asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on delays in the planning of the Borders district general hospital.
Because of the complexity of this project, the pre-design cost limit which the Borders health board submitted to my Department in April of this year has taken longer than usual to consider. The right hon. Gentleman will, however, be glad to learn that the board has now received approval.
I am always glad to learn that the board receives such approval in advance of a Question in the House, but a Question of this kind really ought not to be necessary. Will the Minister undertake to look at the procedures within his Department and within the Common Services Agency in order to ensure that these delays do not recur? Can he guarantee that the timetable for the hospital is still on course, and will he recognise that the Borders health board, of which his new hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) was until recently a member, has expressed dissatisfaction about the delay?
The timetable for the project is certainly on course. I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that there were particular difficulties because of the greenfield site at Huntlyburn and the particular problem of Melrose cricket club. All these peculiar problems related only to this development. But I shall look at what the right hon. Gentleman says, because I share his desire to avoid delays wherever that is possible.
Is my hon. Friend aware that this decision was supposed to take 13 weeks whereas it has taken 32 weeks? Will he ensure that no further unnecessary delay takes place in this vital project?
I have explained the reason for the delays—the problems of Melrose cricket club and of the greenfield site at Huntlyburn—but I assure my hon. Friend, knowing his great interest in this project, that so far as we can be certain no further delays will occur.