Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

[Dr William McCrea in the Chair] — Hospital Services (South London)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:59 am on 22nd January 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats 9:59 am, 22nd January 2013

The right hon. Lady, who is my neighbour, raises an important issue. With the help of the Library, I have carefully examined the whole debate on the passage of the legislation, and that issue was not addressed. If she looks back at the debates and the notes on the National Health Service Act 2006, they are silent on whether a trust special administrator could or could not make recommendations that go beyond a trust. That may not have been in the mind of her colleague, Andy Burnham, who is a former Secretary of State, but he did not say that on the parliamentary record, although I stand to be corrected. It seems to be an open question.

The current Secretary of State told us that he has had legal advice and that he will take further legal advice, but whether or not the legal advice is that the trust special administrator can go beyond the boundaries of the area affected, there is a stronger argument for the Secretary of State not following the trust special administrator’s recommendation—and that argument starts from the legacy of the last general election in terms of the parties in government and the coalition agreement on how to deal with closures of A and E, and not doing so from the top downwards.

Secondly, the Government have set up the four tests, to which the hon. Member for Lewisham East referred and which have not been met. The Secretary of State has been handed this matter on a plate; it is not of his doing and I am sure it is the last thing he would have wished for. The announcement that the trust was going into special administration was made by his predecessor, and the current Secretary of State has been given a report by someone he did not appoint but with whom he now has to work. He has no choice. He has to deal with it, but he made it clear in his answer to the urgent question from the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford that the four tests, which both he and the Prime Minister have cited, must be met.

The first test—that the proposals must be supported by GP commissioners—fails before we even get to the other three. I have no reason to believe that a single GP commissioner in Lewisham is supportive—GPs elsewhere in London might be found but they implicitly do not comment—the whole idea of the proposal seems to be that if we are handing NHS decisions from the top to the doctors, we must do things that the doctors agree are the right decisions. So the proposal falls at that first hurdle.