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Health And Social Services

Volume 86: debated on Thursday 14 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his plans for future health and social services provision in Northern Ireland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Richard Needham)

The Department of Health and Social Services will shortly be issuing new strategic planning guidelines which will set parameters for the area boards' strategic plans on which the Department's new regional strategic plan for the period 1987 to 1992 will be based.

I appreciate that that is movement of a kind. Under the new consultancy arrangements, will the Department now have to consult the Irish Republic? In such consultation, is it possible that the Department will come down in favour of the Western area board, or on behalf of a firm in my constituency which has been owed £16,000 since May by that board, which has refused to pay, claiming that the Government will not give the board the money?

The guidelines are a long-established process. I hope that it will be possible to discuss them fully with all concerned so that they may be published in the near future. I acknowledge the success of the Western area board in its efforts to save money. I am not aware of the particular case that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but I shall look into it. There has been no cut in the amount of money to the Western area board, and I see no reasons why it should not be able to fulfil its financial commitments.

Will the Minister now answer the question that he was asked? Will the Government of another country, following the Cabinet decision this morning, be consulted on these matters?

I answered the question by saying that the guidelines are a long-established process agreed through the Department of Health and Social Services. We are continuing on that basis.

The Minister said that he would be consulting others. Will he say whether included in those "others" are the Government of the Irish Republic?

As I said, a statement will be forthcoming—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] This has nothing to do with the issue of the regional guidelines. I referred to consultation, and I hope that that will be with Members of this House, with Members of the Assembly and with those involved in the health profession.