Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th May 1978.

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3.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the closure of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. This hospital is of great importance to women, many of whom do not wish to have doctors attending them other than of their own sex. This applies particularly to some of the immigrant communities whose representatives have made representations to me.

It is also important because there are breaches of faith involved. The Secretary of State confirmed the view of his predecessor, which was recorded in Hansard on 6th May 1975. That statement was read out by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) quoting the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department who said: 'Fortunately, as quite a lot of women doctors are available, many women are able to choose a woman GP, or go to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. Such choice is a factor in NHS medical treatment and it will continue to be'."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 6th May 1975; c. 252.] The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras continued: I am sure that my hon. Friend would not have given such a categorical undertaking in Committee without consulting her hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security."—[Official Report, 16th May 1975, Vol. 892, c. 970.] The breach of faith was compounded—

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On previous occasions, when hon. Members have strayed into arguing the case, you have promptly pulled them up. The hon. Gentleman was so straying during the past few minutes.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun). We must treat everyone alike and I try to do so. The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) must make out a case for holding an emergency debate. He must not argue the merits of the case.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

I was not straying, Mr. Speaker, as I think the House is well aware. I was giving the reasons why we should have the debate. One of the reasons concerns a breach of faith. That breach continued, because in the debate in another place on 26th April, the following was stated: the view of the right honourable Barbara Castle and repeated by her successor in office, … who said that he believed that the future of the hospital would be within the ambit of a district general hospital."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26th April 1978; c. 1926.] That breach of faith was repeated in a DHSS statement of 17th February.

The other reason why this is an important matter is that there was a meeting with the Minister of State and the hon. Members for St. Pancras, North (Mr Stallard) and Holborn and St. Pancras, South when we were given a categorical assurance that no statement about closure would be made without prior notification to the three hon. Members. That assurance has not been honoured, and that is a reason why this matter should be debated urgently in the House. Any issue that can combine the three hon. Members for Camden is obviously a bipartisan matter. It is a specific matter, because a closure date has been announced and a spurious offer has been made, yet again to put the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital into the Whittington Hospital. That hospital does not want it, and has said so.

The matter is urgent for two reasons. First, the Government business managers must know that if they do not accede to this request, those of us who are interested will follow the lead of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and block all Government business. The Government business managers would not like that. They will remember what happened previously. They had to give in to the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

The issue is urgent because the action, once taken, would be almost irreversible. There is a need for this action to be justified to the House.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the closure of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9, I am directed to take into account the arguments set out but to give no reasons for my decision. I am afraid that I cannot accede to the hon. Gentleman's request, although I have listened carefully to what he said.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

On a point of order—a friendly point of order—Mr. Speaker. I have listened to what has been said and I understand and respect your ruling. But in a human interest matter of this kind—there are no party politics involved—would it not have been a good thing if the Secretary of State for Social Services had been here to listen to what was being said? He must have known that such an argument was to be raised. Should it not be put on record that the least he could have done was to have the courtesy to come and listen?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

That might be friendly to me, but it was not friendly to someone else.