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Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the right honourable Neil Kinnock is reported today as saying that the Government are moving dangerously towards a privatised National Health Service? Perhaps the Minister would like to comment on Mr Kinnock's suggestion that we should consider ring-fencing certain taxation for the National Health Service.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I reiterate that the NHS will continue to be a core service that is publicly financed and in which the core clinical services will be provided by directly employed NHS doctors and nurses. There is no suggestion that we are going down the route of which my noble friend is fearful. We are seeking to use the expertise of the private sector when appropriate, but at no risk to the core values of our beloved National Health Service.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, what is the position of dentistry, which the Minister does not mention as a core service? Why is there no core National Health Service treatment available to patients in London and in most of the high-cost cities?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that the Government published a strategy on dentistry 12 months ago, which is designed as a foundation for ensuring that NHS patients who require NHS dentistry receive it. At the moment, many dentists provide NHS services and private dental care. We are seeking to encourage greater provision of NHS services. We are in fruitful discussions with the British Dental Association. I am sure that the opening up of dental access centres and commitment payments to "incentivise" dentists will enable us to provide those services to the public when they require them.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, will my noble friend return to the issue of core values and value for money? Is the involvement of the private sector a short-term policy? If there were a comparison in the longer term with the ability of the public sector to provide those services, would it still be considered value for money?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we clearly need to take a long-term view when comparing a publicly financed NHS project and a private finance project. The history of the NHS developing its own capital programme is full of stop/start projects because of the vagaries of public finance, with the second and third phases of many hospitals never being built. Where a private finance initiative scheme is shown to be value for money, we can ensure that it will be completed on time and that there will not be the traditional delays. I am satisfied that we are promoting effective public/private partnerships in which the patient gains.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the issue is not purely financial and that to leave it entirely to the National Audit Office to advise on the evaluation of such projects is not satisfactory, because there is a political dimension? Will the Government involve wide sections of public opinion outside the National Health Service in the evaluation, including the trade unions?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we are in the process of developing the largest capital building programme that this country has ever known, with 100 new hospitals. Private finance is one of the ways in which we are going to deliver that. Of course we want dialogue with the public and the staff. We constantly have such dialogue and we shall continue to do so. However, I think that the public would sign up to the proposals if they realised that they could deliver 100 new hospitals.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is highly necessary in the national interest that the Government's intentions on the issue should be as detailed as possible and available to the public as quickly as possible? There should be a full debate in Parliament about exactly what is involved in the generalities of definition that the Government have so far given.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I shall be happy to debate the issues with my noble friend if he cares to table an Unstarred Question at some stage. The Government's intent is clear. We have said that the NHS will continue to provide core services. We shall use the private sector where it has expertise to enable us to develop and expand services more quickly than we can at present.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My Lords, the Security Services Group is an organisation of about 120 staff who design, install and maintain security systems for the Government, the public sector and private sector customers. It is part of a former executive agency of the Cabinet Office, but it no longer has significant links with any other Cabinet Office activity. The Prime Minister concluded that it made good management sense to transfer the group out of the Cabinet Office to the Ministry of Defence, which is the biggest user of its services and is better able to support its activities. The transfer of responsibility took effect on 8th June 2001.
Lord Burnham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that factual reply. What plans are there to integrate the security services with the Ministry of Defence Police? When shall we hear a little more about legislation regarding the Ministry of Defence Police?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, the SSG employs 120 staff, which is a small number in comparison with the ministry's Defence Estates Agency, into which it will be incorporated and which has 1,400 staff. We believe that it will combine well with the work of that agency, which has responsibility for the cost-effective management of the defence estate. I am not aware of the answer to the noble Lord's other question, but I shall write to him when I know.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, members of the Security Services Group are vetted to a high level. Most of their work is done for the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but they are also responsible for royal palaces, including the Palace of Westminster.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, much work has been done through the Tackling Racial Harassment programme to develop and disseminate practical tools to tackle harassment. We shall shortly publish guidance based on that. We are now initiating a new phase of action to ensure that tackling harassment is performance-managed as a mainstream human resources priority.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that positive Answer. However, can he say whether, and, if so, when, he will publish the research on racism in the NHS that was carried out with the participation of more than 500 NHS staff by Lemos and Crane and completed last autumn?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the report of the analysis of staff attitudes to racial harassment will be published when it has been peer reviewed, as is normal practice for research commissioned by the department. As I said, we shall also publish guidance as soon as possible.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, will the Minister invite the Commission for Racial Equality to mount a formal investigation, as has occurred in a number of other government departments--in particular, in the Prison Service--to examine the extent of racial discrimination? Once the extent of racial discrimination has been proved, and bearing in mind that a substantial part of NHS services is provided by people from ethnic minorities, will he say whether such an investigation could be backed up by statutory obligation through the issue of a non-discrimination notice that can be monitored regularly?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not believe that I am able to give that commitment. But I shall certainly commit the department to discussions with the Commission for Racial Equality, whose advice we often seek and greatly value. The noble Lord makes an important point in relation to the NHS workforce; for example, approximately 33 per cent of hospital medical staff come from black and minority ethnic groups. I believe that we must do everything that we can to ensure that the NHS has, and supports, an environment in which racial discrimination is not tolerated.
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