asked the Minister of Health (1) whether the purchase of the site for the new general hospital at Coventry has now been completed;
(2) whether he has now given his approval to the proposal of the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board concerning the schedule of accommodation for the new general hospital at Coventry;
(3) if he is now in a position to give an actual starting date for construction work on the new general hospital at Coventry.
Negotiations for the purchase of the site are not yet complete. The Ministry's officers have discussed with the regional board the scope and content of the new hospital, and further discussions on the details of the schedules of accommodation are being arranged. I cannot yet say when building will begin.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the three Answers are equally unsatisfactory and a disgrace? As to the first one, can he tell me why this delay is still going on? Does he know that it is more than two years ago since it was agreed with his Ministry and with the owners about the acquisition of this site? Will he tell me why it is still not completed? Secondly, is he aware that Coventry, I think, is about the worst off of any city, following the war, for hospital accommodation and treatment? Does he really mean that he cannot give a definite answer to any of those three Questions?
In reply to the first of the hon. Lady's questions, the board was given authority to acquire the site in August, 1957, but, as explained to the hon. Lady on, I think, 12th May, 1958, conveyancing difficulties were caused owing to the straightening of the River Sowe, which had affected ownership of small pockets of land. I can, however, say to the hon. Lady that I take just as serious a view of this as she does, and we are doing our best to expedite the matter.
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that my hon. Friend has put down Questions similar to these time after time and that it was some months ago that he gave an answer precisely similar to the one he has given now when I asked him by supplementary question what were the difficulties here? He assured us then that things were going to be expedited. There must be something which is not revealed. Can he tell the House what it is?
No, there is no mystery about this. I recall the previous Questions by the hon. Lady and the replies which were given to them. The problem here is over the conveyance of the land, which is the obstacle that is delaying the matter at the moment, but in the meantime the question of the schedules of accommodation for the new hospital and matters of that kind are all going ahead.