[Mrs Anne Main in the Chair] — Backbench business — Private Finance Initiative
Marcus Jones (Nuneaton, Conservative)
My hon. Friend, whose constituency neighbours mine, has hit the nail on the head.
In our situation, regardless of demand or whether the Coventry and Warwickshire PFI hospital wants to close a ward or to stop the activity associated with closing a ward, such as the cleaning or maintenance, the fixed costs must still be met. That is most detrimental, and it is a drain on the Warwickshire health economy.
Another concern relates to the primary care trust and the strategic health authority. That context is changing, but some of the people involved in those organisations were instrumental in the creation of the PFI hospital and, whatever happens, I suspect that they would not want to see the hospital—this landmark development in Coventry—fail. The concern is because, ever since the hospital was built—before the mortar between the bricks or the paint was dry—the local PCT, NHS Warwickshire, has been trying to reconfigure services. We immediately had an acute services review, which threatened services at my local district general hospital, the George Eliot, and to a greater extent at Rugby’s St Cross, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby has said. NHS Warwickshire paired St Cross up with the Coventry and Warwickshire trust which, really, subsumed it. Services were drained away from Rugby to the new PFI hospital in Coventry, regardless of whether people in Rugby wanted the choice of going to St Cross. If we do not get a grip on the situation soon, I fear that the same might happen in my constituency at the George Eliot.
That brings me to the crux of the argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire. I echo his concern about such huge beasts of projects, which are so expensive and we hear stories about, such as the £300 for changing a light bulb. They are real, tangible problems, and our constituents cannot understand why the previous Government signed the taxpayer up to such ridiculous commitments. Although the previous Government took on those contracts, I appreciate that the new Government cannot simply tear them up. Some difficulties might arise from how the contract was framed, in particular on the capital commitments. The companies that originally constructed and financed the hospitals have sold the debt on, and it might have been sold on again, so we would now find it difficult to pin down those people and to get some form of rebate.