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The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon) is not exactly an objective observer on these matters. He refuses to acknowledge the systems benefits of archiving, networking and core infrastructure. He selectively marshals evidence that does not represent a true or balanced picture of the benefits of the system. He referred to Milton Keynes, but the local organisation in Milton Keynes refused help from both the strategic health authority and Connecting for Health. Since our intervention, many of the problems have been resolved and significant progress is now being made. The hon.
Gentleman also referred to questions about the iSoft group. The press statement on that issue that was released today is readily available.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) is an expert specialist in this area. He defined the characteristics and components that represent a good approach on the project management of the system. His main message was that he believed that best practice was being applied on the whole. He made it clear that he thought that the key was for the Government to hold their nerve. At this stage, it would be wrong to go into reverse on the project because that would have a damaging impact on the NHS and patient care.
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson) raised the question of the disposal of documents by the Office of Government Commerce. Of course, that has nothing to do with the Department of Health. Connecting for Health was fully submitted to the OGCs process of gateway rating and was given a green rating virtually every time. The hon. Gentleman also talked about escalating costs, but every time that the programme has been examined independently and objectively, it has been acknowledged that, on the whole, the programme is on budget and not in overspend. I would have thought that he would welcome that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller) talked about the vested interests that sometimes apply when opposition is articulated against the project. He also referred to the motivation of some individuals with a common view about the use of technology to improve public services. That view is out of date. If we truly want to provide responsive, modernised and person-centred public services in a modern world, advanced technology and the sharing of information and data are absolutely crucial.
Paul Farrelly: I welcome the investment in the NHS, not least because I hope that the Department will sign off on a new £400 million hospital for north Staffordshire in the next few days. However, I have by no means been uncritical of the IT system, and I have followed iSoft along with Ian Griffiths, a former colleague who has investigated its affairs. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a shame that the contributions from official Opposition Front Benchers were not as thoughtful as that of a Conservative Back Bencher, although he was critical, namely the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon)?
The Government have saved and repaired the national health service. However, our challenge is now its transformation. To achieve that, we need to use the full potential of modern scientific and technological advances so that we can make people better and save lives; provide health care closer to patients homes in a way that is tailored to individual needs; give patients maximum information, choice and control; empower doctors, nurses and other professionals so that they can offer world-class patient care; and tackle the health inequalities that are an affront to a civilised society. We need advance and progress that are rooted in the Governments principle that the NHS should be free at the point of use, irrespective of ability to pay, and
funded through general taxation. That principle is not negotiable with the Conservative party or any faction in the British Medical Association.
It is time to get rid of this Stalinist system and provide everybody in this country with access to the same level of high-quality health care, when they need it at no huge additional cost.
The way forward is compulsory insurance. It is up to the Conservative Party to think innovatively and radically about a health shake-up that will benefit all.
That is not the view of one, two, three or four Tory MPs, but of at least 28 Tory MPs known as the Cornerstone group. Perhaps it is not a case of a grammar school in every town but of a private insurance policy for every family. We look forward once again to the smack of firm leadership from the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) in dealing with his colleagues.
That this House recognises that a modern IT system is vital for delivering good healthcare; welcomes the NHS IT Programme which provides safer, faster and better healthcare for NHS patients, giving them more choice and control over their care; supports the objectives of modernising medical careers; further supports the aim of connecting over 30,000 GPs in England to almost 300 hospitals and giving patients access to their personal health and care information; congratulates the NHS on having already delivered 93 Picture Archiving and Communications Systems across the country including a 100 per cent. achievement in London, delivering faster results for patients; further congratulates the NHS for sending over 21 million electronic prescriptions so far, reducing inefficiencies and errors; welcomes the fact that over 85 per cent. of all GP practices have used Choose and Book to refer their patients to hospital and that almost 3.8 million Choose and Book bookings have been made so far, allowing patients to choose appointments that are at convenient times to fit in with their lives; and welcomes the news that approximately 1.2 million NHS employees now have access to the new broadband network N3.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): We now come to the second debate on the Opposition motions. I must inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
That this House notes with concern that since 1997 the competitiveness of the UK has fallen, that growth in productivity has slowed, that companies business investment and research and development spending as a proportion of GDP have declined, that the UK balance of trade is in record deficit, and that businesses are suffering under an increasing burden of regulation which especially harms smaller firms; is concerned at Government plans to close thousands of post offices, its recent clawback of the science budget to pay for the Rover enquiry, its failure to meet its energy policy goals, its inconsistent system of business support, the questionable focus and performance of Regional Development Agencies, and the failure of UK Trade and Investment effectively to promote British business abroad; and therefore calls for an improvement in the Department of Trade and Industrys leadership and enterprise culture to make it a stronger and more effective voice for business and for the United Kingdom.
We have initiated this debate for a number of reasons. One of them is that too infrequently does the House ever look at the overall picture of an entire Department. Over the past few months we have debated energy, the Post Office, and Select Committee reports, but we have never stopped to take an overall look at the functions and effectiveness of the entire Department. It is the purpose of todays debate to try to do that.
The attempt to take an overall look comes at a timely moment. With the inevitable series of changes that will follow the change of Prime Minister, there is likely to be upheaval in a number of Departments, reform, change and reallocation of responsibilitiesand the newspapers are full of rumours that the Department of Trade and Industry is under the spotlight. Many think that the Department is even fighting for its very existence, and that it may not be long for this world. It is important to take a step back and assess and evaluate the purpose and effectiveness of the Department.
The DTI does not enjoy a high reputation among many people who have to deal with it. It is easy to deride. Some describe it as the Department of tinkering and interference, or the Department of timidity and inaction. Behind that lies a difficult paradox, with which we all have to wrestle. In a world of globalisation where free markets are left to be free as much as possible, the interference from a Department should be minimal.
Over the years there have been extreme contrasts of approach, even among Conservatives. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) has taken the very words out of my mouth: Lord Heseltine, when he was President of the Board of Trade, said that he would intervene before breakfast, before lunch and before dinner. In contrast, the late Lord Ridley, as Nicholas Ridley, when he was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry saidI have to amend the quotation slightly in order to conform to the forms of the HouseWhats the DTI for? Ive got
damn all to do and thousands of staff to help me do it. He did not use the word damn.
I confess that I do not totally share the late Lord Ridleys utterly uncompromising laissez-faire approach. I am an unapologetic free market liberal, but that does not mean that there is not an important role for a Department of State that is a genuine champion of Britains interests and a champion of an enterprise culture in the country. There are real questions in the minds of many about whether the DTI is doing much good, or enough good; hence the rumours that the current Chancellor, the future Prime Minister, is likely to restructure it.
We should examine the Departments record, and one of the best ways of doing that is to turn to the Departments annual report. I was disappointed when I opened the report, which is a pretty shoddy document full of misprints. Indeed, I am surprised that the Secretary of State ever put his name to it. I am a complete apostrophe fascist, and my copy of the report is covered in red ink. I hope that the next report will be of a much higher standard. In addition to many thousands of misprints, in some cases paragraphs just come to an end. [ Interruption. ] The Minister for Science and Innovation has said that that is why they are paragraphs, but they should not end in the middle of the paragraph. Section 1.11 of the report reads:
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