East Ayrshire Community Hospital

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 12:43 pm on 19th March 1997.

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Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West 12:43 pm, 19th March 1997

We are virtually at the stage at which a PFI project can go ahead. If the hon. Gentleman favoured that—I see that he does not, so I cannot make him an offer, given the election rules.

The PFI will greatly benefit the national health service, because it will ensure that public sector funds go much further. The PFI is new territory for the NHS and the private sector, and both have much to learn about each other. The deals are long-term partnerships of 20 to 25 years, involving millions of pounds of capital and significant revenue streams into the future. Partnerships— I deliberately use the word "partnership" because this is a partnership between the public and private sectors— involve provision of health care environments, and as such are not the sort of schemes that should be hurried into agreements. The NHS is too important for that. We have to get the details right.

The hon. Gentleman asked about trust vires. We have clear advice that NHS trusts have the power to sign PFI contracts. Some banks have expressed concern about that. The issue has been discussed with them, but the calling of the general election has prevented any conclusion from being reached.