Oral Answers to Questions — Hospitals – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st October 1955.
asked the Minister of Health whether he will now state what further hospital building he has approved.
I am not sure what my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind. Hospital building projects are continually being approved, but I have nothing to add to the statement I made on 1st July about the programme for 1956–57 and 1957–58.
While I appreciate what my right hon. Friend has been able to effect in this sphere, can he say when he hopes the new building will become effective in the Poole-Bournemouth area?
Poole did not get into either of the programmes which I have announced. I have not yet announced what can be done in 1958–59, but Poole is a candidate—I think I can say a strong candidate—for that year.
In regard to the Chancellor's recent statement, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there will be no modification in any degree of the hospital building programme about which he recently gave the House information?
Indeed, the Chancellor has been subjected to a great deal of misrepresentation on this matter. Because it is a matter I should like all hon. Members to be clear about, I am very ready to headline what the position is. I announced the programme for the years 1956 to 1958 in the House in two statements, one in February and one in July. That programme stands, every hospital, every ward, every bed in it, and I am deeply grateful to the Chancellor, who has been able to keep the green light fixed on that programme. There are other programmes of regional hospital boards, and we are now coming into a period of building twice as much as the Socialists undertook.
I have thought it right to write to all the chairmen and to assure them that the allocations are not being cut; nor is there any change in the special undertakings in regard to Whitley awards and so on. However, in view of the Chancellor's decision, I regard it as the duty of all of us to do everything we can to see that the moneys available are not wasted. In view of this statement, which, I am sure, is clear to everybody, perhaps this part, at least, of the misrepresentation to which my right hon. Friend has been subjected will end.
asked the Minister of Health what progress is being made with the programme of new hospital building which he announced earlier this year.
Preparation of plans is proceeding, but, as I announced on 9th February of this year, no building is due to start under the expanded programme before 1st April, 1956.
In view of the Chancellor's somewhat ambiguous statement last week and the reply just given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill), will the Minister make it clear what the Chancellor meant when he said:
We are asking the hospital boards to ensure that only those works are undertaken which are of the most urgent and necessary character."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 217–8.]
There is nothing whatever ambiguous in my right hon. Friend's statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The ambiguity arose because the Opposition Front Bench, led by the Leader of the Opposition, did not know how hospital financing is carried on. As far as the circular to the hospital boards is concerned, there is no secret whatever about that, and I shall be delighted to place copies of what I have sent to the hospital boards in the Library today for hon. Members to read.
asked the Minister of Health why only 8 per cent. of the centrally financed capital programme is being devoted to mental hospitals in view of the urgent need for additional beds and for the reconstruction of existing mental hospitals.
It is true that this percentage is considerably less than the amounts devoted by hospital boards to mental hospitals which have been steadily and substantially increased in recent years. But the centrally financed programme deals only with major projects and does not include the large number of small extensions and improvements that are being carried out.
But does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that it is 20 years since a new mental hospital was built in this country and that many of our existing mental hospital buildings are a disgrace to the National Health Service? Does he not really think that the time has come to step up this miserable percentage and have new mental hospitals built?
As I indicated in my answer, perhaps the major portion of the assault on the question of overcrowding is being done by a comparatively small number of extensions and improvements. As regards building mental hospitals, it is true that none has been built for 20 years. That adds to my delight in being able to start them.
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that no mental health project that has been approved can be regarded as other than urgent?
Every single project that appears in the list which was made in July is of the first importance. It would not be in the list if it were not.