One statistic that the Government should be particularly proud of is the fact that more than half a million people started an apprenticeship in the past year. In my constituency of North West Leicestershire, there were 420 apprentice starts in 2009-10, but 940 in 2010-11—a growth rate of 124%. I would like to mention the excellent work undertaken by community groups and charities to boost apprentice numbers. In my constituency,

28 Nov 2012 : Column 328

Whitwick Community Enterprises has undertaken sterling work, reaching out to young people who are not even classified as not in employment, education or training—they have slipped under the radar altogether—giving them life skills in preparation for their return to full employment. I am delighted that that group has successfully applied for Government grants, which means that even more people in my constituency will be given the opportunity to learn skills for life. It should be extremely proud of that.

Opposition spokespeople have discussed the Work programme, and what they perceive as a lack of success. According to the Employment Related Services Association, the industry has helped 207,831 people back into work since the Work programme was introduced, and 29 in every 100 people who have gone on the programme since June 2011 have been supported into a job. Indeed, every month, more than 20,000 people are finding jobs through the Work programme, and the figures improve month on month, as many of my colleagues have said.

Many people would suggest that the Work programme is the biggest and most ambitious scheme of its type in the world. It is, and we should be positive about it. According to the Employment Related Services Association, the official statistics released by the Government yesterday represent a limited snapshot of performance in the early months of the programme, bearing in mind that it has been running for only a year. For someone to qualify as undertaking fixed employment they have to be on the programme for six months and employed for six months. Very few people fit those criteria, but I am assured by the providers that there is more good news in the pipeline.

The Work programme has helped 64,601 people into work. Over that period, unemployment fell by 49,000, so it is difficult to argue that it has not had an impact in reducing unemployment. I would have liked more time, but it was Labour that proposed the jobs tax—the increase in national insurance—which we reversed. It was under Labour that youth unemployment increased by 40%, and half a million people were left on benefit facing marginal tax rates of over 80% if they found work. The Opposition are as credible on welfare reform as they are on the economy: no apologies, no new ideas, and still nothing to say.

6.24 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate and to follow my good friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell). There are fewer and fewer Members of Parliament who come from their constituencies, and many people will look on her maiden speech with tremendous pride. You will be familiar with the St Pauls area of Bristol, Madam Deputy Speaker, so you will know that there is great affinity between areas such as Moss Side, St Pauls and, indeed, Tottenham.

Last week, together with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (David Miliband), I held an event with chief executives from the voluntary sector in north London. It was a jobs summit in which the London boroughs of Waltham Forest, Haringey and Enfield came together to discuss the urgent issue of unemployment in our areas, what we could do and what the voluntary sector could do and is doing. We talked,

28 Nov 2012 : Column 329

for example, about the Haringey jobs fund, where Haringey council itself is providing apprenticeships and subsidising jobs in a similar way to the future jobs fund that we ran when we were in government.

We also got down to neighbourhood level and looked at what Waltham Forest is doing with its Going the Distance initiative with problem families in that borough, working with families whose young people are caught up in gang violence. The aim is not just to deal with former gang members, but to help parents into employment in such communities.

We were conscious when we got together that we were meeting in Tottenham town hall which, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, had emblazoned on the front the figures for unemployment in my constituency. It is important to recognise when we have these debates in the House that there are many constituencies around the country that have seen successive appalling levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, over many generations. I recall the deep recessions of the early 1980s and the recessions of the early 1990s that scarred so many in the community in Tottenham and in many communities across London.

I do not want to doubt the sincerity of Members on the Government Benches, who must recognise the urgency of youth unemployment. I particularly do not want to doubt it because I have worked cross-party with the Secretary of State on these issues, but we must be very concerned that, since the Work programme began, the figure for long-term unemployment in London has risen by 30,000. If we look at young people in London, the figure has risen by 7,000. That is an increase of 420% since the Work programme began in our city. My constituency is one of those that still has high unemployment, fluctuating between eighth and ninth in the country. It is deeply unsatisfactory that the Work programme has benefited only 110 people in Tottenham, or 2.7%.

We cannot afford to have young people long-term unemployed, and often their parents long-term unemployed, in a constituency such as mine. We should take no great comfort from the zero-hour contracts that are being handed out, which do not allow people to budget for next week, for the future or for their benefits. That is causing chaos and hardship in our communities. We should not take comfort either from apprenticeship figures that are massaged by the number of people over 25 who are put on to apprenticeships.

When we look at the numbers, we see that a fifth of apprenticeships are in the retail sector, a third are in administration, and some do not last longer than 15 weeks or so. Are they really the apprenticeships that we understood them to be? The number of apprenticeships in London in construction is falling. The number in engineering is disappearing. Much of this goes to the heart of what growth is meant to be in our economy, and we should not take great comfort from the fact that we are, in effect, asking the retail sector to take up the slack because we are not doing the hard work to identify where growth is to come from in Britain.

We should also be deeply concerned about the number of people who are effectively the working poor—6 million at the last count, who are working, often on those zero-hour contracts, often in temporary or casual employment, who are not able to make their way and certainly do not have a living wage to provide for their family.

28 Nov 2012 : Column 330

Two and a half years into this Government, we now have some data coming forward, and Opposition Members are genuinely concerned, because the scars are deep, and I say that as an MP who has seen those scars over successive generations. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central, who made her maiden speech, will be all too aware of the repercussions in Moss Side if we do not get this right on this attempt.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. The winding-up speeches will start at 20 minutes to 7. I will divide the remaining time equally between the two Members who are yet to speak, which means they have five minutes each.

6.30 pm

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): I will obviously be very brief, Madam Deputy Speaker—I have no choice now.

Yesterday’s report on the Work programme was very revealing, and my constituents are absolutely horrified by the statistics on Wansbeck. The coalition’s flagship Work programme has created fewer jobs than would have been created had no programme been in place at all. Members across the House have scorned that finding, but it is an absolute reality. Only two people in every 100 who have been referred to the programme have actually gained employment. That is absolutely astonishing—astounding, in fact.

Yet the Secretary of State said yesterday and today that the results are excellent and that the scheme is on track. The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr Hoban), said yesterday that we should not worry because the information used in the report gave only a snapshot and that it is against the backdrop of growth that was much weaker than expected. Well, whose fault is that? It is the Government’s fault. We need a plan B, or C or D, whatever we want to call it.

In Northumberland, one of the biggest counties in the country, only 80 of the 4,570 people in the Work programme have found a job. That is 1.75%. And the Government say we are on track. Goodness me, what would happen if we were not on track? Perhaps the Minister will answer that simple question. In Wansbeck we have very few job opportunities, a lack of new business start-ups and increased levels of bankruptcy. In fact, the constituency has the highest rate of bankruptcies in the country. Many businesses are doing what they can and working very hard indeed, and I say well done to them, but we have huge problems. We are still reeling from the job losses at Rio Tinto Alcan and seeing 26 jobseekers apply for every job at the jobcentre. That means that 25 are absolutely disappointed because the jobs are not there.

My heart goes out to the unemployed, those who are searching for jobs; searching for dignity. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister have talked time and again about “alarm clock Britain”. There are those in alarm clock Britain who peek from behind their curtains every morning to watch their neighbours getting into their cars and going to work, wishing that they had the same employment opportunities. The problem is that there are no jobs in the region. There are not many jobs for young people either, with 15.9% of 18 to 24-year-olds in Wansbeck unemployed.

28 Nov 2012 : Column 331

I do not have much time left but I want to say something about social security, which is also mentioned in the motion. A huge problem up and down the country is the way the Government are casting disabled people aside and on to the scrap heap through their vicious work capability assessment. It is absolutely outdated and needs to be cast aside. We need to look at the situation and look after the elderly and disabled people who are suffering so much as a result of the Government’s attacks on benefits. Nothing short of getting rid of the WCA will do.

We need to look at enterprise zones and be more imaginative and creative on job creations. Why not invest the £435 million that has already been spent on the Work programme and the £725 million for the next five years on people who have a stake in their communities and who want to create employment for the right reasons, not for mass profit?

6.35 pm

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Whenever any Government Minister, from the Prime Minister down, is asked what they are doing to tackle unemployment, they always answer by setting out a litany of schemes, starting with the Work programme. The problem is that the Work programme does not create any jobs. Jobs are created by other aspects of the economy. In the past financial year, the number of affordable homes in Scotland has halved compared with the previous two years, so we can see where the problem lies. An awful lot of building jobs are not being done, because houses are not being started, because the funding is not in place. Since the start of the Work programme, one of our issues has been that it does not create jobs, and if the jobs are not there in the right areas for the right people, no amount of money put into the programme will resolve that. Perhaps the Government have just convinced themselves of their own propaganda. They have spent so long saying that the employment problem facing Britain is that people either will not or cannot work and that benefits are too generous that they have swallowed their own propaganda.

Another question about the Work programme is whether it is actually effective in doing what it sets out to do, namely training people, giving them confidence and skills, and helping them to meet employers to get jobs. We were told a lot about the black-box approach, the trouble with which is that we do not know and are not allowed to know what is happening.

The hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) spoke about visiting one of his Work programme providers, which I have also done. I heard a whole load of stuff—this was near the beginning of the programme—about how it would give people personalised programmes, have medical people on hand and give people counselling. It sounded wonderful, but the anecdotal evidence from my constituents—yes, it is anecdotal; we are not told much about what is happening because of the black box—is that all that is lacking.

I met one constituent last weekend whose view was that he could have done what his Work programme provider got him to do equally well at home. He went there once a fortnight—it was not an intensive

28 Nov 2012 : Column 332

programme—to do a job search on a computer, but he already knew how to do that and had been doing it himself. It was what he did with the jobcentre before he ever went on the Work programme. There did not seem to be a huge amount of value in what was happening.

The problem lies partly with the Government’s pride in cheapness. If we pay peanuts, we do not get very much. Gingerbread, an organisation that represents single parents, has told me of single parents on the Work programme who, because their provider does not provide child-care costs—it is not funded to do so—cannot necessarily take up any available training opportunities. Perhaps we are not investing enough in the programme to get the job outcomes. It may be cheap, but it is not producing the outcomes.

I have also visited in the past couple of weeks a social enterprise in my constituency that does employability services work, mainly with people with mental health problems. It gets some of its funding and a substantial number of referrals through Edinburgh’s health services, which is probably just as well, because that at least gives it some steady income. It is also a Work programme subcontractor. It carries out an intensive programme with people with mental health difficulties and understands the lack of confidence that they often have. The constituent I mentioned who had had the bad experience could have done with that, because he had suffered a nervous breakdown previously. The enterprise does 95% of its work with people who are got into work, and it is successful and involves less than half the contract price. Might it not be more efficient to contract directly with such organisations, which have been a proven success? That could be done locally through Jobcentre Plus or local councils. I offer that as a possible solution to the problems with the Work programme. I am not just criticising it but suggesting how to make it better.

6.40 pm

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): We have had a good debate to which the backdrop is yesterday’s publication of the first Work programme outcome data. One cannot help but admire the former employment Minister, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), who ensured that no data at all were published before the reshuffle and so secured his trouble-free ascent into the Cabinet, rather unfairly leaving the new Minister to face the music yesterday.

The hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills), at least, recognised that the figures published yesterday were disappointing, and he is absolutely right. The Secretary of State did not recognise that; in fact, he claimed the opposite. It has been suggested that we have been unfair in evaluating the performance of this programme after only 12 months, but all we have done is to apply the measures and the criteria set out by the Department for Work and Pensions itself. The invitation to tender for the Work programme says:

“DWP will set a non-intervention performance…reflecting the number of job outcomes that would be expected to occur in the absence of the Work Programme.”

It goes on to say that the figure would be 5% based on historical job-entry rates—that is, that it would expect 5% of people referred to achieve a job outcome within

28 Nov 2012 : Column 333

12 months. It then says that it would expect the situation to be better than that, and so makes the figure up to 5.5%, adding:

“DWP expects that Providers will significantly exceed these minimum levels.”

We discovered yesterday that they did not significantly exceed 5.5%; in fact, they got nowhere near it. The BBC reported yesterday that the figure was 3.5%, but for the first month’s cohort it is 2%. Oddly, despite the fact that the DWP refers to the “key performance measure”, that number does not appear in the data published yesterday. Strangely, it has been omitted and we have to work it out for ourselves. Given that the Minister’s Department describes it as the key performance measure, will he give us his calculation of it based on yesterday’s data?

The Secretary of State suggested that we were unfairly taking the employment and support allowance data out of the numbers and therefore reducing them. In fact, the reverse is the case. The ESA data are by far the worst. The key performance measure for the ESA data comes to 1%—a disgraceful level of performance. The Minister needs to tell us what he is going to do to address the lamentable failure of the programme to help new ESA applicants.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) on her excellent maiden speech. The depth of her roots in the community she represents was very clear, and I know that she will robustly defend her constituents from failures of the kind that we are debating.

Ministers need to sort out specific problems with the design of the Work programme. First, for over a year we have been pointing to the folly of the secrecy in which the programme has been cloaked. With previous programmes, providers have gladly published their performance data so that everybody could see how they were getting on and make comparisons between them—it was simply taken for granted that that was what they did—but the previous Minister banned them from doing that. I wonder whether he read the “Open Public Services” White Paper that was published by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General in the summer last year. It is worth a read. It asserts—rightly in my view—that:

“Open public services that are more accountable to the people they serve (both the users and the taxpayers who fund them) will be better services.”,

and that, importantly:

“Providers of public services from all sectors will need to publish information on performance and user satisfaction.”

Not only have Ministers not required providers to publish such information on the Work programme, they have actually banned them from doing so. Yesterday’s data were the first on job outcomes in almost 18 months since the programme began. If providers had published their own data, everyone would have seen quickly which approaches were working well—and which were not—and changes could have been made. As it is, we have had to wait almost 18 months, and that cloak of secrecy is one reason for the disappointing performance.

It would be useful to have data on Work programme user satisfaction, as the White Paper demanded, although I fear that after the drubbing yesterday, there is next to no chance of us getting it. Such data should be published because, as the Prime Minister argued in the foreword to the White Paper, that information would be a powerful lever for improvement. Will the Minister at least commit

28 Nov 2012 : Column 334

to lifting the ban on providers publishing their own performance data? The ban was imposed only to ensure no impediment to his predecessor’s appointment to the Cabinet, but since that has been accomplished, it should now be scrapped. Lift the veil and let the sun shine in!

I have a couple of other suggestions on how to salvage the programme and I want to pick up on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) about skills. The Government have increased the number of apprenticeships—my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) rightly expressed some concern about what those have amounted to, but nevertheless, numbers have increased. Hardly anybody on the Work programme ever gets on an apprenticeship, however, although many should be able to—most people think that apprenticeships exist to help unemployed people develop skills to get into work—and I urge the Minister to work with his opposite number to make that possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) is right to say that we must address the current rate of unemployment among young black men, which is more than 50%, and the Work programme cannot be blind to the scale of the problem.

The Minister has spoken about what has gone wrong, and in an interview with The Daily Telegraph published on Saturday he made clear who he thought was to blame. He said it was “proving difficult” to return people to long-term work—he was getting his excuses in early—and the article stated that:

“He called on private firms…which have been given the task of retraining the long-term unemployed and placing them in jobs, to ‘get their act together’.”

So, it is their fault. Private firms are the reason the programme has not delivered—by the way, the Telegraph headline was:

“Just one in 20 aided by back to work scheme”.

Presumably that is what the Minister hinted at, but in fact the number was a great deal smaller. The Financial Times got the number right yesterday morning when it stated that

“the employment minister, will confirm the actual figure—which some believe could be as low as 3 per cent—when he publishes official statistics on Tuesday.”

The Minister reassures us that poor performance means the Government are saving money, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore) said, that is no comfort for the young unemployed parent who is worried about paying for Christmas but has been parked and is not getting the help they need to get back to work. They do not want to know that the Government are saving money; they want the help they were promised to get a job.

Why has it gone so badly wrong? The Minister says that providers need to get their act together, but it is Ministers, not providers, who have got this so badly wrong. Ministers assured providers bidding for the Work programme that their economic policies would lead to steady growth and falling unemployment. They did not say those policies would lead to a double-dip recession, although tragically they did.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) is right: we need a plan B. It is not Work programme providers who must get their act together but Ministers who must come forward with policies to

28 Nov 2012 : Column 335

deliver jobs and growth. It is difficult to get people into jobs if there are no jobs. The lack of growth and jobs is hobbling the Work programme—no amount of providers getting their act together will change that.

The Work programme has fallen miles short. I hope the Minister comes clean on how far short. What is that key performance measure? It is not the providers’ fault. The Government promised steady growth and falling unemployment, but that has not happened. The providers are not to blame for the ludicrous ban on data, which has undermined the programme. I urge the Minister to announce tonight at least that that ban will be lifted.

I also ask the Minister to commit to address the truly appalling performance among applicants for employment and support allowance. Just 1% of those referred to the programme in the first three one-month cohorts were placed in a sustainable job. When will he sort those problems out?

6.50 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): This useful debate has exposed comprehensively the emptiness of the Opposition’s policies on welfare reform and their deeply patronising attitude to part-time work and apprenticeships. I shall come back to those points.

My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) was right to point out the scale of the ambition of the programme. It meets a wide range of needs and provides tailored, personal support to some of the hardest-to-help and hardest-to-reach people to get back into work. It supports people who have been on incapacity benefit for 10 or 15 years. They had been condemned to a life on benefit, but the programme gives them the opportunity to get back into work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) was right to highlight the importance of self-employment as a route back into the labour market. We see many examples of people who are able to juggle self-employment with caring responsibilities and people who return to the labour market after ill health through self-employment. That is why we have extended eligibility for the new enterprise allowance. We have seen good examples—for instance, in Humberside—of people using the enterprise allowance to get back into work and creating businesses for themselves and their community.

My hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) will be pleased to know that 80% of the increase in employment in the past year was for UK nationals. That demonstrates progress compared with the empty slogans of the previous Government. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) was right to hold Labour Members to account for their record in government, the legacy that they left this country and the appalling economic mess that this Government must clear up.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) spoke of the deep-seated structural challenges that we face. He is right: we are in a global race, and we need to respond to threats from overseas. The model that we have set out to broaden the economic base and move away from Labour’s debt-fuelled model of consumption provides sure foundations for us to win that global race.

28 Nov 2012 : Column 336

The hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) gave an accomplished speech. I particularly liked the bit when she said she was delighted that the baton had passed from red to blue, but perhaps she was talking about football. As the son of a former miner, I know just how much family pride there is in achievements such as hers and mine.

The hon. Members for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) and for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) were dismissive of people who have part-time jobs. For so many people, taking part-time work is the right thing to do. It gets them back into employment.

Kate Green: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Hoban: I will not give way; the hon. Lady had her chance earlier.

The last labour market survey showed that 80% of people in part-time work wanted part-time work—it is right for them to do so. It is the right route back into employment for many people.

The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy)—

Geraint Davies rose

Mr Hoban: Let me address the right hon. Member for Tottenham, who was critical of apprenticeships in retail. How many of our supermarket bosses started off on the shop floor? We should not close down any route to advancement. He also criticised apprenticeships in administration. For many people, a job in an office is a route out of poverty. He should welcome opportunities to broaden the range of skills that are available to people.

I should tell the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) that I get fed up with people talking down the north-east. I was born and bred in the north-east, and I went there a couple of weeks ago. Let us look at what has happened there. Employment is up by 40,000. People are talking about the need for more skills. There are big challenges in the north-east, but he does his region no service by talking down its people. While I am at it, let me say that he talked about the work capability assessment. Let me remind him that his Government introduced it. This Government are reforming it to ensure that it is the right policy and that it gets people into work and off a lifetime condemned to inactivity.

James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): I welcomed the Minister to the north-east recently, and I am delighted to hear him say such positive things about the region. Is it not in places such as the north-east, where welfare dependency can be seen to do the most damage, that these sorts of programmes are so important?

Mr Hoban: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to see programmes of reform to get people off benefit and into work. It is about making sure that we equip people with the skills they need in a 21st-century economy. Programmes such as the Work programme enable that to happen.

I was rather disappointed that we did not hear more from the shadow Minister about Labour’s bank bonus tax. This is a big feature of the motion before us today. Yet again, the Opposition trot out the bank payroll tax as the solution. The problem is that it is their solution

28 Nov 2012 : Column 337

for everything. How would they pay for a VAT cut? The bank payroll tax. Higher capital expenditure? The bank payroll tax. Reversing changes to child benefit? The bank payroll tax. At the last count, a tax that they think would raise £2 billion has been used 15 times over to fund tax cuts and spending increases.

Stephen Timms rose

Mr Hoban: I have three minutes left, so I am going to continue.

The other thing in the motion that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the shadow Secretary of State referred to—[Interruption.] No, let me talk about something that they did not refer to in their motion. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the increased benefit bill—£20 billion. Is he actually saying, given that most of that relates to uprating, that he is opposed to uprating pensioners’ benefits? Is he opposed to the triple lock that we introduced? Does he want to see a return to the days when the previous Government increased the state pension by 75p? Is he really saying that that is what he is against? The reality is that that is part of the reason why we have seen the benefit bill rise, and that is also because we are seeing post-dated cheques left by the Opposition who, when they left government, told us there was no money left.

Stephen Timms rose

Mr Hoban: I am not going to give way. I want to try to address some of the points that have been raised in the debate.

It is clear that the Work programme is in place. What we saw yesterday was a snapshot—207,000 people have got into work as a consequence of the Work programme. The Opposition should be celebrating that achievement, not criticising it. In the same way that we heard nothing in their speeches to congratulate the private sector on creating 1 million net new jobs, they said nothing about falls in unemployment and nothing about the fact that the previous Government fiddled figures and that youth unemployment is now lower than when we came into office. They have no ideas. They complain about the welfare bill, but oppose measures to bring it down. They fail to acknowledge the doubling of long-term unemployment during the recession and the rise in youth unemployment even when the economy was growing. They fall back on the empty rhetoric of the bank payroll tax and hark back to schemes that were bad for the unemployed and bad for the taxpayer.

The truth is that more people are in work, fewer people are unemployed and youth unemployment is down. One million net new jobs have been created by the private sector since May 2010. We are making work pay by reforming the benefits system and introducing universal credit. There are 190,000 fewer people now on out-of-work benefits than there were in 2010. That is the scale of the welfare reform that we are introducing. Rather than condemning people to a lifetime on benefits, we are providing support to get them into work. We have provided more help for young people, through the £1 billion Youth Contract. The work experience element is cheaper and as effective as the future jobs fund jobs that the Opposition parade.

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

28 Nov 2012 : Column 338

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Question put accordingly (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided:

Ayes 212, Noes 283.

Division No. 106]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Malhotra, Seema

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wood, Mike

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Yvonne Fovargue


Tom Blenkinsop


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stunell, rh Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Karen Bradley


Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

28 Nov 2012 : Column 339

28 Nov 2012 : Column 340

28 Nov 2012 : Column 341

28 Nov 2012 : Column 342

Business without Debate

Delegated legislation

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): With the leave of the House, I will take motions 3 to 5 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Environmental Protection

That the draft Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, which were laid before this House on 16 October, be approved.


That the draft Electricity and Gas (Energy Companies Obligation) Order 2012, which was laid before this House on 30 October, be approved.

Energy Conservation

That the draft Green Deal Framework (Disclosure, Acknowledgment, Redress etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, which were laid before this House on 30 October, be approved.—(Joseph Johnson..)

Question agreed to.


Local Authority Funding (Derby)

7.16 pm

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): I rise to present a petition that has united the whole of the city of Derby and the city council, because people are fed up with the unfair funding cuts to which Derby has been subjected. The level of cuts in Derby is far higher than in many other parts of the country. Only yesterday, 350 more staff were made redundant from the council, and all three party leaders have written to the Secretary of State, calling for a fair deal for Derby. The petition is headed “Fair Deal for Derby”. It states:

The Petition of citizens of the United Kingdom,

Declares that they believe there has been a disproportionate impact of the Government’s austerity programme on Derby compared to other local authority areas and that the cumulative impact of the cuts being forced on Derby City Council will amount to £75.77 per person compared to a few pounds in other more affluent parts of the country.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ensure a fair deal for Derby by reducing the amount of cuts made to Derby City Council.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


28 Nov 2012 : Column 343

Unsustainable Provider Regime (NHS)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Joseph Johnson.)

7.18 pm

Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab): I am delighted that Mr Speaker has seen fit to grant me this opportunity to raise a matter of considerable importance—in fact, the dominant issue—for my constituency and a large part of south-east London at the moment. The title on the Order Paper is “Unsustainable provider regime and special administration in the NHS”; and I will refer to all the special administrators appointed in the past, as there is only the one.

Last Saturday, along with thousands of other people, I was marching through the centre of Lewisham in the rain with my parliamentary colleagues, my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Dame Joan Ruddock) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander)—they would have liked to be here this evening, but are attending other events relating to the same issue—to Ladywell fields just behind Lewisham hospital.

My experience of marches goes back quite a long way—I have been on a fair number of them in my time—but three factors made this march strikingly different from the usual ones. First, the majority of the marchers were ordinary residents and their families. Secondly, the motorists who were being held up by the march were, more often than not, tooting their horns to show their support for it. Thirdly—I had rarely seen this before—people were joining the march along the way, some of them with young children.

That march took place under the auspices of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. The reason for it was that, last July, the then Secretary of State appointed a trust special administrator—to whom I shall refer from now on as the TSA—for the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, under the unsustainable provider regime provided for by the National Health Service Act 2006. The three principal hospitals in the trust are Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich, Princess Royal University hospital in Farnborough, and Queen Mary’s hospital in Sidcup. You will have noted, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Lewisham hospital is not part of the trust for which the TSA was appointed. However, far the most damaging proposals are those that affect that hospital.

The proposals are to close the accident and emergency department, which currently sees more than 120,000 attendances a year, to remove the maternity unit altogether—last year there were 4,500 births there, and the number has been projected to rise to 5,000 in the coming year—and to remove all the medical beds. If these plans were to see the light of day, there would be only one fully functioning accident and emergency unit to serve the three quarters of a million people who live in Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham. Although there is scope for Lewisham to merge with Queen Elizabeth at Woolwich, it should not be necessary to pay such an extortionate price in terms of services for the people of Lewisham. It is rather as if the administrator for Comet—who, sadly, is having to do his work at the moment—were to decide that the best thing to do for Comet was to shut Currys down. The problem does not lie in Lewisham; it lies in the South London Healthcare NHS Trust.

28 Nov 2012 : Column 344

It is not just the proposals themselves that are making people so angry; it is also the devious and underhand way in which they are being enacted. The last Secretary of State made a written statement last July, when he appointed the TSA. Before that, however, one of the first acts that he had undertaken as Secretary of State, just after the general election in May 2010, was to stop changes that were already taking place for the revitalisation of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust. He had put them on hold, without offering any alternative to a plan that had already been in place for a number of years; the last time the Government reviewed the services was four years ago. Having stopped those changes in their tracks, he then had the temerity to say, when he came to appoint the TSA, that not enough progress was being made to rebalance the trust’s finances.

In his written statement in July, the then Secretary of State said:

“The trust special administrator’s regime is not a day-to-day performance management tool for the NHS or a back-door approach to reconfiguration.”—[Official Report, 12 July 2012; Vol. 548, c. 48WS.]

However, that is exactly how it feels and looks in south-east London. There is a widespread feeling, backed by legal opinions, that the TSA does not have the power under the 2006 Act—and the current Secretary of State confirmed during Health questions yesterday that that was the legislation involved—to enforce his recommendations. Yet a “chief executive designate”, whatever one of those might be, is already working for the putative but non-existent joint Queen Elizabeth and Lewisham hospital trust.

The ultimate agreement of the Secretary of State seems to have been taken for granted—unless, of course, his authority is so ill-regarded that it does not matter what he thinks. However, the problem is not with the link between the University Hospital in Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich; rather, it is the intolerable price that the people of Lewisham are being expected to pay in terms of poorer, less accessible and more inconvenient services.

Let us contrast how Lewisham is being treated with how the other hospitals in the group are being treated. The TSA has suggested Queen Mary’s Sidcup should do a deal with Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, and that is apparently going through without any great problem. The TSA also recommends that King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust should take over the Princess Royal in Farnborough, even though no details whatever have been seen on how King’s would manage the Princess Royal. The arrangements for Lewisham are, however, prescriptive and take up much of the TSA report—and we must, of course, bear in mind that Lewisham hospital is not even part of the same trust.

The most damaging recommendation is that the A and E department at Lewisham should close, followed closely by the proposal to close all maternity services. A little booklet that the trust special administrator has put out says:

“Clearly this recommendation proposes change for University Hospital Lewisham. However, this is less than some may initially think. Based on analysis done by the Trust, it is expected that nearly 80% of patients who currently visit University Hospital Lewisham’s A&E would still be treated at the urgent care centre there in the future. This recommendation is not about ‘closing’ an A&E department but rather making changes to it.”

28 Nov 2012 : Column 345

That is not what happened just over the river at Guy’s when its A and E was closed a few years ago, and it is certainly not what happened when the A and E at Queen Mary’s Sidcup was closed four years ago.

It is also certainly not what the emergency department doctors at Lewisham had to say. Their submission to the trust special administrator states in respect of the

“assumption that 77% of our ED patients can still be seen in the UCC”—

urgent care centre—

“in future: patients in the UHL UCC are seen by combination of”

practice nurses

“GPs and ED doctors between 0800 and 2400hrs…This means patients are seen in our UCC department with problems far greater than those that can be handled in a typical UCC. A standalone UCC will not be able to handle the number or acuity of patient that we presently see…Quite clearly, the 77% figure you have employed is not representative of any realistic future modelling…On review of our case mix, by our estimation at most only 30% of the total attendances to the present-day combined ED and UCC could be safely managed in a standalone UCC.”

That is the view of professional doctors. The TSA’s view is that of a civil servant. We do not need to be terribly perceptive to work out which we should place the greater store by.

The conclusion of the emergency doctors’ statement encapsulates the issue. They state that the TSA suggests that 30% of current presentations will, by some completely magical and invisible formula, be treated in the community, but that has not been achieved anywhere else in the UK and there is no evidence to support the assertion. The TSA is not so foolish as to try to adduce any. Nothing in the report or any of its appendices show how this 30% figure, which represents almost 40,000 people presenting at Lewisham A and E, will be dealt with. Their conclusion is:

“Feedback from our patients, the public and colleagues such as the London Ambulance Service (LAS) tells us that this ED”—

emergency department—

“is incredibly well regarded, and that the public and LAS choose to come here. We believe the implications of this proposal are extremely serious and will detrimentally affect the care and service that is offered to our local community. Concerns over how our patients will be able to access acute services at QEH, and the inevitable impact on an overstretched LAS, have also not been adequately addressed.

It is our opinion that as the draft report has been based on demonstrably incorrect figures and assumptions, its findings cannot be relied upon. An issue as important as the acute care of patients in South-East London cannot be determined by a hasty and flawed process, which was never designed to be used to reconfigure NHS services.

We have no objections to change, and strongly support all moves that propose the safe and effective care of patients. Thus we strongly urge that the proposed merged trusts (QEH and UHL), the local GPs and the wider public be left to decide at a local level how our services should be reconfigured. This would not only be safer and more considered, but would also be in line with the Government’s ethos of greater local control with a patient-centred approach to healthcare.”

That is signed by the four emergency department consultants, including the clinical lead, the two emergency department matrons and the emergency department nurse consultant. Hon. Members would have to agree that that is a damning indictment of what the TSA has been proposing.

28 Nov 2012 : Column 346

As I have just demonstrated, the report’s assumptions, such as they are, are inaccurate, and the figures—even the financial figures—are completely unreliable. The TSA suggests that there is a £1.7 million saving to the Beckenham Beacon, the former Beckenham hospital which is now an urgent care centre predominantly occupied by GPs, but with the support of secondary and ancillary services. The TSA states that £1.7 million can be saved on what the South London Healthcare NHS Trust currently rents at Beckenham Beacon. This is right on the boundary of my constituency and that of the hon. and gallant Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart); his constituency is on one side of the Croydon road and mine is on the other. People in the area were clearly concerned about the effect on services, so I went to see the putative clinical commissioning group, which takes over next year. It said that it is determined to continue to provide a comparable range of services—it will not be exactly the same as what is there at the moment—that that £1.7 million was only provided to South London Healthcare NHS Trust by the primary care trust previously for commissioning services there and that the CCG will continue commissioning services there. I have asked for exactly what the services will be to be put in writing, but I was told that broadly the CCG will be spending the same. So there is no saving to be had.

All the TSA is saying is that as South London Healthcare NHS Trust will cease to exist, it cannot pay any bills—so far, so bloody obvious. I would have thought it was not worth making the effort, but including this in the financial calculations demonstrates just how unreliable this report is. It is all smoke and mirrors. Given that it was carried out in such a short time and given that this system—the unsustainable provider regime—is not designed to deal with this degree of complexity, it is hardly surprising that it is such a shoddy and unreliable piece of work.

Why then be so prescriptive about what happens at Lewisham, given that in the case of the Princess Royal and Queen Mary’s an altogether more relaxed view is to be taken? The answer can be found on page 41 of the report. I will not wave it at you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but take my word for it. It contains a map of the Lewisham hospital site and it shows that the TSA wants to sell more than two thirds of the whole site. That would leave one building for hospital purposes and one building currently used by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, which deals with mental health, so that the rest of the site can be sold off. Doing that will only raise between £17 million and £20 million, but it will close off the options. Once that has been done, Lewisham hospital can never be resuscitated, resurrected or whatever other language we might care to use. To enable the rest of the site, which includes a £12 million redevelopment of accident and emergency and maternity services that was only completed in 2010, to be cleared the TSA suggests that an additional £55 million will need to be spent on extending the riverside block.

The whole riverside block to which the TSA refers was only built six years ago under the private finance initiative and is working pretty well. The whole building only cost £70 million, and the TSA is proposing that £55 million should be spent so that the rest of the site can be cleared and sold for less than £20 million. That is almost unbelievable—it does not make any sense whatsoever. I do not know what will come back from the consultation that is under way.

28 Nov 2012 : Column 347

Right across south-east London there are huge issues with acute services. I know that colleagues raised the matter in Health questions yesterday. The right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) mentioned the concern about Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s, South London and Maudsley and King’s college, London—that is the university college, not the hospital—joining together to construct one of the largest trusts in the country. There is deep concern in Southwark and Lambeth about the impact that that could have on services. There is further concern, as I mentioned, in Lewisham, Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich about what else is going on.

I suggest that the Secretary of State parks the consultation. He should note what it says but launch a proper and legal clinical review of services across south-east London, as was conducted just four short years ago, when it was decided that Lewisham could stand on its own and provide decent services for the people of that area. I am not against improving services in Greenwich, Bexley or Bromley. Indeed, I represent the north-west part of Bromley, which sees Lewisham as its local hospital. However, what I cannot see—the TSA cannot convince me of this—is how degrading the services for people in Lewisham benefits anybody. It will not improve the services in Greenwich, Bexley or Bromley, so what is the point?

On 31 October, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East asked the Prime Minister to recall that in 2007 he said that he would be prepared to get into a “bare-knuckle fight” over 29 assorted hospitals, one of which was Lewisham, to protect their A and E. I can tell the Prime Minister that he is in a bare-knuckle fight now over the future of A and E at Lewisham. The fight for Lewisham goes on.

Lewisham hospital has been threatened before, but the people of Lewisham have always fought to save it and they always have. They will again. In his reply to my hon. Friend, the Prime Minister said—this gives me some hope—that

“there will be no changes to NHS configurations unless they have the support of local GPs, unless they have strong public and patient engagement, unless they are backed by sound clinical evidence and unless they provide support for patient choice.”—[Official Report, 31 October 2012; Vol. 552, c. 230.]

I am confident that Lewisham will survive this, because none of those factors is in place at the moment, nor does this process have any legitimacy.

7.38 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anna Soubry): I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Jim Dowd) on securing the debate and on speaking with such eloquence and passion. That is what one would expect from a Member of this place; we would expect Members to bring to Parliament the concerns and the anger of those whom they represent so that Ministers can hear all that is to be said. In this case, perhaps most importantly, even if the trust special administrator and his team did not hear the hon. Gentleman’s speech they will certainly read it and take it on board.

These matters are always difficult and, as I have mentioned, they make people angry. I hope that the

28 Nov 2012 : Column 348

hon. Gentleman’s speech will be reported in his local media and that my remarks might also be reported.

It is important to make it clear—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take this back to Lewisham and the people he represents—that this is not a question of cuts. Anyone on a march bearing a banner saying, “Stop the Government cuts” does not represent the situation fairly, and does their cause no great service. It is about how to make sure that people receive the finest health care that can be provided, and that that service is sustainable. As the hon. Gentleman said, it stems from a profound problem at South London Healthcare NHS Trust.

When changes to an NHS service are mooted, people become anxious and feelings run high. This is the first time that the trust special administration regime has been used, so people are anxious, and that has a knock-on effect on patients, staff and members of the public. This may sound like weasel words, but it is important. It would be wrong to comment on specific recommendations of the trust’s special administrator, because the matter is out for public consultation, which closes on 13 December. As the hon. Gentleman explained, the matter will go to the Secretary of State, who will consider the recommendations and the full report. He will make his decision at the beginning of February. At this stage, it is not for Ministers to comment. Our minds must remain completely open.

I want to explain the process. The previous Government created the trust special administration regime in the Health Act 2009. The regime creates a transparent, time-limited process to deal with trusts in failure. We have alluded to that timetable, and have given details of it. A trust special administrator appointed to an NHS trust must make recommendations to the Secretary of State about the future of the organisation and its services. Significantly, they must set out how high-quality services can be provided in a financially and clinically sustainable way. Before making final recommendations to the Secretary of State, the administrator must consult publicly on draft recommendations, and that process has been undertaken. A summary of all consultation responses must be included in the final report to the Secretary of State. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will ensure that his response and the responses of other MPs representing Lewisham are included in that report.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust was formed in 2009, and it was the product of a merger of three trusts, each with long-standing financial issues. When the Secretary of State appointed the special administrator to the trust in July, it was losing over £1 million a week. Last year, the trust had a deficit of £65million—the largest in the country—which is £65 million a year being taken away from well-run trusts to subsidise one that is clearly failing. There are two private finance initiatives with which the trust is struggling. They are incredibly burdensome, with a cost of £60 million a year.

To be blunt, the situation cannot go on indefinitely. The NHS simply cannot afford to spend huge sums on keeping non-viable organisations afloat. Even if we had all the money in the world, it would not be right to have such a deficit and loss. In my opinion, the Government are to be commended on having the courage to tackle the long-running challenges facing South London Healthcare NHS Trust. Sometimes, tough decisions

28 Nov 2012 : Column 349

have to be made to make sure that NHS services are improved and are put on a clinically and financially sustainable footing.

I fully accept that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the administrator’s recommendations in the draft report that impact on Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust. The remit of the trust special administrator is to develop recommendations for the Secretary of State on the action that should be taken in relation to South London Healthcare NHS Trust. The aim is to secure the sustainable provision of health services which meet patients’ needs and deliver value for money. For those recommendations to be viable and credible, the trust special administrator must consider all relevant factors, including the intentions of NHS commissioners and the consequential impact on the local health system. This has required him to consider implications for other health care providers that are part of the local health care system. That is why his remit is so large and so broad.

As we all know, an NHS trust does not exist in a vacuum. All trusts are part of a complex, integrated health care system. In making recommendations about South London Healthcare NHS Trust, the trust special administrator must consider the consequences of those recommendations on neighbouring trusts, such as Lewisham, and patients in those neighbouring areas. I am aware that in developing his draft recommendations the trust special administrator has had continuing dialogue with patients and the public, staff, clinicians, local authorities

28 Nov 2012 : Column 350

and other partners, and so he should. That is continuing through his public consultation, which is now under way.

In addressing the long-standing challenges facing South London Healthcare NHS Trust, the administrator’s recommendations must take into account the objective of delivering safe, high quality, sustainable health care for the people of south-east London. That, of course, includes Lewisham. To ensure that this happens, he must have regard to the Secretary of State’s four tests for NHS service change when developing his recommendations. Perhaps this may give some comfort to the hon. Gentleman. Those four tests are: support from GP commissioners; the strength of public and patient engagement; clarity on the clinical evidence base; and support for patient choice. Those are four very important principles.

The hon. Gentleman touched on many of those principles. He spoke with passion and some anger. Much of that anger is understandable in all the circumstances. The draft report is out to the public, as I said. I hope that everybody will now engage and make sure that their voice is heard, as individuals or through their elected representatives. The recommendations will go to the Secretary of State, who will consider all of them. He will then make his decision.

Question put and agreed to.

7.47 pm

House adjourned.