there are so many candidates going for so many positions, but I wish him well, none the less. I congratulate him on his rapid U-turn over proposals that faith schools should take in 25 per cent. non-faith pupils. He listened to what my constituents and no doubt many others were saying. Certainly in the case of Ribble Valley, those schools are not broken, so there is nothing to fix. I am grateful that he listened carefully to what pupils, MPs and parents had to say on that issue.
I am sad to say that I was not in the Chamber for the speech from the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones), but many Members have spoken about how good it was. It must have been good for her to get a supper invitation from my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker)even I have not had such an invitation yet. I am always one for a free supper, so it was clearly a good speech. I, too, look forward to seeing the contents of the mental health Bill; this is a Cinderella illness for too many people.
As my hon. Friend knows, there were three large mental institutions in my constituency, but there is now only one medium-sized one. Although the old Victorian institutions were clearly not fit for purpose for the 21st century, care in the community, as it is called, does not fit everybody either. We need to be more flexible about our provision for people with mental illnesses.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (David Tredinnick) that the Queens Speech was overloaded. There is a lot in it. I wonder why the Prime Minister felt it necessary to pack the Queens Speech so full of legislation when he will stand down at some stage next year and it will be for someone else to consider what sort of programme there should be. We do not know how much of the Queens Speech will be taken forward [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst):
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but far too many sedentary exchanges are going on. They are
disturbing the person who is trying to address the House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be given a fairer hearing.
Let us consider education in the round. One provision in the Queens Speech is on help with off-peak travel being given to pensioners and disabled people. I welcome that because there are problems to be addressed, but youngsters, especially in rural areas such as Ribble Valley, have faced a huge hike in their bus fares to go from where they live to school. If such journeys are free, that is fine, but not everyone lives within the designated three-mile distance. Such fare hikes, which are particularly felt by rural parents, force people to re-examine how they get their youngsters to school. Many parents are being forced to transport their children themselves. If people have more than one child, the increases are huge.
The Government stressed the importance of education, education, education, but it should be considered in the round. That includes getting youngsters from where they live to school. I hope that the legislation will be such that it will assist young people to get from home to school.
Earlier in the year, the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), as part of his bid for the deputy leadership, said that he was going to attack all the remaining grammar schools in this country. That is doubtless populist, and red meat for Labour Members, but it is not goodit is certainly not welcomed by my constituents. Ribble Valley contains Clitheroe royal grammar school, which is a fine school. I hope that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills includes it on one of his visits to the north-west, along with some of our other good schools that are not grammar schools. It is all about diversity of choice. The last thing that the pupils of that fine school and their parents want is for it to be under attack for party political reasons.
Mr. Walker: My hon. Friend refers to the wish of a right hon. Member to get rid of grammar schools. Is that the same right hon. Member who wants to bring in a supertax on people in the City, who generate wealth and pay tax on it?
Mr. Evans: It might well be. I suspect that a lot of red meat will be thrown towards the Labour Benches over the coming months. We must look to see what is good in education and preserve and improve it. The last thing that we would want to do with the fine grammar schools that we have in this country is to junk them. What has happened in Northern Ireland is a complete disgrace, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills will give us an assurance that grammar schools will be preserved.
I shall move on to the health service. I am chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Associations virtual HIV working group. As I am sure Ministers know, in the past 10 years, the incidence of HIV/AIDS
has increased dramatically throughout the world, especially in Commonwealth countries, and in the United Kingdom within the past few years the incidences of HIV infection and AIDS have quadrupled. That has to be a cause of concern.
The Secretary of State for Health told us that we were to have a £50 million advertising campaign on sexually transmitted diseases, but then nothing happened until just this week, when a £4 million television and radio campaign, which I believe has already started, was announced. That is chickenfeed compared with the £50 million that was to be spent. When sexually transmitted diseases are spreading as they are in this country, surely the right thing to do is to ensure that we have a good advertising campaign. Prevention is better than cure. I hope that the Government will carefully consider that. I understand that the £4 million campaign is hard hitting, which is the right approach if we are to get the message across, but let us consider how to make that message more effective. When the Government promise that they will spend £50 millionand get a headline for doing sobut then do nothing and only belatedly spend £4 million, that is not good enough.
Tim Loughton: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Is that not another example of the Government simply latching on to one high-profile area? The Government have touted the very slim fall in teenage pregnancies that was achieved after a lot of money was spent on tackling that problem, but the incidence of STDs has rocketed, with 100,000 cases of chlamydia for example. We are simply trading one problem for another that might be even worse.
Mr. Evans: I agree. It is a false economy: it will cost far more if STDs continue to spread at the present rate while we try to hide that increase behind other statistics and pretend to ourselves that the situation is not so bad. It clearly is bad and worsening, and we need to tackle it through a proper and effective campaign.
We have heard today about the skills of workers in the NHS. We value the work of the nurses, doctors and ancillary staff in the NHSmy goodness me, it costs a lot of money to train them and we should value them. However, in the last Session we were all visited by a number of physiotherapists who came to lobby Parliament, and I am sure that some of us have since received messages from them about their campaign. This year, 2,900 people will train as physiotherapists, but 93 per cent. of them will not get a job. That is clearly ridiculous when we have made a massive investment of millions of pounds in their training.
Will any Member present tell me that we do not need more physiotherapists in the national health service? It is clear that we do. If we train people as physiotherapists, we must use them. It is another false economy to train physiotherapists but not to give them jobs. If we fail to do that, those fully trained people will look abroad for work. That cannot be right.
Mike Penning: Is it not also ethically and morally wrong to build up those young people and train them so that they have great expertise, but then knock them down after they have done such excellent work in training?
Mr. Evans: That is correct. They are dedicated people who want to work in the health servicethey want to give care to people. People who are in need of physiotherapy live in constant pain [ Interruption. ] My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) points to himself; no doubt he has received valuable care from physiotherapists. To raise the expectations of young people who are trained at great cost, only tell them at the end of their training that there is no job for them, is wrong, especially when they know that there is a job to be done. That must be agonising and incredibly frustrating for them.
Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I sympathise with the hon. Gentlemans argument, but is he aware that we are approaching the point at which PCTs do not have enough money to bid for university places for future health workers? We are facing boom followed by bust, which will have a serious long-term impact.
Mr. Evans: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We all know what happens during the bust phase. It is another example of false economy, as agency nurses will be brought in at a much greater cost, so the Government are not saving any money. We know why primary care trusts are acting in the way that they do: it is because they have amassed huge debts and are looking for front-line services to cut, but clearly that is not right. We are talking about the national health service, and we want to make sure that there is proper provision in all parts of it.
Dentistry was mentioned earlier, and one of my constituents, Pearl Miller, wrote to me to ask why she cannot find an NHS dentist. She has been told that she will have to wait many months while the NHS finds one, because the reality is that there are none. The Government have been in power for almost 10 years, and in that time they should have ensured that sufficient numbers of dentists were trained, so that dentistry could remain part of the national health service. In effect, it has been privatised through the back door, by stealth. If only the Government would come to grips with that. I hope that when they talk about modernising the national health service, they will look fully at every aspect of it, including physiotherapists and dentistry, because that is important.
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