I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
The matter is specific because it has been pinpointed by the Comptroller and Auditor General as the key reason why, almost without precedent, he insisted upon qualifying his certificate to the NHS accounts. In other words, he found the accounting system seriously defective in that respect. In addition, the Comptroller and Auditor General's report is specific in detailing that which has gone so badly wrong by cataloguing that"private medicine abuses within the National Health Service as condemned by the Comptroller and Auditor General's report."
The report is also specific when it spells out that other criticisms include"provision of NHS facilities for private patient treatments was not properly authorised; that income collection procedures were defective; that the identification of private, non-resident treatment was inadequate and that charges determined centrally by the health departments did not recover total costs attributable to the treatment of private patients."
The matter is important because, in the considered judgment of the Comptroller, as the head of the National Audit Office, the NHS is being cheated, whether by negligence or by fraud, of millions of pounds a year at a time when the Government are enforcing major cuts in other areas of the National Health Service to keep within budgets. The condemnation by the Comptroller and Auditor General is all the more important because the criticisms made today echo those made by the auditors four years ago. In 1981 Ministers responded by insisting that they would tighten procedures to stamp out abuse. Four years later the statutory auditors have found that the abuses persist—on an even greater scale—so it is important for the House to be given an opportunity to insist that it will not be fobbed off again with the same ministerial excuses. The issue is important in two other respects. Only 37 district health authorities were selected at random for audit. That is fewer than one fifth of health authorities in England and leaves aside nine in Wales and another 40 in Scotland. There is no reason to doubt that other health authorities are involved in similar patterns of abuse and defrauding of the NHS, so it is important that the House is able to require the Secretary of State to order that which he has so far refused to order—the auditing of the other 164 district health authorities in England and Wales to recoup the many additional millions of pounds lost to the NHS in those areas. It is also important that the Government, who are soft on private medicine, are made to face the fact that abuses by private practice within the NHS——"poor control over the use of private beds, inadequate records of private medical treatment, inaccurate charges and the absence of deposits from private inpatients in advance of treatment."
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) to make the speech that he would make if the debate were granted? He has been speaking for a considerable time.
I am listening very carefully and I shall decide that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is important that the Government are made to face the fact that abuses from private practice within the NHS are now on such a scale that they are becoming endemic. After years and years of what the Comptroller and Auditor General identified as
the House needs to state and to endorse the view that the only effective answer to this continuing malpractice is complete separation of the private sector from the NHS. The matter is urgent because these revelations from the Comptroller and Auditor General have only just been disclosed, and because immediate action is called for to uphold public standards by prosecuting those who are proved to have discredited their position at the expense of the NHS. Above all, it is urgent that effective action be taken now to stop this persistent haemorrhage of public funds. For all those reasons, I strongly request you, Mr. Speaker, to grant a debate on this crucial subject at the earliest opportunity."serious and persistent failures to maintain proper control over income from private patients"
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,
The hon. Gentleman knows that the only decision I have to take is whether to give this matter precedence over the orders set down for today or tomorrow. I have listened carefully to what he has said, but I do not consider that the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10 and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House."private medicine abuses within the NHS as condemned by the Comptroller and Auditor General's report."