Yes. In December 1987 I asked health boards to re-examine the potential for competitive tendering. The contracts awarded by the beginning of November as a result will save more than £14·5 million in the following three years, and that will be used for reinvestment in direct patient care.
Can my hon. Friend confirm that the main opposition to competitive tendering has come from the Scottish TUC, the trade unions and the Scottish Labour party? While the Labour party argues in public that more money should be put into the Health Service, is it not true that in reality it is far more interested in maintaining its trade union monopoly empire, even at the expense of patient care? Does that not demonstrate the double standards of the TUC and the Scottish Labour party?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right in all but one respect—the policy of competitive tendering was opposed by all Opposition parties and by all Socialists in Scotland. My hon. Friend is right to point out that in doing so they have opposed improvements in patient care. The £14·5 million that has been saved is equivalent to 2,400 heart bypass operations, 4,800 hip replacement operations, the salaries of 700 extra nurses and 1,300 renal dialysis machines. I must tell Opposition Members who represent constituencies in the Edinburgh area that it is also equivalent to the entire cost of the recently completed phase 2 of the Western general hospital in Edinburgh, which provides 144 new acute beds in an intensive therapy unit.
I know that the Glasgow Herald has suggested that the hon. Gentleman has given me too easy a time, but he will need to try a little harder than that to get accolades from that source.
The redundancy costs will be a one-off payment over the full period of the contract. I cannot give a precise figure, but about 2,000 people will be affected by competitive tendering. The best estimate I have is about £4 million over the total period.
Does my hon. Friend agree that all the evidence on competitive tendering and the way in which we are using the money to benefit patients shows clearly that we are the only party that really cares about the patients? Will he confirm the story going around that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has been consulting my hon. Friend on competitive tendering as he is considering that as a method to bolster his Front-Bench team?
My hon. Friend is right to point out the use of competitive tendering in the allocation of Front-Bench positions. Indeed, even the policy of opting out appears attractive to some people on the Opposition Front Bench.
My hon. Friend rightly said that our policy is in the interests of the patient. It has resulted in additional resources being made available for health care. It is significant that when it comes to crossing NUPE or COHSE, no Opposition Member is prepared to defend the interests of the patient.
Is it not true that the Government's paper savings are, in fact, of no benefit to the patients? The Government's policy is nothing but a piece of political ideology.
Can the Minister confirm that redundancy payments resulting from competitive tendering have been so large that the Scottish Office coffers are running low? Have not the health boards been told that in future they must pay 75 per cent. of all redundancy payments? When will the hon. Gentleman give up this rubbish about competitive tendering? When will he realise that the function of the Health Service is to look after the patients, not to put money into the pockets of his former clients and companies that have funded the Conservative party?
I have already confirmed that the estimate for redundancy costs is about £4 million. That is compared with savings of £14·5 million. The hon. Gentleman knows that redundancy costs are paid from the centre. There is adequate provision in our budget to meet them. There is no question of health boards having to find the money. Indeed, the Scottish health boards have £14·5 million available as additional resources for patient care. If the hon. Gentleman had had his way, that money would not have been available to them.