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Questions To Ministers

Volume 81: debated on Wednesday 19 June 1985

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday at Question Time, during the course of the questions and answers on the National Health Service, I raised the issue of a young girl in my constituency, Sara Kelly, aged 22 years of age, who had died, with reference to the fact that she had needed an nebuliser under the NHS scheme. I was told by the Minister—indeed, the House was told by the Minister—in answer to my question:

"The hon. Member"—
he was referring to me—
"therefore immediately turns to another story, that of a girl in Pinxton. That is why the hon. Member asked his question, because he has not put it to me before … We can sort out the problems if the hon. Member will put the cases to us in a proper way and not seek to exploit them for his own purpose."—[Official Report, 18 June 1985; Vol. 81, c. 163.]
The clear implication of that was that I had never raised the case of Sara Kelly with the Ministry. The fact is, of course, that on 1 May, before Sara Kelly died, I wrote to the Department of Health and Social Security and asked for an investigation into the case of the nebuliser. I was calling upon the Minister to provide a nebuliser for Sara Kelly at that time. Some days later I received a telephone call from Sara's parents telling me that she had got a nebuliser, but unfortunately had passed away. I got a reply from the DHSS on 7 June—

Order. Could the hon. Gentleman make his point of order to me, because it seems to me that this point of order is rather more for the Department than it is for me?

The point I am making, Mr. Speaker — and I am absolutely certain that my hon. Friends understand it—is that the Minister misled the House. He was saying to the House yesterday that I had never raised the question of Sara Kelly in the proper fashion, and I have a copy of the reply of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) of 7 June. I rang up the DHSS yesterday and asked whether they knew that their Minister had misled the House. He has a duty to come to the House and rectify the matter, but he has not got the guts to come.

Order. These are not points of order for me. The Minister who was answering at the Dispatch Box yesterday is here and I am sure that, if the hon. Member will give him an opportunity he will wish to say something.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept that yesterday I unintentionally made an unfair comment about the hon. Member's constituency case. I came to the House armed with the particulars of two cases with which he had been dealing and one on which I had been corresponding with him. I thought that I had complete knowledge of the cases that he had raised. I therefore, I am afraid, misunderstood what he said and thought that he was raising a new case about which I had not heard before. He quite correctly says that he had written to the Department on 1 May and received a reply from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. I afterwards discovered that the hon. Member was not, as I had believed, raising a totally new case.

I have written the hon. Member a letter apologising for that and saying that it is an open letter. I am sure that he can reassure his constituents that he had raised the case in the proper way. I also repeat my undertaking to him yesterday to try to sort out the remaining cases that he has, and I believe that if he continues to pursue his constituency cases we shall be able to sort out the problems in Derbyshire.