The policy is as set out in the land transactions handbook and by circular. It states that a significant proportion of the proceeds of sale should remain with district health authorities as an incentive for those districts to rationalise and dispose of property. The hon. Gentleman may be aware that the total amount realised in England from land sales last year was nearly £190 million.
Is the Minister aware that in the South East Thames region, the higher the sale price the more the region keeps? Therefore, there is an incentive, every time a hospital is sold, to go for the highest price, irrespective of what ends up on the site. Is she particularly aware that in my constituency, St. Olave's hospital in Rotherhithe is out for tender and there is a risk that a hospital set up to cater for the poor will have part of its land sold for housing for the rich, while many hundreds of thousands of poor, who need housing, health and community services, might be sold down the river by the policy of her Department?
The health authority locally has a responsibility to make the best use of its property for health care. I understand that for the St. Olave's site there were proposals for a psychiatric day care centre, physiotherapy, a respite care centre, and so on. As for the way that the money might be used, the hon. Gentleman appears to have forgotten that £28 million is being allocated to the Guy's hospital phase 3 rebuilding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be visiting that site on Friday.
Is it not of the greatest importance in promoting health care that health bodies should use every available penny, whereas the concept that appears to be advanced by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and his party is that we should reduce the amount of money available for health care?
My hon. Friend is right. He might have pointed out that the determined efforts that we have been making recently to dispose of sites has brought a lot more money to the Health Service. I have already said that £190 million was raised last year, and that compares with 10 years ago, when the total receipts on the sales of surplus property were £7 million.
I believe that that case was the subject of an Adjournment debate that I had with the hon. Gentleman not long ago. If I remember rightly, the charity that he had in mind had something to do with the mining industry. Those issues were settled a long time ago, back in 1948, when the hospitals were handed over to the Health Service. There is nothing more to be said.
Is my hon. Friend aware of a scheme in Bromley, by a private company, to build a new 550-bed hospital, at practically no cash cost to the NHS, in return for land swaps? While not commenting on the merits of that particular case, will she welcome the principle of such a deal and confirm that the rules will not get in the way of it?