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NHS Finances

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 14th March 2006.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 9:30 am, 14th March 2006

Given the hon. Gentleman's last remark, one could say that his question is rhetorical. The fact is that the Secretary of State appoints all the boards and sets the targets, guidelines and parameters in which each trust operates. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that trusts are, in effect, agents of the Government—they are not separate from the Government in any way. The Government cannot pretend that trusts are remote bodies over which they have little control, or simply pass the buck and not accept responsibility. I shall further embellish that point later. I do not take the view of those who would like to secure a ministerial scalp before lunch that somehow Ministers must be accountable for the loss of a paper clip in some distant outpost, but they must be accountable for important matters such as the fundamental management of NHS finance. The chief executive lost his job over that issue, and, as Ministers are now exposed, it is the Minister's duty to be accountable.