asked the Minister of Health if he can yet make a statement following the detailed investigation into the proposal of the South-West Metropolitan Regional Board to spend a maximum of 21s. per week on feeding each patient, except in the case of mental patients where the suggested maximum is 14s. per week.
The Board's Treasurer has recently completed a factual investigation into the comparative feeding costs of 12 hospital groups over a sample period of two weeks, and his report is now being considered by the Board. I will write to the hon. Member when the results are known.
But is it not fantastic that it was his predecessor six months ago who said that there was to be this inquiry, and in view of the fact that the catering officer said in February that this total was quite insufficient for the patients, how much worse is it now after six months of continual rise in prices?
The hon. Gentleman has put down a lot of Questions on this point and I am ready to help him, but there are many misapprehensions in what he writes and says. It is not true that I am investigating anything. It is not true that the board has made a proposal that a maximum should be applied. The maximum mentioned in his Question has been out-of-date for weeks, as I told him in a supplementary answer. This is not a Machiavellian attempt to depress the standard of feeding but, by using the method of comparative costs, to encourage better feeding within each hospital.
Is the Minister going to deny that the regional board, which covers 300 hospitals, proposed these as the top rates? Is it not a fact that his predeces0sor on two occasions during the last six months said that he was having the matter looked into? If those facts are right, why is he now complaining that I keep on asking the same questions which should have been answered months ago?