The White Paper has been the subject of wide consultation. Written observations have been received from over 140 bodies and individuals, and in addition a number of topics have been the subject of detailed consideration with local authority, National Health Service and professional interests. The various comments received have been taken into account in the preparation of the National Health Service (Scotland) Bill, introduced in another place last month.
Do the replies which have been received show disenchantment with certain aspects of the over-centralisation of the Bill? May we have an assurance that the Bill will be amended when it eventually reaches this House? Is it not disgraceful that a Bill of such major importance should have its first proceedings in another place, before the House of Commons has had an opportunity even to discuss the principles of the White Paper?
To answer the second part of that supplementary question first, I see no reason for regarding the Bill as unsuitable for introduction in another place. The answer to the second part is that of course opinions contrary to the Bill have been expressed during the very detailed consultations that have gone on, though the Bill as a whole has been very favourably received.
Leaving aside the question of consultations, which I know have been wide-ranging, may I give the Under-Secretary notice that in Committee we shall pursue a number of important points relating to the implementation of the proposals in the Measure, some of which were raised with him at his meeting with the S.T.U.C. on 19th November, particularly in regard to the need to strengthen the machinery within the proposed new organisation to allow proper consultation with and participation of those employed in the service? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this will be a particularly important factor in relation to the effect that any decisions may have on the service when the Bill becomes law?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he approaches the Bill and I am sure that we shall have a constructive discussion in Committee. I hope that at the end of the day Scotland will be proud of its new legislation.