(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that the time for vacating the Orthopædic Hospital at Shepherd's Bush is drawing near; can he report whether fresh negotiations have been entered into with the guardians on the question of rent; if not, is he prepared to facilitate these negotiations by withdrawing the expression "blackmail," which he used in a reply to a question on this subject some days ago?
My right hon. Friend is willing to withdraw any expression of his provided he is assured that the State will have the opportunity of continuing to maintain its disabled men in this hospital at a fair and reasonable rent. He is still prepared to stand by the offer of an increased rent which he has already made, and in order to avoid any possible doubt, he is so informing the guardians.
I am informed that the alternative hospital is a very good hospital and in better surroundings. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am so informed by the highest medical authorities we have, but we are prepared to allow them to remain on reasonable terms. I think I ought to inform the House that we have been paying £8,000 a year since we took it over up to the end of last year. We are now willing to give £12,000, but these guardians are asking us for £14,000.
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, although the alternative hospital is suitable for inpatients, it is extremely unsuitable for those who have to attend for treatment?
My hon. and gallant Friend has made a perfectly good point. It is obvious that we should make provision—and if we move we intend to make provision—for the out-patients, but I have found, on inspecting both this hospital and the hospital at Roehampton, that the Roehampton authorities would regard our move as one bringing out-patients nearer to the work which they are doing.