Clause 3 — Functions of the Centre

Part of Health (Wales) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 9th January 2003.

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Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 3:51 pm, 9th January 2003

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to say that we have had another good debate on the Health (Wales) Bill this afternoon, and we have again explored in fine detail some of its provisions. The outcome has confirmed that the pre-legislative scrutiny that preceded the Bill's introduction was successful, and proceedings in the Standing Committee and here today have further assisted in providing a thorough understanding and appreciation of the Bill and the policies that it seeks to implement.

Mr. Evans gave the Bill a welcome but then, as usual, dwelt on some of the problems that we have had with the health service in Wales. We recognise that there are problems, but I hope that he will also recognise that the legacy of his party's time in government was closed hospitals, fewer doctors and nurses, and fewer hospital beds. One wonders where the Conservatives' present proposal for a 20 per cent. cut in public expenditure would leave the health service in Wales, if ever they were in power and able to do anything so drastic and insane.

Mr. Williams welcomed the Bill. He referred to some of the problems that we face in Wales, in terms of the legacy of ill-health and inequality. He also touched on the worries about orthopaedics. I can tell him that, in Gwent, where there has been a problem with the delivery of orthopaedic services, the health expert Professor Brian Edwards will carry out a review of orthopaedics in the area of the Gwent NHS trust, and produce a report on ways in which waiting times can be reduced. We all look forward to that.

Mr. Wiggin highlighted the different approaches in Wales and England, so far as giving patients a clear voice is concerned. That is devolution, and this Labour Government, working in partnership with the Labour-led Assembly, share the same objectives, although we may well follow different routes to achieve them. That is perfectly valid within the context of the devolution settlement in Britain. He also mentioned waiting lists. As I said earlier, there have been significant improvements in reducing waiting lists in Wales. Money is being put in to tackle the problem, reforms are being put in place, and the taskforce headed by the Assembly's deputy Health Minister is now monitoring progress to see how quickly we can reduce waiting lists across a range of areas in Wales.

Hywel Williams welcomed the Bill, but also spoke about the processes by which we brought it here. No doubt we shall continue to evaluate how successful they have been. I am sure that there will be Wales-only legislation further down the line and that we shall examine how we should consult, in a pre-legislative sense, before it comes before the House.

The Bill contains three key elements that have been extensively considered and welcomed. The first is the retention and reform of community health councils, which has been widely welcomed. The second is the welcome from stakeholders for the establishment of the Wales centre for health, which was conceived back in 1998 in the days of the old Welsh Office before devolution and taken on as a result of the commitment of the Cardiff Assembly. That means that we shall strengthen public health capability and capacity in Wales. The third is the creation of Health Professions Wales—a body to perform the functions of the former Welsh National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and to support post-registration education and training of health care professionals.

Proceedings in Standing Committee improved Members' understanding and knowledge of the Bill, which have also been enhanced this afternoon. I am grateful for all contributions made by Members throughout the pre-legislative process and in Committee as well as on Report and Third Reading. We have done a good job of work between us and I am very pleased. I have every confidence in commending the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.