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21 Feb 2008 : Column 177WH—continued

The hon. Member for Southport talked about common standards and specifications internationally. When we were looking at what goes on in Canada, we discussed the specifications. Canada has a lot of contact with our
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system, including Snowmed, which is one of the basic specifications that it uses too. We can assume, on that basis, that information could be exchanged across international boundaries in that respect. The Canadians told us, although we did not document these visits in the way that we would document an evidence-taking session in the House, that an international organisation is trying to establish common standards of measurements so that things can be transferred internationally.

The hon. Gentleman also said that GPs in Yorkshire and Humberside are being restricted in terms of what they can purchase. I was going to spring that on them, because they are coming down to give evidence to the Committee. They will read this and will now know that I am going to ask them about that: it is on my desktop and I will take it to the people who have been involved and ask them exactly what is happening. We were told that, effectively, there are seven systems at GP level now that they are able to buy into without being told which one to buy.

The hon. Gentleman has led a very sheltered life and has only been to Rotherham once. It is my home town, as it were, so I will have to get him over there more often.

The hon. Member for Romsey mentioned the press release from the NO2ID campaign in respect of clinical governance. I am sure that the RCN and everybody else would say, “Quite right, too”, because we should be improving and have best practice in the NHS. I have not seen the NO2ID press release—it has not sent it to me—but I know that it has been campaigning against this for a long time.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth says that my mind was made up in the debate on 6 June. However, I have to tell him that it was not. He read out a lot of recommendations from the Committee that were quite critical of the programme. Nothing I said on that day influenced this report in any way. However, I upset the Opposition Front Bench—the hon. Gentleman was not on it at the time—when I mentioned including the medical training application service debacle in the same argument about a review of the NHS IT programme. I criticised them for that and there was some reaction. Indeed, there was a move by Opposition Committee members the following morning to remove me from the Chair on the basis that I should not have spoken in that debate.

I pointed out that an official Opposition Member had spoken in the same debate, and I was told that there was a convention, but there was no convention. The accusation was made in the press release in September. I have a letter from the Clerk of the House saying that he had heard directly from the person concerned, whom I will not name and who issued a press release prior to consultation. We discussed some months ago whether the Chairman of a Select Committee should become involved in debates, and there is no convention about that. I did so, and it was probably the MTAS issue that touched the button. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Jeremy Wright) was there and will have seen that. We should have kept the issues apart. We are about to give a report on the MTAS issue, and we may comment on what happened with its IT system.

The important thing is to recognise the worth of the national health service IT programme and the benefits that could accrue to patients and professionals working
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in the NHS for many years to come. It will set the standards for health care in this country and internationally in the 21st century. We should on some occasions have a more positive view about it.

That said, my view is not wholly positive, and some of the issues that we debated this afternoon reflected my personal feelings. I have never tried to use the Health Committee as my vehicle. It is an all-party group, and oversees what the national health service and, to some extent, the private health sector do. It works in a non-party political way. I regret the incidents that happened in June. I do not regret what I said, but I regret the outcome. If we were going to say that something was wrong in the report, an amendment should have been tabled, and we could have had the debate, as the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor) said, in Committee, not in this Chamber.


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That said, since taking over the Health Committee after the last general election, I have always said that politics should be left at the door and picked up on the way out. That is what oversight should be about, and that is how we keep the Executive in check. It is a good lesson for all parliamentarians. We should do that.

When our emotions spill over on the Floor of the House now and again, we should not read too much into that. I felt strongly on that occasion that we should not have muddled the two. That happened, and it was unfortunate, but the report should have been unanimous. It is a good, reasonable, comprehensive report in terms of what we were looking at and our terms of reference. As I said, the Government and the Department have some way to go yet before they get there, but it is crucial that we do.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes to Six o’clock.


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