Is the Minister aware that in 1992, and immediately prior to the general election, the then Scottish Office Minister with responsibility for health, the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), had a positive approach to the building of a new hospital in Cumbernauld, and announced that it would be built?
Is the Minister further aware that the Minister who now has responsibility for health appears not to have done anything about the hospital? He appears to be bewildered by the breadth of support for it and fumbles with health matters to the extent that we do not know what is happening with regard to the hospital. Lanarkshire health board does not even do me the courtesy of replying to the letters that I write on the subject. Will the Minister intervene personally to ensure that the hospital is built, and built soon?
The health board is working on revised proposals, which we have not yet seen. The latest proposals will give future occupants much more privacy and comfort. The aim is to continue to assess demand against need. It would not be right for us to impose an artificial deadline on the board's deliberations. The hon. Gentleman's letters should have been answered, and I shall draw that to the attention of the board.
The Minister will be aware that the present trust management at Law hospital in my constituency will be in charge of the new trust hospital, New Law hospital, in Netherton. Will he comment on the announcement this week that the management has put out press releases telling people not to turn up at the casualty and emergency department? As a result of its mismanagement, it has failed to get contracts signed to man the department after 1 February, in a few days time. Is it not truly alarming that our health service is being run with a so-called market and trust philosophy, and that in less than seven days a casualty and emergency department which served 40,000 patients last year faces closure?
I have made inquiries. The proposed restrictions at the accident and emergency unit at Law hospital are the result of recruitment difficulties. There is no substance in the allegation that there are funding problems. The temporary arrangements involving locums will ensure that an adequate service is maintained. All emergencies will be dealt with. Only those patients with minor injuries and ailments are being asked to consult their general practitioner first. Efforts are being made to find a more permanent staffing solution. The intention is that Law hospital will transfer to the new district hospital at Wishaw. Services at Stonehouse will transfer to the redeveloped Hairmyres hospital.
Is it not a fact that the latest and newest hospital in west central Scotland is the Health Care International in Clydebank, which survived the Secretary of State's official opening for only 110 days before going into liquidation? Is it not also a fact that 80 per cent. of the multi-million pound regional assistance given to Health Care International was provided on the basis of only a third of the jobs promised at that time? What possible defence is there for making another £4.4 million of taxpayers' money available to the financial drainpipe of HCI, other than that it will be a sweetener to those who are already to get a bargain basement deal, with a hospital without debt costing the entire country £180 million, or an expensive face saver for the Secretary of State for Scotland after the fiasco of the decade?
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he is not correct in saying that it cost the country £180 million, because £30 million was committed from the public sector and £150 million from the private sector. No further offer of assistance has been made. There is no reason in principle why the balance of the existing offer should not be transferred to a new operator, subject to appropriate conditions, if the project is being taken forward as originally envisaged and the planned new jobs are being created. I must remind the hon. Gentleman of his words on 10 January, when he said:
We are not opposed to public/private partnerships—they bring in much-needed money".
He is right on that. It was an inward investment project. If one takes all the investment projects in Scotland together, one can see that they have brought in more than 50,000 jobs, which have enormously benefited our countrymen. We very much hope that these matters will be sorted out shortly and that 350 jobs will be secured.