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Maternity Unit, Elgin

Volume 168: debated on Wednesday 28 February 1990

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9.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has now received supporting the development of a greenfield site for a specialist maternity unit in Elgin; and if he will make a statement on projected time scales for the announcement of his decision.

In addition to representations from the hon. Lady and from the chairman——

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to be patient. [Interruption.] Why does not the hon. Gentleman sit down and try again on question No. 10?

In addition to the representations that I have had from the hon. Lady, I have had representations from the chairman of the local health council, Mrs. Roma Hossack, as well as four letters from other organisations and individuals.

Does the Minister agree that he has received also 2,000 letters as part of a campaign organised by the Maternity Unit for Moray campaign? An additional 1,000 letters will be sent to him from my office shortly. Does he agree that this indicates the very strong feeling in the constituency that a greenfield site should be developed? Does he recall that, in discussions in Elgin in September 1988, he made it clear that this would be a matter not of debate about finance but of the delivery of good health care in my area? Does he agree that his right hon. and learned Friend said in June 1989 that money would be found? Can he now tell us that money will be found for this development, and may we be told the time scale involved?

I do not know whether it will come as a shock to the hon. Lady when I tell her that if she examines those letters carefully she will find that they are addressed to her and not to me. I hope that she will reply to each of them individually. Although the letters were not addressed to me, I fully acknowledge the extent of the support that exists for the provision of proper maternity and other services in Moray. The hon. Lady will know that we have received the option appraisal from Grampian health board. I have not yet had an opportunity to study it, but it is being looked at by officials. A hospital on a greenfield site in Elgin would cost around £25 million. It is therefore a major investment proposal. I shall certainly see that it is looked at as speedily as possible. The hon. Lady will appreciate, however, that in view of the scale of the proposal it requires detailed and careful consideration.

Is the Minister aware that, as well as the letters that he has received, I have also expressed my support for the proposals for the maternity unit at Moray? I know the area well] as I was educated there and I am pleased to support the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), because she has supported me in the campaign for Prestwick. She is aware that security, safety and environmental considerations are also important. Will the junior Minister ensure that his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State takes account of that in the lowland airports review?

If the hon. Lady is as ingenious as the hon. Gentleman in putting her message across, it will no doubt be received with some force.

The question relates to the Moray maternity unit, on which views are held on both sides of the House. The proposal certainly enjoys considerable support in Moray. I was left in no doubt about that when I attended a public meeting with demonstrators outside who said, "Thanks for coming, Mike"—the first time I have ever encountered a demonstration welcoming me to a public meeting in another hon. Member's constituency.

Question No. 11—Sir David Steel—[Interruption.] I was thrown by that piece of ingenuity. We now come to question No. 10.