Clause 3 — Functions of the Centre

Part of Health (Wales) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 9th January 2003.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Conservative, Leominster 3:41 pm, 9th January 2003

I hope that you will not feel that that is necessary, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Let me deal with the aspects of the Bill that cover the National Assembly. Until your recent intervention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had not witnessed such pathological delight by Labour Members as that shown in their eagerness to hand over opportunities to the National Assembly to exercise powers such as those in the Bill. I am worried about the autonomy of Health Professions Wales and the Wales centre for health as well as Welsh CHCs when the National Assembly can exercise almost unlimited power over them.

I am also worried about the Bill's ambiguity on the co-ordination of the activities of the Wales centre for health and Health Professions Wales with those in rest of the United Kingdom. For example, there is the bureaucracy involving Welsh patients who seek medical treatment in England or vice versa. I support the Conservative view that a strong, independent body separate from the Welsh Assembly needs to be created to support CHCs. We were dismayed that none of the amendments that we tabled in Committee in favour of the independence of Welsh CHCs was accepted.

Let me give an example of imbalance. The Bill gives highly centralised powers to the National Assembly for Wales to abolish or alter the CHCs, to abolish or assume the functions of the Wales centre for health as well as to appoint its members and chairman, and to abolish Health Professions Wales. Although I am sure that it is possible for the Government to know and agree with the intentions of the current Welsh Assembly Administration, it is impossible to know the type of Administration that will exist in future.

I have always believed that, when making law, we should take the longer-term view and attempt to prevent as many unknown eventualities as possible, thus ensuring that the powers in the Bill will not have to be redistributed yet again. I am not against its concepts, but I am increasingly saddened by the short-term approach that it exemplifies.

Foundation hospitals constitute another missed opportunity. We have all expressed anxiety that there are no plans to create foundation hospitals in Wales. An article in the Daily Post on 12 December confirmed that there are no plans for such hospitals. The Secretary of State for Wales endorsed the views of the First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, that foundation hospitals are not an option for Wales. He effectively endorsed Mr. Morgan's criticisms of the Prime Minister's national health and social policies on the development of foundation hospitals.

Although I appreciate that some may describe Rhodri Morgan as a dinosaur with extreme socialist views who is stuck in a prehistoric shell and refuses to accept that we have moved on from the 1940s, the First Minister is more than entitled to his views. However, the Secretary of State deserves criticism for endorsing those seriously outdated views. Despite criticising the two-tier health service, the Government are trying to construct a similar division.