Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 16th October 1991.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 4:33 pm, 16th October 1991

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have just had a lengthy statement about hospitals seeking so-called trust status in England. The Secretary of State for Scotland has not come to the Dispatch Box. I contacted his office yesterday and again this morning, in vain—he remains mute and incommunicado. He should end the damaging uncertainty that is sapping the morale of the health service in Scotland. He should be here to explain what is to happen to the Royal Scottish National hospital at Larbert, the South Ayrshire general hospital and Foresterhill hospital.

That is particularly urgent because this morning the chairman of Grampian health board confirmed that Foresterhill's application to opt out will go ahead. The argument that he put was poverty stricken; he admitted that Foresterhill will be a monopoly supplier and that the internal market was therefore irrelevant. He relied on a series of unsubstantiated claims and pious hopes, and he conceded that the staff, patients and local community were united in opposition to a policy which they believe will undermine the hospital.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The point of order must be addressed to me. This is not a matter for me. I have no idea whether a statement about Scotland will be made, but no doubt it may be.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to delay the House; I was merely drawing attention to the fact that a specific event has occurred in Scotland today—the decision to go ahead with the Foresterhill opt-out. That is why it is important to hear the Government's position. On behalf of my colleagues in Scotland, I believe that I am entitled to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to use your good offices to see whether we can get some explanation of the Government's position.

This policy is opposed by everyone—even by many Conservatives in the north-east of Scotland and in other parts of the country—yet the Secretary of State seems determined to hide away from responsibilities that are fairly and squarely his. He cannot do that. He cannot skulk even until polling day in the Kincardine and Deeside by-election

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I think I have the point. I notice the Government Deputy Chief Whip just coming back into the Chamber; I know that he was present when the matter was raised, and I am sure that he will have heard it.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones Shadow Secretary of State

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Pembrokeshire health authority has applied to become an opt-out national health service trust. A number of other hospitals and health service units in Wales have expressed a similar interest. Given the massive and understandable concern throughout Wales, where is the Secretary of State for Wales? We want some light to be shed on his plans for a much loved and highly valued service. It is wrong, Sir, that he has not come to the House to face questioning by my hon. Friends, and we demand that you help us to bring him here to answer for his policies.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I am sure that that will have been heard. There may be some statements about this tomorrow.

Several Hon. Members:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. This is an Opposition day, and these points will take up time. I will take Mrs. Ewing first.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice and help in the matter of the accountability of the Scottish Office to Members elected from Scottish constituencies.

As you are well aware, hospitals in Scotland are seeking trust status. Reports say that there is a division of opinion between the Minister responsible for health in Scotland and the Secretary of State for Scotland. Surely the House can find some method by which that Minister and the Secretary of State can be asked to report to Members on their opinions and to offer their guidance on these critical matters to do with the health service in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Again, that is not a matter of order for me, but the hon. Lady has made her point.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I think that I had better take Mr. Jones first.

Photo of Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones , Ynys Môn

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have had an opportunity this afternoon to hear from the Secretary of State for Health about a number of expressions of interest in England. Unfortunately, all that we in Wales can do to discover which hospitals might want to express interest is to read our newspapers. Should not the Secretary of State come to the House to tell us so that we do not have to read our papers?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Member and the House know my strongly held views about that. The answer is yes.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker; I appreciate your views, and you are always helpful to us.

On behalf of Labour Members from Ayrshire, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Scotland asking whether we could go to see him to express our deep concern, on behalf of almost all the people of Ayrshire, about the proposals for Ayr hospital, Biggart hospital and Ballochmyle hospital to opt out. But the Minister of State, not the Secretary of State, wrote back refusing to allow us to see the Secretary of State. Is there any way in which you, Sir, can help to ensure that we have access to the Secretary of State? If he is not prepared to come to the House, we are prepared to go and see him.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

That is, as I think they say in Scotland, outwith my responsibilities.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I am grateful to you, Sir, as this is a matter of some importance.

Exactly a week ago—minus 20 minutes—the 90-day consultation period in relation to the Foresterhill hospital application for opt-out status ended. Only this morning, Grampian health board recommended that the application be granted.

In the intervening seven days, before the Secretary of State has even seen the responses to the consultations, and even in advance of Grampian health board arriving at a decision, Scottish Office officials have been widely quoted in the Scottish press as saying that the Minister of State will approve the application. That must be in breach of the rules of this House and of the statute.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I do not think that it is in breach of the rules of the House. I do not know whether there will be a Scottish statement or a statement by the Secretary of State for Wales, but the point has been made. It may well be, because this is an Opposition day, that there was concern that time would be taken by such statements.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

I wish to raise a point of order arising from the statement by the Secretary of State for Health. The Secretary of State requested permission to make that statement to the House, and you, Mr. Speaker, granted permission. Judging by the number of hon. Members who sought to ask questions on the statement, it dealt with an issue of great importance. If you had been in Lancashire this morning, Mr. Speaker, you would have got the news about Burnley health care unit because a fax was issued by the chairman-designate of the health care unit, Mr. Rawson —

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. What has this to do with me?

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

My point of order is that—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. If the hon. Gentleman alleges that information is given to people outside the House before it is given to us, he knows my strongly held views on the matter. However, it is not my responsibility and it is not a matter of order in the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

You are therefore saying, Sir, that it is your practice to deprecate such a practice by a Secretary of State. Should not the Secretary of State and the chairman-designate do the honourable thing and resign because of this insult to the House?

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I think that I had better take one point of order from the Government side.

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

Would it not have been easier for you, Mr. Speaker, to take a series of three-minute applications under Standing Order No. 20? That would have saved the House from listening to so much rubbish.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

That might have been easier. Such proceedings bring the House into disrepute and take up time on a busy day.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I think that the hon. Gentleman intends to oppose the ten-minute Bill.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

This is on a point of order of which I have given you notice, Mr. Speaker. Have you received from the Secretary of State for Energy a request to make a statement on the disgraceful announcement at lunchtime on the closure of Coventry colliery at Keresley with the loss in my city of 1,300 jobs? If such a statement were made, do you agree that it would be totally in order to point out that the problem is due not to the failure of Coventry miners to dig coal but to the tightening ratchet of the Government's economic targets? If they get their way, it will mean that the 200 pits that existed in 1979 could be down to Rothschilds' 14. If the miners want to oppose this closure they know that they have my whole-hearted support.