asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will make a statement on the future of the Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital.
The region's capital programme for 1975–76 is not yet finalised, but it now seems certain that it cannot include replacement of the eye hospital. The regional health authority will consider the future of the hospital during its review of priorities for 1976–77 and subsequent years.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I was awaiting it with interest having listened to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave to the previous Question. Does my hon. Friend accept that that answer will not be considered to be very satisfactory in the region, bearing in mind that the regional health authority has already spent £1½ million on laying out sewers and associated work and is now considering having to put it in an empty office block? Lastly, when can I expect a full answer to the Question which I asked on 4th February concerning this hospital?
I have a reply outstanding to my hon. Friend and I shall give it as soon as the information is available. I regret the delay. On the question of the need for the hospital there is no difference between us. This, like many other hospitals, definitely needs to be built. It is a question of the work already undertaken. The replacement of the eye hospital has been planned as about 11 weeks for ophthalmology and planned for the Queen Elizabeth site costing perhaps £20 million. That cannot be fitted into the programme for 1975–76.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answer will strike a chill throughout the West Midlands, where the decision by his Department to close this hospital, however temporarily, is regarded as callous?
I hope that when the public expenditure Estimates are next discussed in the House the hon. and learned Gentleman will be the first to argue for greater public expenditure. It is about time that Conservative Members stopped talking with two mouths. They are always against increases in public expenditure in general but want them in their own constituencies and want them in particular. They will carry more weight and conviction in the House, in the National Health Service and outside when they support increases in public expenditure across the board.