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Lord Kennet: My Lords, I believe that the Minister took the King's Fund Report to task for not having asked the question, "Here is a site. What shall we put on it?". Would not the more apposite question have been, "Here is a site with something on it, which is well known to be useful and splendid. Why should we move it?"?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, we are convinced that, in order to strengthen services in London, we must bring them together. We must concentrate the expertise that exists. Bart's is a splendid building. We all recognise that and that is why my right honourable friend has set up a task force, chaired by Sir Ronald Grierson, to look at the site and to consider what can be made of the buildings. However, we are absolutely convinced that we should not start with buildings but with the expertise of the people who provide a service and then see how we can build upon that.

Lord Elton: My Lords, does my noble friend realise that she is widely supported in her premise that, with a fall in population in the capital, there must be a reorganisation of resources? The prime concern must be

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the service given to the citizens of this metropolis and that can best be done by manoeuvring the human and technological resources and not being pinned within ancient buildings?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that comment. He is absolutely right. It is not only the fall in population that affects London but the fact that superb services are now provided in all parts of the country. That is London's success. It is a result of the fact that people who were trained and set up departments in the famous London teaching hospitals have moved to other parts of the country. All over the country--for instance, in Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, and Exeter--better services are being provided locally, with shorter stays in hospital and better primary care. We must concentrate our services in London on better primary care.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, in spite of the excellent performance of the emergency services, there is concern about the absence of a local accident and emergency department at Bart's in the City of London following the recent bomb outrages? Is it possible that the Government could look again at that matter? The Government were warned about the consequences of closing the casualty department at Bart's at a time of high security risk in the City.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, we have put an incredible amount of investment into accident and emergency departments of local hospitals; for example, Mayday, Lewisham, King's College, Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, and Greenwich Healthcare. That is proving to be successful. Nobody could criticise the way in which the recent Docklands bombing was dealt with. Indeed, when I visited the Royal London I was told that it could have dealt with three times the number of emergencies without any trouble at all. I believe that we have overcome the greatest difficulties in relation to accident and emergency departments and, indeed, the situation in London is now improving.

Lord Stallard: My Lords, in her first reply, the Minister mentioned the services being supplied by University College Hospital. Is it not a fact that the main building of that hospital has been lying idle and empty for months and months now and that no services are provided there?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, we are strengthening certain parts of that hospital. We are linking it much more to the university. It is a centre of academic excellence. But we shall see empty buildings in London and, indeed, we are also seeing new buildings in London. That is all part of the major change that is so necessary.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the magnificent and well deserved tributes that she has paid to St. Bartholomew's Hospital. It is difficult therefore to understand why she wishes to abolish it. Will the Minister consider holding a meeting with the senior staff, who would love to have an hour

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with her to explain the situation at Bart's; the possible creation of two new hospitals; and the fact that that would boost the morale of health service staff not only in London but throughout our beloved country?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, we are not abolishing Bart's. We are merging it with the Royal London Hospital. Its expertise will be strengthened. As regards senior staff at Bart's, it is interesting that we are now able to recruit staff to the new merged trust. Cardiac anaesthetists are as rare as hens' teeth but we have been able to fill three vacancies in the last year. The senior staff almost live at the Secretary of State's door.


2.52 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What actions they are taking, together with their partners in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to reinforce the independence of Ukraine and to strengthen its political and economic links with the West.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the UK is committed to an independent, democratic and prosperous Ukraine. Britain gives aid to Ukraine through the know-how fund, the IMF, the World Bank and the EBRD. Britain also supports Ukraine in the framework of the EU through TACIS and balance of payments aid. Ukraine is an active member of Partnership for Peace and the North Atlantic Co-operation Council. We plan further co-operative links. There are frequent high level contacts and visits.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very helpful reply. Does she agree that the independence of Ukraine is crucial to the future stability of Europe? Does she agree also that, if it were to gain closer hegemony over the Ukraine, Russia would again become an empire? In view of that, does the Minister accept that we must maintain the closest possible links with Ukraine, including, in spite of our diminished aid programme, keeping Ukraine among the top 20 states to which we should provide assistance?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is no hesitation on the part of the Government to maintain the know-how fund and indeed to increase it from £5 million in 1994-95 to £7 million in 1995-96 and under the proposed Aid Framework to £9 million in the coming financial year. That is a threefold increase in the know-how fund programme for Ukraine since it began. We are also supporting major projects in all the fields where it most needs help. Therefore, the noble Lord cannot get away with his implied accusation on that score.

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As regards the relationship with Russia, we believe that the improvement in relations between Ukraine and Russia is not only very welcome but is likely to continue. President Yeltsin's visit to Kiev at the beginning of April should be another step forward. I know that there are remaining issues under dispute, but I believe that they can be settled in a spirit of co-operation and on the basis of respect for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, about which the noble Lord so clearly cares.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, will the Minister comment on recent newspaper reports that the Ukrainian Government are selling military cargo aircraft to drug traffickers in Colombia? Does she agree that that highlights the need for more western help with dismantling and running down Ukrainian military production, neither of which she mentioned in her earlier answers?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, first, I do not suppose that it is the Ukrainian Government who are selling off aircraft to anybody in the way that the noble Baroness described. I have not seen the newspaper reports and I shall investigate them. But the noble Baroness knows that we already give a great deal of assistance to counter drug trafficking and to stop money laundering. We do that not only with the Commonwealth countries, with which we have a special arrangement, but also with all others with which we have a development programme.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the noble Baroness say whether British expertise is being made available to Ukraine both in coal-mining and agriculture?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that is certainly being done in agriculture. Indeed, we have given advice on coal-mining. We are deeply involved in the whole question of the restructuring of energy resources. Where we can help, we do, both bilaterally and through the European Union and the other bodies which I mentioned in my main Answer.

Northern Region

2.56 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any additional proposals to improve the economy of the northern region.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the Government continue to support the vigorous development of the northern region through our national economic policies, effective partnership, including the private sector, and by continuing improvements in the local delivery of services to business.

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