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Commons Chamber

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 27 June 1990

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 27 June 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Environment

National Parks

1.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about funding for measures to combat footpath erosion in national parks.

Seventy-five per cent. of national parks approved expenditure is met by the Government through national parks supplementary grant. Aggregate NPSG is based on bids for resources made by each national park for identified national and local priorities, including counter-erosion work and rights of way. Aggregate NPSG for 1990–91 is £9.97 million, an increase of almost 10 per cent. over 1989–90 figures, and over 20 per cent. in real terms since the Government took office in 1979.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but I am sure that he is well aware of the growing problems of footpath erosion in the Yorkshire dales on mountains such as Whernside, Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough, in north Wales on Tryfar, and in the Lake District. Will he ensure that there are sufficient funds to protect footpaths from erosion and that we open up far larger areas of the countryside so that the wear and tear can be spread over a greater area, not concentrated on one or two honey spots which people visit at present?

I am sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman's point. There has been adequate funding in this year's public expenditure survey round. Given sufficient funding in the forthcoming PES round, we hope to be able to accommodate maintenance in the districts to which he referred.

Will my hon. Friend take cognisance of the fact that in some national parks, footpaths are also used by horse riders and some walkers complain that footpaths get cut up? Will he ensure that there is always money to maintain the paths that horses also use and remind walkers that if it is muddy, they need to wear gumboots?

I am happy to echo the commercial that my hon. Friend has made to the House and confirm—I have a personal interest in the matter—that I consider bridleways to be as important as footpaths.

Does not the Minister realise that there is insufficient money to protect footpaths from erosion? Is he aware that footpath erosion results from too many people walking along the same paths? Is not it important to keep access open throughout the national parks? Will he confirm that he does not in any way support landowners in the North Yorkshire national park authority who wish to take away the public's freedom of access and, in so doing, threaten public access throughout the country?

I am happy to confirm to the hon. Lady and the House that the Government, particularly the Department of the Environment, through the Countryside Commission, are very much in favour of improved access to the countryside, but on authorised routes and recognised footpaths that are legally marked on maps. I know that the hon. Lady would support that.

Local Government Finance

2.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many suggestions he has received for alternatives to the community charge for the raising of local government finance.

We have received a number of such suggestions. However, it is clear that the community charge is the fairest of the options because it is based on the principle that everyone should pay something for the cost of local authority services. No other system makes local government as accountable to the electors.

Is not it remarkable that my hon. Friend has not yet received the Labour party's promised policy paper? Is not it the duty of any party that seriously expects to enter government at some stage to put forward its proposals? The Labour party has plenty to say in criticism of our proposals, but nothing of its own to put forward.

As my hon. Friend says, it is truly remarkable that the Labour party has not come up with an alternative. In its recent policy document it promised to publish that day a background paper setting out its proposals for local government finance. There was no background paper. I suspect that there is no background. The Labour party has no idea what it wishes to do about local government finance and that is why the deafening silence goes on.

Will the Minister take it from me that come the next general election the Labour party will have clearly stated its proposals on the matter—[Interruption.]

Will the Minister also take it from me that at that time the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) will very much regret his flippancy this afternoon?

The hon. Gentleman is a great optimist. I wish that I could share his optimism. The Labour party has been considering local government finance for 11 years and has been unable to come up with any answers. I see no reason why the hon. Gentleman should believe that another two years will give the Labour party the breakthrough that it needs. By the next general election, the basic fairness of the community charge will be well understood—certainly its great superiority to the rating system which is favoured by some Opposition Members.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend is robust in defence of the fairness of the community charge, and I hope that he will continue to be so. But in his deliberations will he look closely at the standard community charge and the iniquitous suggestion by some local authorities that it must always be at the two times multiplier?

Of course I will consider my hon. Friend's point. This is an area where the Government wished local government to be local. It is an area where we gave discretion to local authorities to apply multipliers on the standard community charge up to a maximum of two. I regret that not all local authorities took seriously enough the consideration of what multiplier should apply to different classes of people and I am now looking carefully at that.

Because of the great concern throughout Britain at the likely levels of the poll tax next year, when does the Minister intend to announce his alternative to his poll tax? In addition, may we be told when he intends to lay before the House for debate the Government orders spelling out the budgets of councils which he has poll tax-capped? Will he confirm that the delay in making those orders is due to the fact that the Secretary of State has now admitted using information that he received from Tory councillors on Calderdale, Derbyshire and Haringey councils in fixing their authorities' budgets? When does the Minister intend to bring forward his alternative to his poll tax?

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. We are not bringing forward an alternative to the community charge: we are looking at any anomalies in the system. I hope that we shall be able to make an announcement on at least some of those before the summer recess. There has been a judgment today from the Appeal Court and I believe that the way is clear for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to lay before the House the remaining draft orders and, if the House approves them, to make orders stating the final caps for the authorities.

Will my hon. Friend take it from me that my constituents find the community charge perfectly acceptable, but that they do not find acceptable the fact that Labour-controlled Humberside county council used the introduction of the charge to increase its expenditure by about 11.75 per cent. and they will have no early opportunity to oppose that at the ballot box? Moreover, most of the other districts in Humberside benefit from the safety net, but mine do not. Will he consider that in his review of the charge?

I have told my hon. Friend and the House that we will carefully consider any new evidence on the standard spending assessments.

I had the pleasure of making a speech in Humberside on Friday evening, when I was able to make the point that the very high spending and the very large increase in spending by Labour-controlled Humberside council has resulted in much higher community charges than would otherwise have been justified; and that, of course, has been the main cause of the high charges borne by my hon. Friend's constituents.

Norfolk Broads

3.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what rights the local community has in the management of the Norfolk Broads; and if he will make a statement on protection of the environment in the Norfolk Broads.

Under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988, the development, conservation and management of the Norfolk Broads is the responsibility of the Broads Authority which consists of 35 members, over half of whom represent local authorities. Thus they play their part in all aspects of the management of the Broads. The protection of the Broads environment is a prime objective of the Broads Authority, endorsed by the Government, and its commitment to that has been amply demonstrated since it came into being in April last year.

Is the Minister satisfied with the work of the new Broads Authority in its first year of operation? When can we expect a report on that work? As the Minister has stressed that more than 50 per cent. of the members of the new authority are elected representatives of the local community, is not it a desirable formula to have local people involved in the management of such an important area, and will he commend that formula to similar areas elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's first point and whether we can make available a report for all hon. Members to see.

As for the hon. Gentleman's second point—I am certain that this is the point he is making—I noticed that on 21 June he asked a similar question about the replication of that model in Northern Ireland, to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Northern Ireland replied that he was prepared to become involved in further discussions about Strangford lough in particular. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman welcomed that assurance and will take advantage of it if he sees fit.

Is my hon. Friend aware that since the new integrated conservation management approach introduced by the Act came into place this unique national asset has been safeguarded for future generations? Will he join me in paying tribute to the Norfolk people and to the one or two Suffolk people who have played a part in the new structure? Does he agree that if the people living around Strangford lough want to learn about conservation they need look no further than Norfolk?

If this carries on we shall have a twinning arrangement between Strangford lough and my hon. Friend's constituency—which may not be too bad an idea. I am happy to pay tribute to the Broads Authority. My hon. Friend may recall that I had the opportunity to do that in the Standing Committee examining the Environmental Protection Bill.

What have Ministers learnt from the ongoing saga of Halvergate marshes, which featured so much in the Committee stage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981? Have they learnt anything about the management of wetlands?

I think that we have learnt a great deal and that that has transposed itself into legislation which we hope will come forward from the European Community.

Green Belt

4.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many acres of green belt have been lost to urban development in the last seven years; and if he will make a statement.

The total area of approved green belt has more than doubled over the past 11 years; any loss to urban development will have been minute by comparison.

Although I am grateful for the Government's rigour in conserving the green belt, can my hon. Friend assure me that the Department will be equally rigorous in preventing development in conservation areas in the inner cities? For instance, two thirds of Kensington qualifies as a conservation area. Will my hon. Friend provide for inner London the same oases of calm as the green belt provides for suburban areas?

The Government wholly support the concept of conservation areas. Their designation is a matter for local authorities, and whether designations should be more widespread is a subject of a current consultation paper on demolitions, responses to which were due this Monday.

Will the Minister have a word with his Scottish colleagues and make it clear that Mr. Wallace Mercer, that great entrepreneur, should not be given permission to seize part of Edinburgh's green belt for his super-duper stadium? We should remember that Mr. Mercer is interested only in the fast buck and not in the Hearts or Hibs supporters who have got a squalid deal all the way through this sorry tale which is repeatedly mentioned in the Scottish press.

As the hon. Gentleman says, that is not a matter for me. I shall certainly make sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland hears what the hon. Gentleman says.

Competitive Tendering

5.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the progress of the implementation of compulsory competitive tendering in local government.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment
(Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)

Competitive tendering for construction and maintenance work has been compulsory since 1980. It was extended to a range of services, such as cleaning, refuse collection and vehicle maintenance by the Local Government Act 1988. It is being phased in and the first two rounds of competition are complete. The results have been encouraging, and it is clear that competition has done a great deal to improve efficiency and secure better value for money.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that there is no room in the philosophy of either socialism or the free market for waste and that the greatest benefit of competitive tendering is the elimination of waste? On behalf of all those who enjoy the services that are provided by local authorities throughout the country, may I urge him to continue the vigorous programme of competitive tendering that has been undertaken by the Government to ensure maximum value for money for taxpayers and all service users?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. Compulsory competitive tendering is a potent weapon in the hands of local authorities to secure high-quality services at the most competitive price.

Is there any prospect of the Government adopting for their own responsibilities the safe practices that they now require local government to pursue? If he cares to read the Official Report of the debate on electricity privatisation he will see that if the rules that his Department is seeking to impose on local government were to apply to central Government some occupants of the Treasury would face surcharge or imprisonment.

We are always looking for new areas in which to introduce the benefits of open competition. I regret that the Labour party is apparently seeking to undermine that by withdrawing the requirement that competition should be compulsory. We are on the side of the charge payer and against the empire builders in some local authorities.

Can my hon. Friend report on the position in Humberside? Can he confirm that he has had to issue a section 13 notice because that county council, in flagrant disregard of the charge payers in the county, is failing to operate the competitive tendering requirements of our policy?

Yes, Sir. Humberside has been issued with a section 13 notice because of apparent anti-competitive behaviour during the tendering round. The council is now required formally to account for its actions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has further sanction powers that he will not hesitate to implement if the evidence warrants it.

Football Stadiums

6.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when his Department's draft consultation document on issues of planning policy guidance on the considerations relevant to new and redeveloped stadiums for Football League clubs will be issued.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State hopes soon to issue a draft planning policy guidance note on sport and recreation matters, and it will also deal with all-seater Football League stadiums.

I do not know whether I should be thankful for that laid-back reply. Now that the Under-Secretary of State has been stripped by the Home Office of most of his football responsibilities, at least we cannot blame him for not setting up the Football Licensing Authority. As he has extra time on his hands, will he at least get to grips with his remaining responsibilities and give clear guidance to the football clubs on the safety standards laid down by Lord Justice Taylor? It is clear that the clubs are much more anxious than the Government to implement Taylor's proposals.

That clear guidance has been given and as soon as the Football Licensing Authority has been established, the guidance will be reinforced.

Although everyone associated with football regrets the delay in implementing the proposals and setting up the licensing authority, does my hon. Friend agree that it is better that we get such matters right and that the right people are appointed to the authority? Does he accept that, in any event, the interim recommendations of Lord Justice Taylor's report have already been implemented by most clubs?

I agree completely with my hon. Friend's second point. Several clubs have taken positive action to pursue the recommendations in Lord Justice Taylor's interim report. I shall pass the comments that my hon. Friend made in the first part of his question to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Does the Minister agree that if all 92 clubs in the Football League are to have the stadiums that their spectators deserve, some imagination will have to be shown by those who propose developments and more particularly by the local authorities to which such proposals are addressed?

Yes, I agree completely. It is precisely for that reason that relevant paragraphs will be included in the planning policy guidance note that will be issued shortly.

My hon. Friend will be aware that Liverpool, one of the clubs which participated in the match at Hillsborough where the tragedy that gave rise to the Taylor report took place has endorsed the concept of all-seater stadiums. Does my hon. Friend agree that the remarks of Lord Justice Taylor and the policy of the Government have been endorsed by the behaviour of the crowds at the World Cup, who were mainly in all-seater stadiums? There have been almost no incidents in the grounds.

Is not it 15 months since 95 people were killed at Hillsborough, one year since the legislation went through the House and three months since cash was promised in the Budget? Yet the whole system of improving grounds has been held up by the bureaucracy at the Minister's Department and at the Home Office. The two Departments simply cannot agree on the chairman of the committee and the setting up of the Football Licensing Authority. Since then we have had the riots at Bournemouth. The four years laid down for putting seats in stadiums has been eaten away and soon there will be only three years left. The whole scheme is in danger of being postponed and further accidents may take place because the Home Office and the Department of the Environment cannot get their act together.

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. If he had listened to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and my reply he would have learnt that many clubs have been responsible and moved ahead with the recommendations in their own right.

World Cup

8.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he will be making to UEFA concerning the behaviour of England fans at the World Cup.

I have agreed with the president of UEFA that it would be unwise of the Government to take a view on the return of English clubs to European competitions until we are able to assess the behaviour of English supporters in the 1989–90 domestic season and throughout the World Cup. I will provide my assessment to UEFA as soon as possible.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating the vast majority of English fans at the World Cup who, together with their Scottish and Irish friends, have behaved extremely well? Does he agree that although the Italian police perhaps stepped beyond the bounds on several occasions, they have shown the value of dealing with trouble well away from the ground? Will the Minister make representations to UEFA that it is far better to identify troublemakers and deal with them severely, in whichever country they are caught, than to penalise the whole of English football by keeping it out of international competition?

I, too, recognise that the overwhelming majority of English supporters have gone to Italy to enjoy a festival of football and have behaved admirably.

The hon. and learned Gentleman's second point was on Italian police activity. I join him in commending the Italian police for taking tough, effective and swift measures to contain the incidents of violence.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's third point about action by the courts, I agree that other countries in Europe and, indeed, elsewhere in the world would do well to introduce measures which allow their countries to take action against people convicted of football-related offences in the country where the football match took place. We have led the way through part II of the Football Spectators Act 1989 and I hope that other countries will follow.

Is not it the case that a number of the measures that my hon. Friend fought for with the Italian authorities in relation to Sardinia, particularly the bans on alcohol near the ground, and the ferry bans, have been particularly effective as was his work with the football intelligence unit in identifying hooligans before they reached Sardinia? Is not it a disgrace that my hon. Friend's efforts on behalf of this country are constantly being undermined by yesterday's Minister, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who has failed to have the good grace to welcome all the efforts that my hon. Friend has made, the majority of which, in the first stage of the competition, were entirely successful?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. The Government have always taken the view that it is important to be pro-active and to work closely with the Italian authorities to put in place as many layers of deterrence against hooliganism as possible. We have been working hard for more than 14 months and have joined the Italian authorities in more than 120 measures to deter the hooligan element. I deeply regret that a tiny minority is still intent on hooliganism and continues to cause trouble. However, we shall continue throughout the rest of the World Cup to work closely with the Italian authorities, as we have done to date, to make sure that any measures required to stamp out hooliganism have the full backing and support of this Government.

Millions of peace-loving fans want to see England back in European football. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on what he has done, but will he confirm that he intends to play vigorously on their side to get English football back into Europe?

I have made it absolutely clear to the House that the overwhelming majority of football supporters have behaved well during the World Cup and I shall make it clear to UEFA that where there have been incidents of violence involving English supporters, a comprehensive report—based on police evidence and my officials' reports, not on newspaper headlines—will form part of the full report which goes to UEFA at the end of the World Cup.

Is my hon. Friend really able to assure UEFA that British football management is sufficiently determined to meet hooliganism with touch discipline? If the Football League can relegate Swindon town from division 1 to division 3 because of the behaviour of a couple of crooks, why did it not demote Leeds united from division 1 to division 4 because of the criminal behaviour of 200 hooligans who laid waste a number of seaside towns?

My hon. Friend has made his point very clearly. I have no doubt that the Football League will pay due attention to it.

May I advise the Minister that this afternoon I have requested a meeting with the president of UEFAH—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—to make sure that he fully understands that the Minister's policies lie in ruins, as we predicted, and to assure him that the Minister's increasingly frenzied utterances, particularly about innocent people who have been deported without trial, have no support on the Opposition Benches or among responsible people? What steps has the Minister taken to tell the Italian authorities that to round up and deport people, some of whom were tourists, miles away from the scene of the incident, is a disgrace and that every citizen is entitled to defend himself and his reputation under Italian, English and European law? [Interruption.] May I say to the Minister—[Interruption.]

Order. The right hon. Gentleman should ask a question, not make a statement.

May I ask the Minister to follow the policy on which we have supported him—that guilty people should be prosecuted and dealt with, but that innocent people should be presumed not guilty rather than being rounded up as they have been? [Interruption.] It was clear that Conservative Members—[Interruption.]

Order. This is Question Time, and I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to be brief.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that when I started this question, it was quite a short question.

May I finally say—

Order. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to make his final comments brief.

That is my intention, Mr. Speaker.

Finally, I ask the Minister to reflect on the monstrous mass libel of guilty and innocent alike represented by the comments that he is reported in this morning's press to have made—that they are criminally motivated. The guilty should be prosecuted but people who have claimed that they are innocent and have not been given the opportunity to prove it should not be convicted by such mass libel.

When the right hon. Gentleman studies the record, he will see that he has echoed the pleas of the louts who comprise football's effluent tendency. The Government stand shoulder to shoulder with all decent people in this country who condemn the criminally motivated minority of so-called England fans. I remain firm in my support for the tough, swift and effective policing that has undoubtedly contained incidents which could have escalated to levels that we have seen all too often in the past.

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has only this morning decided that he wishes to seek a meeting with UEFA. He was in Italy for 10 days at the same time as the president of UEFA; he could perhaps have seen him then.

Private Rented Accommodation

10.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new tenancies he expects will be created by private landlords during 1990–91.

There are clear signs of increased activity in the residential letting market following the Housing Act 1988. I want to speed up this revival of the private rented sector.

Why does the Minister not admit that recent legislation has totally failed to provide rented accommodation for people who desperately need it because they cannot afford to buy? There is no evidence whatever that such accommodation is being provided in the private market. Given the current crisis in the Housing Corporation, and as interest rates continue high, why do not Ministers allow local authorities to start building houses again and providing the accommodation that is so desperately needed? Why should those desperately in need of accommodation be penalised because of the selfishness and dogma of Tory Ministers?

There are two problems facing the private rented sector—to that extent, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The first is that, for years, we have undermined the role and function and the self-confidence of the private landlord. The second is that there is a blight hanging over the private rented sector due to the pronouncements of the Labour party, particularly those to the effect that it would sequester private property and again involve itself in rent control and total tenure. If the hon. Gentleman has a problem, perhaps he should have a word with his own Front-Bench spokesmen and get them to remove that blight.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the anti-private-sector policies of Norwich city council and other Labour councils which preside over large council estates with increasing numbers of empty houses will serve only to increase the number of homeless people in my constituency and others?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. Housing authorities throughout the country, particularly Labour housing authorities, are sitting on 100,000 vacant council houses. Because of the points that I made in answer to the first question, there has been little incentive for potential private landlords to bring the 600,000 vacant properties on to the market. At the very least, as a priority, we must get our existing housing stock properly used.

While one wishes to see a considerable increase in the supply of rental property, does the Minister consider that more needs to be done than just removing rent controls? Has he considered the experience in Northern Ireland, where there has been no rent control whatever on new-build properties since 1956, without producing any increase in supply? Does he agree that other measures are necessary to increase the supply of property?

Yes, Sir. I am giving serious consideration to what other measures need to be introduced in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. For instance, it should be made easier for people, especially elderly people, to let property. I am having discussions about whether we could use housing associations on a contract basis to manage some properties for elderly landlords. There is also the question whether the law is moving swiftly enough. There are plans as from next April to make it much easier for landlords to have their contracts applied. That is extremely important. We are considering other measures to do exactly as the hon. Gentleman suggests and to make the private rented sector much more effective than it has been in the past.

Competitive Tendering

11.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what savings he estimates could be made throughout local government by the introduction of competitive tendering and other efficiency measures.

Earlier this month the Audit Commission identified possible savings in local government of £1,328 million, of which about 50 per cent. has been achieved. Competitive tendering has been a powerful element in reducing those costs, but clearly there are very large savings still to be made.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that failure to implement competitive tendering is a fraud on the community charge payer, that local authorities that are not implementing competitive tendering properly are probably pandering to the interests of local trade unions, which are totally opposed to the interests of local residents and will mean a higher community charge?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Compulsory competitive tendering is an indispensable mechanism for ensuring high-quality services at lower cost. It is a matter of regret, although hardly surprising, that the Labour party is therefore against it.

If the Minister is serious about savings for local authorities through greater efficiency, will he have a word with the Secretary of State for Energy about the pricing policy of British Gas? Is he aware that yesterday the finance committee of Coventry city council decided to turn up the heat in 14 schools and old people's homes and open the windows to use an extra 56,000 therms of gas before November so as to qualify for a £30,000 lower bill from British Gas? What is the point in the Prime Minister, across the water this morning, giving £5 million to combat global warming when we in Coventry have to burn more gas to save money?

Energy pricing is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, but it is clear that privatisation of the electricity industry will be a powerful factor in controlling energy costs in the future.

Would my hon. Friend agree that the Government's policy on competitive tendering is very good? Will he consider the implementation, particularly by Middlesbrough council, which seeks to find a way around almost everything when it comes to competitive tendering? It recently awarded a contract for security services to a company which it set up with one of its councillors on the board, which did not have employees, against a proper tender submitted by a recognised and long-standing security firm? At the end of the day the tender was a small amount in favour of the newly-formed company, as can happen with a system in which only the chairman of the committee opens the tenders. Is not it time, therefore, for the Government to ensure that at least one person from the opposition can be on the tender committee when the documents are opened?

The 1988 Act gives my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State sanction powers against local authorities that have apparently acted anti-competitively. If my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) has evidence, he should submit it and I will ensure that it is drawn to the attention of officials and of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Does the Minister accept that there was more than a little hypocrisy surrounding the answers given by Ministers about financial efficiency and local government? Financial efficiency in local government is acres and years ahead of the Government, given the over-run and overspend in the Ministry of Defence. If such overspending were translated into local government, councillors would be surcharged, as they have been in Lambeth, and would end up in gaol. It is time that the Government accepted the restrictions that they place on local government.

I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman seeks to overlook the undoubted examples of waste and extravagance among local authorities. Compulsory competitive tendering is necessary, and I should be more interested in the hon. Gentleman's attitude to that.

City Action Teams

12.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the progress of the work of the city action teams.

City team actions exist to make the most from the Government's substantial programmes for inner-city areas. They encourage co-operation between central and local government and between business and the voluntary sector so as to bring regeneration to inner cities and to benefit their residents.

Does my hon. Friend agree that city action teams play a vital role in the Government's £4 billion programme to revitalise the inner cities while Labour's candy floss document, "Looking to the Future", contains not a section and barely a word about inner cities? Does not that tell us something about Labour's commitment to the inner cities, compared with the Government's record?

As my hon. Friend says, it is an extraordinary omission. The period of the last Labour Government was not a good one for inner cities. We are perfectly used to inaction by the Labour party, but to lack even rhetoric and promises about the inner cities is remarkable indeed and certainly contrasts with the £4 billion per year programme of Government aid for inner-city areas. I am pleased to say that that programme is flourishing, helped by the city action teams.

Does the Minister realise that, given the crisis in inner cities and the housing crisis throughout the country, the programme is insignificant and little is happening? Is he aware that the Housing Act 1988, to which the Under-Secretary of State referred, is in tatters without one housing action trust being set up, no voluntary transfers and absolute chaos in the Housing Corporation? Instead of all the talk, will the Government do something about housing and the inner-city crisis?

I must overcome my disappointment that the hon. Gentleman did not tell us his party's policy on inner cities, given that the absence of such a policy has been pointed out. The hon. Gentleman's comments about results under this Government were untrue. He will know that the urban development corporations have attracted £7 billion of private investment, much of which is being spent on housing. City grants, and the predecessors, are supporting 430 projects and leading to the construction of 11,800 homes, among other things. When I say "among other things", I mean 47,000 jobs and a further £1 billion of private sector investment. If the hon. Gentleman does not know what is going on in the inner cities he must be going round blindfolded.

Does my hon. Friend agree that whatever progress is made by city action teams in improving the quality of life for inner-city residents, one of the greatest environmental problems still to be tackled is the war against litter, graffiti and vandalism? Does he agree that we must do all that we can to encourage community initiatives? Will he pay particular tribute to the initiative being taken by the Wolverhampton Express and Star. with its "litter busters" initiative, to try to clean up the black country and to involve young people in that activity?

I welcome campaigns of that sort. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is important to keep sites free from litter and dumping in order to raise the spirit of the area. The Government's actions are directed towards raising the level of economic prosperity so that regeneration will be self-sustaining. There is no point in investing in housing projects or whatever alone—one must raise the general level of prosperity to create a better environment in inner-city areas.

Local Authority Spending Assessments

13.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities have made representations to his Department regarding their standard spending assessment.

A large number of local authorities have made representations about their standard spending assessments.

Does the Minister accept that if the standard spending assessment figures given to local authorities are too low, there will be serious implications for poll tax payers because that will force up the poll tax to a high level? Lancashire county council and many other county councils in the north-west, like councils throughout the country, have made representations about their SSAs. Does the Minister accept that when the Secretary of State meets local authority associations later this year he should not only discuss the matter but respond positively by ensuring that an increase in the figures next year so that poll tax levels can be reduced considerably?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State always responds positively to propositions. There is too much evidence that high-spending local authorities try to use SSAs as a scapegoat for their inefficiency and extravagance. Certainly, that is true of Burnley and Lancashire. In Burnley, the SSA is 17.5 per cent. higher than its grant-related expenditure equivalent last year, yet spending increased by 25 per cent. That shows that the high community charge in Burnley is fairly and squarely the responsibility of the socialist council and the socialist Lancashire county council.

Will my hon. Friend congratulate the citizens and local government officers in Calderdale on collecting the community charge at about the same rate they collected rates in the past? When he looks at SSAs will he take into account areas of special geographic difficulty, such as Calder Valley which has numerous roads which are often affected by bad winters and about which I have approached the Department year after year?

I shall convey my hon. Friend's congratulations to those responsible and I assure him that, as always, we shall listen to his representations carefully.

Does the Minister appreciate that if he does not tell us how many local authorities made representations, a great many of which were Conservative, we shall conclude that he cannot count, which is quite likely to be right? Can he also tell us the answers to the important questions of how many local authorities, both Conservative and Labour, have asked for their SSA to be reassessed because it is too low, and whether or not part of the changes that the Government make to the poll tax will include increasing SSAs to meet the requirements of Conservative and Labour local authorities.

The Government are more interested in the quality of representations than in their number. This year there has been a 10 per cent. increase in SSAs compared with the GRE assessments for last year. That is above the rate of inflation. The hon. Gentleman must face the fact that the much higher than expected community charges are due not to inadequate SSAs but to the high-spending policies of so many councils.

Recycling

14.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what initiatives he is taking to promote recycling by waste collection authorities.

The Environmental Protection Bill will require waste collection authorities to draw up and publish plans to recycle material in their area. The Bill also gives them a direct financial incentive to recycle waste rather than send waste for disposal.

As an important measure to encourage more recycling, will my hon. Friend consider passing credits from waste disposal authorities to waste collection authorities and also to voluntary bodies if they can come forward with viable schemes for waste recycling?

Yes, Sir. Under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Bill, waste collection authorities will receive financial credits for material that they recycle rather than send for disposal. Voluntary bodies and agencies may also receive such financial assistance. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State can require them to be paid the money if circumstances warrant it. That should be a powerful incentive to local recycling efforts.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House and the country what became of the initiative launched by the Prime Minister under the leadership of Richard Branson?

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the voluntary initiatives on litter, those are still going ahead and are very successful.

My hon. Friend will be aware that Walworth road is in the borough of Southwark. Will he consider giving special assistance to that council to deal with the horrendous piles of waste paper along that road, much of which is entitled "Labour's Alternative to the Community Charge" and appears to have been recycled on a number of occasions already?

I believe that there is a lot of waste and rubbish around Walworth road which has already been recycled fairly extensively and it may be better now to send it for disposal.

Drinking Water

15.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects all British drinking water sources to comply with European requirements for maximum pesticide residue levels.

It is not possible to give a date for full compliance with the standard in the EC drinking water directive for pesticides, because this particular standard is not, in our view, technically achievable by any member state. The trace amounts of pesticide found in a small proportion of United Kingdom drinking water supplies are not regarded by the Government's medical advisers as posing a danger to health. The Government require water companies to carry out regular monitoring for pesticide residues and, where appropriate, to develop the technology for their removal and investigate, with the National Rivers Authority, the case for restricting the use of pesticides in the areas from which they draw water.

Is the Minister aware that reports today state that two thirds of London's drinking water is now contaminated with unacceptable levels of pesticides? What do the Government intend to do about that? Thames Water has until some time in the next century to bring its water up to EC standards. Is that timetable to be altered?

I have already asked for a report on the pesticides identified in Thames Water supplies. However, at this stage I must say that the Government's medical advisers are satisfied that the trace amounts of pesticides revealed by extensive monitoring in the United Kingdom generally do not endanger public health. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in not wishing to scaremonger in any way. For a number of supplies, suitable technology for full-scale treatment to remove pesticides and other trace organic substances will probably not be available for any country anywhere for the next five years.

Is not it an impertinence for folk in Brussels, however eminent, to lay down conditions for the quality of drinking water in the United Kingdom? Ought not it to be a matter for the House and for the Government to determine the quality of our drinking water?

My hon. Friend places me in a difficult position. As he knows, we are a keen, active and positive member of the European Community and we participate actively at European Council meetings of Ministers. I am pleased to reassure my hon. Friend that the standards that we set on a national basis, which are incorporated in legislation, are higher than and superior to what the European Community directs us to do.

If, as the Minister says, the Government are such a keen and active member of the European Community and are so proud of Britain's record, why is he so active in Brussels in blocking proposals to make it easier to introduce future improvements in standards in the EC directive on drinking water quality? Is not that another sign of the Minister's negative attitude to Brussels and total complacency about drinking water quality?

I am sure that the House will forgive me if I refuse to take lectures from the hon. Lady about anything to do with drinking water when I recall what the Labour Government did when they were last in office, dramatically cutting the money available to the water authorities. I am glad to be able to tell the House that we are leading the way on water initiatives, which have been raised at the meetings of the European Council of Environment Ministers. The hon. Lady, along with her right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, seems determined to take every possible opportunity to do the country down and sell it short. That seems to be Labour's new tactic, but I can hardly believe that it would commend itself to the electorate.

Sewage Discharges

16.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take immediate steps to ensure that sewage discharged into estuaries around the United Kingdom is treated from the earliest possible date, to ensure immediate re-design of any planned developments including long sea outfalls to incorporate full treatment, and to provide Government finance to meet these commitments.

The Government have already taken steps to require that sewage discharged to estuaries and coastal waters is treated from the earliest possible date. All new developments will incorporate treatment, and arrangements are in hand to establish treatment works at existing outfalls. Because of successful privatisation, the £3 billion required is available without recourse to the Treasury.

The Minister has failed to give the simple reassurance for which my question asked—that sewage outfalls such as that at Lavernock will be treated. They are still at the planning stage, so there is time for the Government to make that change and to show that they mean what they say. There is a suspicion in Europe that the Government do not mean what they say. Those of us who served on the Committee on Water Bill last year also suspect that they do not. Can the Minister tell us that outfalls such as Lavernock will be treated, that the change will be made now, when there is still time, and that the Government mean what they say?

Long sea outfalls which have not yet been started will include treatment. Projects already in hand or not yet started will include treatment at a future date.

Statutory Instruments, &C

Ordered,

That the draft Meat and Livestock Commission Levy (Variation) Scheme (Confirmation) Order 1990 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1990 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

Points Of Order

3.31 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the great parade in London today, representing so many facets of our national life, to celebrate the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, would you be good enough on our behalf to send Her Majesty the best wishes of the House of Commons?

I understand that there may be an opportunity to do that officially a little later in the year. However, I share the hon. Gentleman's view and look forward to going to the parade myself this evening.

On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I realise that you are not responsible for the answers that Ministers give to questions, you will recall that, in a supplementary question to question 10, I raised the appropriate matter of local authority efficiency and asked the Minister whether he would contact the Department of Energy about a matter relating to British Gas. However, the Minister replied on the subject of electricity, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the question. Is there any possibility of you having a word with either the Leader of the House or the Patronage Secretary to ascertain whether we can get the quality of the Ministers at the Department of the Environment up a peg or two?

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a matter for me. I am not responsible for answers. It might have been a slip of the tongue.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friends and I at this end of the Chamber distinctly heard the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) shout to my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport that my hon. Friend is the biggest football hooligan in the country. That demonstrates the right hon. Gentleman's complete lack of knowledge because I have it on the most excellent recommendation that one or two others are even larger than my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman should be asked to withdraw that comment which shows his complete lack of knowledge and an inability to discharge his duty.

I am afraid that things are occasionally said from a sedentary position, but they do not form part of our parliamentary proceedings. I did not hear that particular remark, and I am sure that the Minister concerned is not thought of in anything like those terms.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask you to defend the House against such insults, particularly as "the tartan army", as it has been called, returned from the world cup without one of its members being arrested for anything. That matter is not one that I would wish to display against our dear friends south of the border.

Order. I know that I have not been able to call the hon. Member, but is his a point of order or a point of frustration? Perhaps it is both.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There was an exchange in the House last week in which you were involved, and which I am afraid led to some bad publicity. May I personally apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, for the embarrassment that I caused.

One-Parent Families

3.38 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law in order to give local authorities greater discretion in providing accommodation for certain categories of one-parent families.
According to the Department of Employment's quarterly returns, 44 per cent. of people accepted by councils as homeless are in that category because their families, or in some cases their friends, have evicted them. That is a much more common cause of homelessness than divorce and the break-up of common law arrangements. My particular concern is with one category of homeless persons—girls and young women who are pregnant or who have recently produced babies.

Such girls account for 13 per cent. of homelessness cases—an increase of half the number 10 years ago. Recent statistics from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, "Child Abuse in England and Wales 1983–87", reveal that children in one-parent families are twice as likely to be sexually abused and six times as likely to fail to thrive as their counterparts in a normal two-parent arrangement. That is not meant as a criticism of the many lone parents—widows, divorcees, abandoned women, and in some cases abandoned men—who struggle bravely to bring up their children under difficult circumstances. Rather it is a sad reflection of the fact that a child in the early stages of its life often needs more support than a lone parent can provide.

I want to address two specific issues. The first is the eviction of pregnant young women by their parents—something that we now seem to accept as a matter of course. The other is the way that local authorities should cope with those who undoubtedly need rehousing. The Association of District Councils is concerned at the large number of young people becoming homeless, and recently recommended:
"Where inquiries reveal that the person was within twelve months prior to applying to them as homeless or threatened with homelessness living with his parents or parent, guardian or guardians, he should be required to show to the satisfaction of the authority that the homelessness or threatened homelessness is genuine."
Under that male language is concealed the vital category of pregnant young women.

The statistic of 13 per cent. covers pregnant women only. It does not include the substantial number who have recently produced babies and have then been thrown out by their parents. I encountered an example of that a few weeks ago that I should like to share with the House.

A young woman in local-authority-supported accommodation came to my surgery with a number of problems with which I did my best to assist. She was 21, and during the course of the conversation it transpired that her parents were living just a couple of miles from her in an extremely comfortable house on their own. Her father had a regular job, but her parents had completely washed their hands of her. She had been away from home for more than 12 months, and I would not seek to change the law in her case, but the position would have been exactly the same legally if she had been living at home until the pregnancy.

As it stands, the law allows the parent to throw out any daughter aged over 16. That action has a double effect. First, other families who badly need accommodation are pushed down the housing waiting list. Secondly, the child born to the lone parent is at a great risk, often from predatory boyfriends. As the statistics I have already cited show, the child of a lone parent is twice as likely to be sexually abused and six times as likely to fail to thrive as a child in a two-parent family. But those statistics understate the depth of the problem because they are based on one-parent families as a single category. That category includes several groups in which there is little extra risk to the child—for example, those lone parents who are widows, divorced women and abandoned wives. The risk to their children is very much lower than that faced by the child of a young single girl.

We must ask ourselves whether we believe that all parental obligations to daughters living at home end the moment they become adult. Let us remember that for the purposes of the present law a girl becomes an adult at 16, not even at 18. I believe that those obligations should not end. Sadly, as so often happens, custom and practice have followed just a few years behind the law. Because the House passed the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, which is aimed at a small category of genuine, difficult cases, it has now become a matter of course for many parents—one could almost say most—to wash their hands of their daughter and throw her out once she becomes pregnant.

At a time when the Government are rightly chasing fathers and stressing their financial obligations, it is also right that we should consider two other categories of obligation and duty. I propose two specific measures. First, it should become a civil law offence for parents to evict a pregnant daughter under 25 years of age who is living at home or has lived continuously at home in the previous 12 months when those parents have adequate accommodation. Councils would then be allowed to bring civil actions against such parents.

Secondly, there will always be young pregnant women looking for accommodation—perhaps there is no parental home or the girl has been living away from it for a long time. Young girls may also leave home because of overcrowding or a risk of violence. In such cases I believe that councils should have a right and a duty to consider placing younger girls in warden-assisted accommodation where proper supervision is provided to ensure that the child born is not at risk.

From my constituency case load I know of a woman who gave birth to her first child when she was extremely young. To begin with she lived alone. Social services told me that she produced a total of six children. They believe that each one came from a different father. During that time her transient boyfriends have abused the first five children—the fifth child was only two and a half years of age at the time. In such a case it would have been much better if, initially, that woman had been placed in some type of supervised warden-assisted accommodation.

My Bill seeks to shift the debate on this vital issue of such vulnerable children away from a discussion of rights towards a discussion of duties and obligations. The Bill deals with two sets of duties: first, the duties which parents should continue to have to their offspring which should not end when the child reaches the age of 16; and, secondly, the duties of local councils. Of course they should have a duty to unmarried mothers with a vital need for accommodation, but their first duty must be to the rights of the child. I urge the House to support my Bill.

3.44 pm

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The Bill is more concerned with the discretion to refuse single parents housing. Its attitudes are rooted in the worst bigoted Victorian values. I suspect that it is aimed at a small number of people, but it will have wide and sweeping effects. It seeks partially to excuse the Government's disgraceful record on housing.

There is a crisis in housing and a great deal of homelessness, and single parents are particularly vulnerable, but the housing crisis is the Government's fault. The Bill goes much deeper than that, as it seeks to remove the civil rights of any single pregnant mother under 25. It seeks to punish them as it states that such a woman, who the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) perceives to be a problem, has no right to a home of her own and should be herded into warden-assisted accommodation as if single mothers were somehow deviants. That is an outrageous suggestion which is probably entirely in keeping with the hon. Gentleman's and the Prime Minister's view of single parents. The Bill is in line with the Government's attempt to find a new scapegoat in single parents.

The chairman of the Tory party, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, set the scene for handling single parents in that way when he told the London conference on crime culture that
"single parent families and illegitimacy were to blame for rising crime and unemployment in inner cities."
Not only are those claims hurtful and insulting to single parents, but they are entirely untrue. A Home Office research study conducted in 1985 rebutted any link between single parents and crime.

The hon. Gentleman also sought to convince us that the children of single parents are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, although he tried to exclude certain categories. His remarks would be greatly resented by any single parent. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not have sufficient evidence to support them. If he is serious about helping young pregnant women, perhaps he should explain why the other night he voted against them having the right to early abortions and why, no doubt, he will be voting for a Bill that will lead to the closure of even more family planning clinics.

Single-parent families are not problem families but families with special problems, such as low incomes, poor housing and less access to employment. They are more affected by the Government's abysmal record on child care.

I challenge the Government's claim that there was ever some golden age of the family. If it existed in the 1960s, as the Prime Minister likes to tell us, why did the children of the 1960s reject it? A real family is what people define as real—what works for them. It is not something that the Prime Minister dreams up as she climbs another mountain of bigotry. Why is divorce bad for us when it was perfectly good for her and many members of the Cabinet?

The Government are seeking some new scapegoats and new victims. It is no coincidence that, on the same day as the Prime Minister told us that the increase in single parents was a threat to our whole way of life, the Secretary of State for Social Security briefed journalists on his plans for pursuing absent fathers whom he said contributed only £155 million to the upkeep of their children while the Department of Social Security contributed £1.8 billion. The Secretary of State wants to cut benefits and excuse the poverty caused by his previous cuts of £79 billion from the benefits system since 1979.

The Opposition believe that parents should, of course, be responsible for their children, but when a young woman faces lone parenthood the last thing she wants is to be treated as a deviant and supervised in warden accommodation. That is a Dickensian solution to neanderthal thinking.

The Government have created massive poverty over the past decade. The changes in benefits in 1986 and 1987 created more problems for single parents. If the hon. Gentleman wants to help, he should seek to convince the Government that parenthood, not marriage, is the fundamental principle on which to base benefits for families with children. Many people have enormous problems that could be solved far more easily if they had a decent home. That is at the root of many of their problems.

The Bill is a disgrace. I shall vote against it, as I hope the House will.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 19 ( Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):—

The House divided: Ayes 84, Noes 144.

[Division No. 266]

[3.50 pm

AYES

Alexander, RichardHolt, Richard
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Ashby, DavidHunter, Andrew
Bellingham, HenryIrvine, Michael
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Blackburn, Dr John G.Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Body, Sir RichardKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Bonsor, Sir NicholasKilfedder, James
Boswell, TimLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardMarland, Paul
Brazier, JulianMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Buck, Sir AntonyMoate, Roger
Burns, SimonMonro, Sir Hector
Butcher, JohnMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Butler, ChrisMorrison, Sir Charles
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Pawsey, James
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Porter, David (Waveney)
Day, StephenRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Devlin, TimShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Dover, DenShelton, Sir William
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Fox, Sir MarcusSims, Roger
French, DouglasSkeet, Sir Trevor
Gale, RogerSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Gill, ChristopherSoames, Hon Nicholas
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Goodhart, Sir PhilipStokes, Sir John
Gow, IanStradling Thomas, Sir John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Temple-Morris, Peter
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Hague, WilliamThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Trotter, Neville
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Hayes, JerryWarren, Kenneth
Hayward, RobertWiddecombe, Ann
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Wilshire, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann

Tellers for the Ayes:

Woodcock, Dr. Mike

Mr. David Shaw and

Mr. Roger Knapman.

NOES

Allen, GrahamHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Alton, DavidIllsley, Eric
Anderson, DonaldIngram, Adam
Armstrong, HilaryJohnston, Sir Russell
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackJones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Ashton, JoeJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Kennedy, Charles
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Kirkwood, Archy
Barron, KevinLambie, David
Bell, StuartLeighton, Ron
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Lewis, Terry
Bradley, KeithLitherland, Robert
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Livingstone, Ken
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Buchan, NormanLoyden, Eddie
Buckley, George J.McAvoy, Thomas
Caborn, RichardMcCartney, Ian
Callaghan, JimMcNamara, Kevin
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Madden, Max
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Marek, Dr John
Canavan, DennisMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Carr, MichaelMartlew, Eric
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Maxton, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Meale, Alan
Clay, BobMichael, Alun
Cohen, HarryMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Morgan, Rhodri
Corbett, RobinMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Cousins, JimMowlam, Marjorie
Cox, TomMullin, Chris
Crowther, StanNellist, Dave
Cryer, BobOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Cummings, JohnO'Brien, William
Dalyell, TamOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Darling, AlistairParry, Robert
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Pendry, Tom
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Pike, Peter L.
Dixon, DonPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Doran, FrankRedmond, Martin
Dunnachie, JimmyRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Eastham, KenReid, Dr John
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Ruddock, Joan
Fatchett, DerekSkinner, Dennis
Fearn, RonaldSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Spearing, Nigel
Fisher, MarkSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
Flannery, MartinSteinberg, Gerry
Flynn, PaulStott, Roger
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelStrang, Gavin
Foster, DerekTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Godman, Dr Norman A.Turner, Dennis
Golding, Mrs LlinVaz, Keith
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Wallace, James
Grocott, BruceWalley, Joan
Hardy, PeterWatson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Harman, Ms HarrietWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Haynes, FrankWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Hinchliffe, DavidWigley, Dafydd
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Hood, JimmyWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Winnick, David
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Howells, Geraint
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Tellers for the Noes:

Hoyle, Doug

Mrs. Alice Mahon and

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Ms. Dawn Primarolo.

Question accordingly negatived.

National Health Service And Community Care Bill (Allocation Of Time)

4.1 pm

I beg to move,

That the Order of the House [14th March] be supplemented as follows:—

Lords Amendments

1. The proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments shall be completed at this day's sitting and, subject to the provisions of the Order of 14th March, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be brought to a conclusion eight hours after the commencement of proceedings on this Order.

2.—(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 above—

  • (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided and, if that Question is for the amendment of a Lords Amendment, shall then put forthwith the Question on any further Amendment of the said Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown and on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in the said Lords Amendment, or, as the case may be, in the said Lords Amendment as amended;
  • (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining Lords Amendments as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
  • (i) put forthwith the Question on any Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment and then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, or, as the case may be, in their Amendment as amended;
  • (ii) put forthwith the Question on any Motion moved by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in a Lords Amendment;
  • (iii) put forthwith with respect to the Amendments designated by Mr. Speaker which have not been disposed of the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendments; and
  • (iv) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Amendments;
  • (c) as soon as the House has agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith a separate Question on any other Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to that Lords Amendment.
  • (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

    Stages subsequent to first Consideration of Lords Amendments

    3. Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the consideration forthwith of any further Message from the Lords on the Bill.

    4. The proceedings on any such further Message from the Lords shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion one hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

    5. For the purpose of bringing those proceedings to a conclusion—

  • (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided, and shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair;
  • (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining items in the Lords Message as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
  • (i) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on any item;
  • (ii) in the case of each remaining item designated by Mr. Speaker, put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in their Proposal; and
  • (iii) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.
  • Supplemental

    6.—(1) Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons.

    (2) Such a Committee shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

    7.—(1) In this paragraph "the proceedings" means proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the Report of such a Committee.

    (2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

    (3) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

    (4) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on the Motion shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt these important proceedings, but I hope that you will understand that this is a matter directly related to your responsibilities and the rights of the House of Commons.

    You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that, following the European Community summit in Dublin yesterday, a declaration of 40 pages was issued by the Heads of Government. It anticipated that the Prime Minister would be making a statement about it tomorrow. Understandably a number of right hon. and hon. Members, including myself, have sought to obtain a copy of the document, and naturally we went first to the Library, which is always extremely helpful and forthcoming on these matters. We were given to understand that the document would not be available in the Library until tomorrow because the Foreign Office had refused to supply it, on the directions of 10 Downing street.

    We made our own efforts to obtain a copy and have done so through the office of the European Communities. I understand that copies are now in the Library, because the Library told the Foreign Office that it would seek to obtain the document elsewhere if the Foreign Office did not supply it.

    Clearly, if that is true, it is a deliberate attempt by the Prime Minister's office to withhold from Parliament material that would enable Members properly to interrogate the Prime Minister tomorrow. It would be wholly unacceptable if the Library, which provides a valuable service to all right hon. and hon. Members, whatever their party, were prevented from providing that service, and I should therefore be most grateful if you would look into the matter.

    That is not strictly a matter for me, but if the Library is prepared to produce these documents that is certainly a matter for the Library and for me. The provision of documents of this kind is a matter for the Government. I am sure that what the right hon. Gentleman has said will have been heard by the Leader of the House.

    The motion proposes eight hours of debate on the Bill. The House will share my pleasure at the fact that we can anticipate that by midnight we will have completed discussions on this most important Bill. We are approaching the stage where we are about to start on the important process of implementing the reforms that the Government sketched out some time ago in a White Paper.

    Obviously, no Government introduce such a supplemental timetable motion lightly. Hon. Members will agree that it is helpful to have some limit on our debates so that they can be ordered and we can conclude our discussions at an acceptable hour.

    I have attempted to discuss the timetabling through the usual channels. I will say nothing other than it is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) declined to discuss with me at all the basis on which we might proceed. That approach to parliamentary procedure shows that perhaps the hon. Gentleman expects to stay in opposition for rather longer than he publicly implies. Anyone contemplating government knows the importance of having discussions through the usual channels on matters of this kind. No doubt that follows from the way in which proceedings were conducted on Report. The House will remember that, after a comparatively peaceful and reasonable Committee stage, we suddenly had an all-night sitting on Report, with inordinately long debates on some amendments so that we covered only five amendments in nearly 18 hours.

    In case anyone should argue that the Bill will not have had adequate consideration by midnight, I remind the House that in Committee the Bill received 109 hours of detailed consideration. More than 800 amendments were tabled, full discussion took place, and some amendments were made to the Bill. There was more detailed scrutiny in the other place where the Bill had eight days in Committee and four days on Report. More than 800 amendments were put before the other place and nearly 100 hours of further consideration took place there.

    As a result, the Bill has quite correctly taken up an enormous amount of parliamentary time during the winter. I am told that the two Houses have given more consideration to the Bill than they did to, for example, the Water Act 1989 which we all remember was a Bill of equal political controversy. This one is even more important. In case it is argued that all that debate has led to inflexibility by the Government, I can tell the House that throughout the discussions we have responded to debate and made important amendments. I am told that in 24 policy areas substantive change has been made in response to parliamentary and other discussion.

    Hon. Members may have noticed that 177 of the amendments before us are Government amendments introduced in another place. That sounds like a formidable amount of last-minute change, but it should not cause the House undue alarm because many of the amendments are drafting changes and almost without exception the others fulfil undertakings given by Ministers in response to pressure from hon. Members. Those not in response to undertakings are the result of the Government's introducing new material which received a general welcome. I do not think that they are likely to give rise to controversy. For example, we are about to consider statutory consultation on the creation of national health service trusts.

    We have incorporated provisions for a procedure on community care complaints, and the most important matter that we shall discuss in the time laid down by the motion is the fact that we have paved the way for a new clinical standards advisory group. On that I reached an important agreement with the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Medicine and the Royal Colleges of Nursing and the associated statutory bodies. I think that the climate in the health service has substantially improved since we reached that agreement with the leaders of the professions not only on the detail of the reforms, but on the need to make sure that we have a new mechanism which will keep under constant scrutiny the standards of clinical care given to patients. That falls within the remit of the debate.

    Those are significant improvements. We have discussed almost all of them at great length on previous occasions and we shall properly give them a final eight hours of consideration today.

    I believe that eight hours will give the House ample time to consider the amendments. There is not a great deal of genuine controversy on the amendment paper, although one important matter has been trailed which we shall undoubtedly reach later this evening. There is ample time to talk about ring fencing and other matters. There is little else that anyone will want to vote on or argue about. Therefore, I hope that the timetable motion is generally acceptable to the House.

    4.10 pm

    In opposing the timetable motion, may I say that the Secretary of State once again has shown his ineffable imperviousness to criticisms of his measure. During his address he was unwise enough to say that the agreement on clinical standards with the heads of the royal colleges demonstrated, if I remember his words correctly, the improved attitude within the health service to his reforms. Those royal colleges are precisely the same royal colleges which, in a unique document on which they achieved joint agreement, recorded their view that

    "there is no evidence that the changes overall will improve the standard of care, will improve access to care, will improve choice of care or will improve the cost-effectiveness of care."
    That is the statement which the Secretary of State is desperately obliged to claim in support of the improved climate for his reforms.

    The Secretary of State was good enough to make public the discussions that have taken place through the usual channels about whether there should be discussions about the timetable motion. Thereby he releases me from any obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the discussions. Therefore, I share with the House what I said to the Secretary of State's office. We refused to discuss tonight's timetable motion with the Secretary of State because throughout the Committee proceedings we discussed through the usual channels sensible arrangements for debating and timetabling the Bill. Those arrangements were in the interests of both the members of the Committee and the staff and patients of the health service who thereby secured adequate debate on the matters of importance in the Bill. The Secretary of State knows full well why I now decline to enter into any such discussions. Our discussions with him on the procedure in Committee were misrepresented by him as agreement to the principle of the Bill.

    I am interested that the Secretary of State now tells the House that an enormous amount of time has been spent on considering the Bill. It was only back in March that he told the British Medical Journal that he was impressed by the smooth and rapid progress of the Bill. At that stage there was no suggestion that the Bill required guillotining. On the contrary, he cited the speed with which the House disposed of the Bill as a sign that he was winning the arguments.

    The Secretary of State suggested that his motion will be helpful to the House. In this regard, as in so many others, I beg to differ with the Secretary of State. On Monday night, when the messenger brought from the House of Lords the amendments that we are to debate this afternoon, he passed along a corridor which contains a series of paintings depicting the triumph of Parliament in the civil war—the triumph of the rights of the House over arbitrary government and the triumph of the freedom of the House to decide for itself what issues it will debate and vote on. If King Charles I were capable of putting his head back on and returning to the Chamber, he would be astonished at the powers that the present Administration exercise over the Commons.

    The Prime Minister and the Patronage Secretary exercise powers over this House of which King Charles could only dream. As my hon. Friends will be aware, King Charles's misfortune was that he had to deal with a Parliament of free men, not pressed by party faction, bribed by patronage from No. 10 or cowed by the threat of a row from the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight). It was a Parliament of Members who asserted the rights of this House for the people who sent them here.

    The most remarkable feature of the proceedings is not that we are invited to dispose of 24 groups of amendments in seven hours after the debate on the timetable motion, which gives us just about one vote per group of amendments. We are used to the Government treating the House with contempt. This is the same ministerial team that on Report invited the House to dispose of 100 Government amendments in a single block vote, thus giving a wholly new context to the term "block vote." It is therefore no surprise that we should be faced with such a motion.

    The real surprise would be if the Opposition were to find a single Conservative Member of Parliament voting with them tonight; it would be a surprise if any Government Back Bencher were prepared to vote for the rights of the House against the Government's proposals and had the courage to defend them without the protection of the guillotine.

    The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes) is taking a close interest in the proceedings. Let me tell him about the extent to which Ministers assume that they can use him and his hon. Friends as rubber stamps. Let me outline the timetable for the rest of the week. Tomorrow the House of Lords expects to receive the results of our debate. The other place is expected to reach a conclusion tomorrow. The press has been briefed to expect Royal Assent to the Bill on Friday. Tonight the House of Commons is faced with considering 187 amendments—but, no matter, the press has been confidently told that in 48 hours the Bill will become law. That is the real reason for the timetable motion; that is why the House has to consider the amendments and reach a conclusion by midnight. It is not because the Secretary of State is afraid that he will turn into a pumpkin and be towed away by 12 white mice at midnight, nor is it because he is frightened that I might warm to my theme, get carried away by the points that I want to make and speak for another two hours during the proceedings.

    The reason why the Government have to get the proceedings concluded by midnight is that they have to get the measure back to the House of Lords before it rises tonight. The reason for guillotining our proceedings on the amendments passed by their Lordships is solely to allow their Lordships to go to bed at midnight.

    If the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, I shall be happy to allow him to do so. If he does not, I shall not give way to him.

    I am amazed to hear the hon. Gentleman talk about block votes with the eloquence of Satan denouncing sin. We have debated the Bill at considerable length. There were tremendous contributions from both sides, particularly the Government side, in Committee. That is most unusual. [Interruption.] Yes, it is most unusual. It has made this measure much better than other measures that we have considered in the past. It has been properly debated and discussed. There is not a great deal to argue about. There will be a few little skirmishes on ring fencing, but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of the Bill has been accepted by Conservative Members and by the medical profession.

    The hon. Gentleman did his best in Committee with a fairly weak case. However, most of the arguments were put forward by my hon. Friends. Nothing much happened on the Opposition side. Therefore, they felt so horrendously guilty about it that they had to keep us up all night to show their trade union friends that they were doing something. Now we are having this nonsensical debate. The hon. Gentleman did not consult my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health about the guillotine motion because he had not thought out his arguments on it. Judging by his speech, he has not even yet made up his mind.

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman's intervention will at least have served the purpose of sparing the House yet another speech from the hon. Gentleman. I must, however, take up one point that he made during that stream of consciousness. Some of my hon. Friends will have noted it; it is thoroughly revealing of the difficulty that faces us in getting the Administration to believe that there are people in this country who oppose the measure. The hon. Gentleman said that the medical profession now accept the proposals.

    Only today, at the British Medical Association conference, another major campaign was launched by the medical profession against the very matters that we are discussing. Does any Conservative Member ever listen to anything that is said by people outside this Chamber?

    One can confidently predict that, as a result of the motion, a number of Lords amendments will not be debated. For instance, Lords amendments Nos. 111 to 114 are the third last group on the selection list. They have not a hope of being reached. They are, Mr. Speaker, among the amendments that you will almost certainly be called upon to put to the House forthwith at midnight. The House will then have to vote on those amendments, along with all the other outstanding amendments—in one single vote. We shall not only not debate them; we shall not vote upon them separately.

    Lords amendments Nos. 111 to 114 provide that at least one member of a health authority shall represent the universities and teaching schools in that authority's area. The Secretary of State will be aware that the Opposition have tabled an amendment to build on that precedent and to require that one other member of the health authority should also be a member of the local authority for that district or region. It tackles one of the greatest perversities of the Bill, which purports to expand services to the community while at the same time booting off the health authorities the last remaining representatives of the very councils that provide those services in the community.

    We want to hear from the Secretary of State whom he intends to put on the health authorities in their place. Will the new representatives be like the new chair of South-West regional health authority, who celebrated his recent appointment by writing to every member of the staff telling them that he has a lot to learn about what the NHS does and offering a holiday for two in Amsterdam for the best explanation in 50 words? The people whom we want to serve on health authorities are people who know more than can be said in 50 words about the business of the NHS. We want people who are committed to keeping the NHS a public service. I warn the Secretary of State that if, this autumn, he does not appoint such people to the health authorities, the Labour Government, when they come to power, will not be bound by those appointments.

    Lords amendment No. 111 raises matters of controversy on the Labour Benches. But, in fairness to the Secretary of State, I remind the House that some of the measures before us tonight apparently are matters of controversy on the Treasury Bench. I was dumbfounded—almost struck dumb—by his claim that there are few items of genuine controversy before us tonight. We have before us tonight no fewer than five Government motions to disagree with Lords amendments.

    The most perverse of those would strike out the ring fencing of community care required in Lords amendment No. 70. The House will certainly regard that as a matter of major controversy. I should point out, therefore, that the motion that we are invited to pass tonight prescribes that if we disagree with the Lords on that amendment and send it back to be debated tomorrow and if tomorrow the Lords decline to be persuaded by our disagreement and send it back to us, we shall have precisely one hour in which to dispose of that second message from the Lords and any other message that we may receive from them.

    The Secretary of State can be forgiven for wanting to get that debate over quickly. After all, it concerns an issue on which he stands entirely alone. Sir Roy Griffiths recommended ring fencing and the Select Committee concluded unanimously in favour of ring fencing. Every voluntary organisation that has commented on it has supported ring fencing, and 97 per cent. of directors of social services have demanded ring fencing. Even the proprietors of private residential care homes are terrified that the local authorities will not have the resources that they will require if there is no ring fencing.

    Yet now, at this late stage in our proceedings on the Bill, we once again find the Secretary of State standing alone, convinced that everybody but him is wrong. Such defiance of all informed opinion gives the Secretary of State a heroic stature. He stands alone upon a peak in Richmond terrace. Like stout Cortez, he probably stands in silence, too, because I can make one prediction with confidence: if the timetable motion is passed, we shall not have time to debate all five Government motions to disagree with the Lords amendments.

    I am sure that it has not escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention that, when stout Cortez stood silent on that peak, he had conquered the terrain on which he stood.

    I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for convincing the House that at least one other hon. Member has read Keats.

    As I was about to say, if the motion is passed, the House will certainly not debate all five Government motions. At midnight, Back-Bench Members will be invited to vote down the relevant Lords amendments without even hearing why the Government want them to do that. After that is over, my hon. Friends and I will go on a reasons committee to approve the reasons why the House disagrees with the Lords amendments. That will probably be the first time that any hon. Member hears what those reasons are.

    Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, while he is sounding indignant about constitutional impropriety, he appears to be working to ensure that we do not actually discuss the Lords amendments, because he has taken a quarter of an hour out of the allotted eight hours expostulating rage about the inadequacy of time? When the hon. Gentleman concludes his remarks, we will embark on a debate on consultation on NHS trusts, on which subject he used five and a half hours on Report, when he first got into the macho "Let's liven it up" opposition that he did not previously display. Will the hon. Gentleman please allow us to get on to the substance of the issue rather than go over old ground again?

    The Secretary of State helpfully brings me to my next point. He is perfectly correct. The first amendment is a grudging concession to my two-hour speech on Report, because, at long last, it would write into the Bill a requirement that regional health authorities must consult on opt-out proposals. That is welcome as far as it goes. The problem is that, although it obliges the regions to consult, it does not oblige the Secretary of State to pay any attention to the results of those consultations. Why? It is because every ballot and every opinion poll on this matter has shown that the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot sell the idea that patients will get a better health service if local hospitals go it alone. The Secretary of State will never persuade the people who need the health service that a more commercial health service will be a more caring health service.

    The Secretary of State knows that my hon. Friends and I have tabled a modest amendment that will require him not to make an order for opt-out unless the consultation for which the Bill provides reveals substantial support for opt-out.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) has a fine speech ready on the issue. She has been working on it for the three months since the Bill was considered on Report. I shall startle my hon. Friend by saying that I am willing to forgo hearing her speech. I am even willing to forgo the exquisite entertainment of hearing the Secretary of State explain how he can square an order for consultation with freedom for him not to be bound by that consultation. I shall forgo all that and offer the Secretary of State a deal. We will drop our amendment if he will drop his five motions to disagree with the Lords amendments. If he does that, we can conclude the business inside two hours flat, and we could all go off to dinner. To tempt the Secretary of State, let me say that I shall buy the beer. The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot say, "You will vote down the five Lords amendments, and you will finish that by midnight." I note the wider irony of our proceedings. I cannot resist it.

    I would probably be out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I made a speech without giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

    So that the nation and the House may get the hon. Gentleman's indignation into some perspective, is he any relation to the Mr. R. Cook who represented Edinburgh, Central and voted five times on 20 July 1976 to guillotine five separate Bills?

    Yes, I plead guilty to that charge. As the hon. Gentleman has raised that point—it is not a wildly original point as it has been made in every guillotine debate of this Session—I shall make three points in response. I voted for the five guillotine motions on measures that were all in the manifesto and electoral address on which I stood. We are debating a motion on a Bill of which there was not a hint in the manifesto or electoral address on which the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) stood. Secondly, the 1974–79 Parliament approved 11 motions to guillotine 11 Bills, but since 1987 the Government have guillotined 12 Bills. Thirdly, if the hon. Gentleman checks, he will find that those guillotine motions did not apply to Lords amendments. There were no guillotine motions on Lords amendments until 1983, under the Administration which he purports to support.

    As my hon. Friend says, a rugby score.

    There is a wider irony about our proceedings tonight. The haste of our proceedings in the House this week conflicts with the collapse of the Secretary of State's timetable for his reforms in the world outside, where all his bluster cannot drown the noise of squealing brakes. When the Secretary of State produced the White Paper, we were told that by April health managers would be shopping round Britain for the best buy in, to use one of his favourite phrases, an all-singing, all-dancing internal market. Those same health managers have been firmly told that in April they must stick so closely to existing referral patterns that no one will notice that anything has changed. The problem with the Secretary of State is not that he cannot get his reforms to work by April but that the Prime Minister is terrified that he might get them to work before the next general election.

    Here I come to the appropriate final thought for the debate, which puts in context the motion to curtail our democratic rights. As the Bill ends its passage through Parliament, it is even more unpopular with the public than when it began. When the Prime Minister launched on "Panorama" the review that led to the Bill, she said:
    "When we are ready, we shall come forward with our proposals for consultation. Should they meet with what people want, we will then translate them into legislation."
    I must have nodded off through the consultation period.

    The proposals in the Bill certainly do not meet what people want. The Bill has never been opposed by fewer than four votes to one in every opinion poll. Tonight, the Secretary of State will get his motion; he will get his Bill by midnight; and he will get Royal Assent on Friday. But then his troubles start because the debate leaves this place, the one place in Britain where he can find a majority for his proposals, and goes out into the country, where it has lost in every ballot that has been held. There will be no guillotine motion to protect the right hon. and learned Gentleman, no Whips to dragoon the voters and not even the hon. Member for Pembroke to egg him on with helpful reflections from Hansard. There will be only him and us. We shall pursue him around the country. We shall treat every consultation on opt-out as though it were a by-election. We shall hang the reforms round the necks of himself and his colleagues.

    It is fitting that the Bill ends its proceedings with this squalid motion because it was introduced without any democratic mandate. The electorate, who were denied an opportunity to express a view at the last general election, will take their revenge at the next general election, not just to put the right hon. and learned Gentleman into opposition but to vote for a publicly funded, publicly managed health service run by local people accountable to local communities. That is the health service we believe in, and that is the health service that we shall create after this Bill is repealed.

    4.33 pm

    I was surprised by the disingenuous way in which the Secretary of State introduced the motion. He said that the House will be pleased to have completed discussion on the Bill by midnight. He knows quite well that Labour Members are anything but pleased about completing discussion by midnight. We want to have full and proper discussion.

    The Secretary of State was wrong when he said that there had been what he called more detailed scrutiny in the House of Lords. The point is that the guillotine motion will not allow us to discuss the House of Lords amendments fully. That is what is wrong with the motion. By refusing to allow us to discuss these important amendments properly, he is insulting members of the House of Lords and he is guilty of failing to allow this House full and proper discussion of crucial amendments.

    The major issues in the Bill are about both health services and community care. I have no doubt what will be sacrificed by the guillotine. Health services are important and have the backing of pressure groups, the royal colleges and, not least, the suffering patients, but on the whole the Government neglect community care. Certainly we shall not have an adequate opportunity to discuss that aspect.

    The Secretary of State is failing to ensure that the 6 million people—according to the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys—who need community care receive proper consideration in the House. There are many disabled people and many more millions of old people who live alone or are looked after by relatives who themselves may be disabled or old. They will not be given the consideration that we should give them. I hope that, within the limited confines of the debate, we shall be able to have adequate discussions about disabled and old people who need community care.

    We shall probably discuss the important issue of ring fencing. I remind the Secretary of State that, on the general timetable, it is illuminating to remember the build-up to the Bill. In March 1988, Sir Roy Griffiths published his report on community care. Twenty months later, after a great deal of pressure, the Government introduced their proposals in the White Paper. Only one week later, the Minister introduced the Bill. It is outrageous to rush these matters without proper discussion. The same is happening again tonight.

    This is an enabling Bill and will give local authorities the opportunity to act in certain ways to help disabled people through community care. If the provision is poor, as it will be, the Secretary of State will be able to blame local authorities rather than the Government. That is the clever twist in the Government's handling of the Bill. The Secretary of State may say, "There they go, those terrible local authorities, falling down on the job, and here am I, a concerned Secretary of State anxious to help, but I cannot control the town halls," while not giving them enough money, denuding them of resources and denying them the cash to look after disabled people and old people. That is the trick that he will play. He will not even allow us to discuss those issues tonight. That is deplorable.

    I have heard a rumour—it is only a rumour—that the Government intend to overturn the Lords amendments which ensure that people who run homes for those with a mental handicap must declare criminal convictions. If it is true, it is shocking. The idea that Ministers can allow crooks, thieves and possibly sexual molesters to take charge of those homes without declaring their criminal background is outrageous.

    The Government, understandably, provide care for children. They say that they regard the welfare of children as important. But what about the welfare of mentally handicapped people? Their welfare will go by the board if the Government oppose that Lords amendment. What discussions will we be able to have about that? The Secretary of State referred to all the hours that we have devoted to the Bill including all those hours in Committee, but we will not be able to deal with the Lords amendments which will deny something that is very important—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State is not listening because he is enjoying a conversation with the Minister for Health.

    I am glad. I would enjoy a conversation with the Minister for Health. She is a marvellous conversationalist and wonderful to talk to. However, I listen to the debates and I would appreciate it if the Secretary of State would listen to my point about the overturning of Lords amendments.

    The Lords amendments are of great value. I was referring to the Lords amendments that will deal with people who run homes for the mentally handicapped. If the people running those homes have crooked backgrounds, we should know about that. We are entitled to know. It would be wrong of the Government to hide that information from us and it would also be damaging for the mentally handicapped. I hope that the Secretary of State will think again.

    I have about 5,000 other points that I should like to have made, but I will not because I am aware of your eye on the clock, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State is anxious to get on to the subject matter. We are also anxious to do that.

    The Secretary of State does his homework and he works very hard. No doubt he has read the report of the debates in another place. Although he will not agree with me, I believe that the Lords made substantial points. They won their amendments by reasoned arguments, not by wild rhetoric or banging a drum. They were seeking to provide community care for the disabled and for old people. It will be a matter of great regret if those amendments are thrown out. It would be a scandal if they were thrown out without any discussion. I ask the Secretary of State to allow us more time to discuss those amendments.

    4.41 pm

    I want to detain the House for a few moments with a specific practical problem that arises from the timetable motion. I hope that the House will reject the motion, for the reasons outlined by the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). He referred to two groups of amendments that we will not reach and on which we will have no proper discussion. Those groups are amendments Nos. 111 to 115 in schedule 1 and the equivalent set for Scotland, amendments Nos. 118 to 122.

    I object to the timetable motion in principle, and I will also oppose it because it is extremely important that we discuss the amendments to which I have referred as there were further developments in another place earlier this week. The substance of the Bill was changed at 1 am on Tuesday morning in the other place.

    The position of universities in England and Wales and in Scotland have changed. I hoped that the Secretary of State for Wales would be able to say something about that tonight, because that was a significant change. As a result, the universities in England and Wales and those in Scotland have moved out of step with regard to the Health Service. One of the few useful things that the Bill offered was an opportunity to bring those universities back into step, because they have been out of phase on and off for the past 15 years.

    We referred in Committee to the universities' position in the wider context of the relationship between the universities and the health service. The amendments in schedules 1 and 2 to which I have referred were tabled by Lady Young and accepted by the Government on Report in the Lords. I believe that there was cross-party support for the arguments in Committee. That was clear from the way in which Lady Young moved the amendments in the House of Lords and also from the way in which the Government accepted them.

    According to the amendments, universities have a duty to consult about appointments. It seems to me that, if the purpose of the amendments is to secure effective joint management, that consultation must take place. If that were to happen in Scotland, appointments in England and Wales would be brought into line with the present practice.

    The position between universities in England and Wales and those in Scotland has been different in the principal Acts—the National Health Service Act 1977 and the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978. As a result of amendment No. 134, which was accepted by the Government earlier this week in another place, there is now a statutory duty to include appointments to the Scottish health boards from universities with medical and dental schools, as happens with regional and district authorities in England and Wales. In addition, however, there is a statutory duty under schedule 1 to the 1978 Act to consult the universities in Scotland about those appointments. My amendments would tidy up that position which exists as a result of the amendment that was accepted earlier in the week.

    As we have a national system of education and a national health service—I read with interest the France report, in the name of the permanent secretary at the Department of Health, which appeared last week and which is signed by the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Education and Science—it seems sensible that we should have a proper United Kingdom basis for that uniformity. It is disappointing that this timetable motion will prevent us from discussing that point. I should appreciate any clarification from the Secretary of State about my points.

    4.46 pm

    In supporting the timetable motion, I must stress most strongly that this Bill has been thoroughly and rigorously scrutinised at great length already. It has spent 146 hours in this place, and 92 hours in the other place, and more than 2,000 amendments have been tabled to it. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has said, significant changes have been made to 24 areas of the Bill. No one can seriously claim that the Bill has been railroaded through. On the contrary, it has been thoroughly tested and significantly improved.

    Yes, Conservative Members are in a hurry. We want to see the benefits of this legislation. We do not want to delay unduly. Six and a half months have passed since Second Reading, and during that time every aspect of the Bill has been rigorously and thoroughly scrutinised and debated.

    I must reiterate the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend. All but five of the 182 amendments are either technical drafting changes or positive concessions made by the Government. My right hon. and learned Friend has already referred to the important clinical standards advisory group, which is an important further addition to our reforms. He also referred to the community care complaints procedures which we accepted as a result of discussions in Committee. There will also be statutory consultation on NHS trusts.

    Further improvements and developments have occurred as a result of careful debate and scrutiny. There will be consultations with carers' and users' organisations on community care plans. This is the first time that the interests of carers and users have been enshrined in legislation. The Bill also removes any doubt about the ability of local authorities to provide emergency treatment, and that is in recognition of an important point made by the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook).

    I hope that I do not sound churlish, but the Minister said that this is the first time that the needs of carers have been embraced in legislation. Does that represent a total dismissal of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986?

    The hon. Gentleman knows very well that I take a serious and detailed interest in the 1986 Act and recognise the important contribution that it has made in this area. However, the Bill provides a new framework for care in the community for the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped. It will establish a new framework of care for the next decade and beyond. For the first time, we shall have a rational system with community care plans, opportunities for proper assessment and a complaints procedure. We shall be able to ensure that the vast resources that are already spent on care in the community are spent rationally and effectively.

    All that my hon. Friend has said is undoubtedly true, but it does not necessarily preclude ring fencing.

    My hon. Friend is drawing me into what will doubtless be the subject of a lengthy debate later in the evening.

    It is clear, however, that local authority social services departments have more than held their own in relation to other spending departments in local government. They have increased their spending by 37 per cent. If my hon. Friend essentially distrusts local government—

    That is sad.

    For many years local authorities have bemoaned the fact that the Government have insufficient confidence in them. However, we have confidence that they can undertake these important new tasks. Ring fencing would not mean a single penny more of additional resources. The role of ring fencing and specific grants lies in areas which have been neglected and which need special leverage. Examples include the mental illness specific grant, and the resources that have been devoted to AIDS. My hon. Friend will note the new proposition for ring fencing the money for those with drug and alcohol problems. Those matters were referred to several times in Committee. However, ring fencing the entire resources for care in the community would seriously undermine the role of local government.

    I refer my hon. Friend to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) on several occasions, when he said that ring fencing tends to lead to a reactionary, fossilised and backward-looking attitude to those provisions. We want innovation and the development of appropriate services for care in the community that will need modern needs, on the basis of careful planning and rigorous scrutiny.

    There has also been further recognition of the role of universities as members of the health authorities, and protection and enhancement of medical research and education in NHS trusts. That is an important further development. I do not accept what the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) said about the necessity for precisely the same mechanism in Scotland as in the rest of the country. His amendment might lead to individuals who are not from the locality of the authority becoming members of it. However, I appreciate his point and can reassure him that, when appointments are made to the authorities, a number of considerations will be borne in mind. Association with the district or region is obviously an important consideration.

    The hon. Member for Livingston made the most outrageous allegations about those who are being appointed to serve on health authorities.

    I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and do not want to delay her on this point. Although, unfortunately, I do not have the specific wording to hand, I am sure that her Department has made it clear that the intention behind the Government's thinking on that matter is to use people from the locality. The Minister's response did not seem to make such a strong commitment. If that is the Government's intention, why not include it in the Bill? There is anxiety that someone from one part of the country may be appointed to serve on a board in another part of the country, without necessarily having any grasp of the educational or health implications for that area.

    I refer the hon. Gentleman to the example of Salford, where there are teaching hospitals which will have a university member but where the medical school lies outside the district boundary. That is an example of a case that would be confined by the hon. Gentleman's amendment and where we could not achieve the end that we are seeking.

    The issues that have already been raised will be reconsidered later today and will follow from those raised in the other place. However, I must return to the outrageous allegations made by the hon. Member for Livingston about members of health authorities. I should like to know whether the hon. Gentleman feels that he can justify them—not at this moment but perhaps in a later debate.

    Greenwich health authority, for example, has—what a surprise—chosen as its representatives on the district health authority three Labour party prospective parliamentary candidates. That reveals its view of the sort of people whom it wants to put on the health authority. One individual concerned has absolutely no connection with the area—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is wrong with that?"] Opposition members ask, "What is wrong with that?" What is wrong is that it is characteristic of the Opposition, who constantly treat the health service as a party political football. Patients and those who work for the health service are heartily sickened when they see Opposition Members treating every development and improvement in the service as something about which they can make mischief and exploit for party political capital.

    The hon. Member for Livingston has said that he will treat every consultation on an NHS trust proposal as a by-election, but I must advise him that Conservative Members know exactly what we are trying to achieve in modifying the membership of the health authorities. We want effective committed individuals, with a businesslike approach, who realise that when one is running a service that is the largest employer not only in this country but in the whole of western Europe, and which is worth £29 billion, party political placemen from the Opposition are not what is wanted. We want those whom we can trust to discharge their responsibilities effectively, to continue making the improvements in health care that we have seen over the past decade, and who can continue to work under the guidance of and in liaison with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, who has secured unprecedented resources for the health service and further improvements for the care of our people.

    I am grateful to the hon. Lady for drawing breath at that point. She has referred to the appointments made to the Greenwich health authority. Is she aware that one of the appointees is the leader of the Greenwich authority? He was elected to the authority and then elected leader of it. His appointment marks the sort of close relationship between the social services and the health authority that my hon. Friends and I welcome and wish happened more often in the country. However, if the Minister is taking that tack, will she explain how, in applying the criteria of businesslike, efficiency and commitment to the health service, it has just been concluded that the most appropriate chair for one of the Leeds health authorities is the chairman of the West Yorkshire Conservative Association?

    We are looking for those who have the ability to discharge their responsibilities effectively and constructively. A close working relationship between the health authorities and the local authorities can frequently play an important part in health provision. It is essential that there are close working agreements, especially for the care in the community proposals. However, those appointed are appointed because of the contribution that they can make to the health service, not so that they can represent avested interest or group.

    I know that hon. Members want to make headway in debating the amendments at greater length. We are in haste to implement the reforms to ensure that the British people can benefit from an improved and more rationally run health service. Our care in the community proposals set a new framework for the next decade and beyond. Carers and users will be respected and recognised. My right hon. and learned Friend has included safeguards. Community care plans will be published and consulted on locally to ensure the good will of the local community in constructing proposals for the frail and the elderly.

    Under this Government, more patients are being treated and we have more doctors, nurses and resources. Fundamental to our proposals for reform is the fact that we want better management and more effective use of resources. Above all, we want the patient to be put first. I urge hon. Members to support the timetable motion.

    Question put:—

    The House divided: Ayes 305, Noes 200.

    Division No. 267]

    [4.58pm

    AYES

    Adley, RobertEmery, Sir Peter
    Aitken, JonathanEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
    Alexander, RichardEvennett, David
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelFairbairn, Sir Nicholas
    Allason, RupertFallon, Michael
    Amess, DavidFavell, Tony
    Arbuthnot, JamesFenner, Dame Peggy
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
    Arnold, Sir ThomasFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
    Ashby, DavidFishburn, John Dudley
    Atkins, RobertForman, Nigel
    Atkinson, DavidForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
    Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Forth, Eric
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Franks, Cecil
    Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Freeman, Roger
    Batiste, SpencerFrench, Douglas
    Bellingham, HenryGale, Roger
    Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Gardiner, George
    Benyon, W.Garel-Jones, Tristan
    Bevan, David GilroyGill, Christopher
    Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Blackburn, Dr John G.Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
    Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGoodhart, Sir Philip
    Body, Sir RichardGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasGorman, Mrs Teresa
    Boscawen, Hon RobertGorst, John
    Boswell, TimGow, Ian
    Bottomley, PeterGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
    Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
    Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Greenway, John (Ryedale)
    Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Gregory, Conal
    Bowis, JohnGriffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
    Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
    Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardGrylls, Michael
    Brandon-Bravo, MartinGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
    Brazier, JulianHague, William
    Bright, GrahamHampson, Dr Keith
    Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hannam, John
    Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
    Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
    Buck, Sir AntonyHarris, David
    Burns, SimonHaselhurst, Alan
    Burt, AlistairHayes, Jerry
    Butcher, JohnHayward, Robert
    Butler, ChrisHeathcoat-Amory, David
    Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
    Carrington, MatthewHill, James
    Carttiss, MichaelHind, Kenneth
    Cash, WilliamHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
    Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHolt, Richard
    Channon, Rt Hon PaulHordern, Sir Peter
    Chapman, SydneyHoward, Rt Hon Michael
    Chope, ChristopherHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
    Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
    Colvin, MichaelHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
    Conway, DerekHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
    Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
    Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
    Cope, Rt Hon JohnHunter, Andrew
    Cormack, PatrickHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
    Cran, JamesIrvine, Michael
    Critchley, JulianIrving, Sir Charles
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Jack, Michael
    Davis, David (Boothferry)Janman, Tim
    Day, StephenJessel, Toby
    Devlin, TimJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
    Dickens, GeoffreyJones, Robert B (Herts W)
    Dicks, TerryJopling, Rt Hon Michael
    Dorrell, StephenKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKey, Robert
    Dover, DenKilfedder, James
    Dunn, BobKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
    Durant, TonyKirkhope, Timothy
    Dykes, HughKnapman, Roger

    Knight, Greg (Derby North)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
    Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
    Knowles, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
    Knox, DavidRoe, Mrs Marion
    Lamont, Rt Hon NormanRost, Peter
    Lang, IanRowe, Andrew
    Latham, MichaelRumbold, Mrs Angela
    Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Ryder, Richard
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSackville, Hon Tom
    Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Sainsbury, Hon Tim
    Lightbown, DavidScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
    Lilley, PeterShaw, David (Dover)
    Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
    Lord, MichaelShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Luce, Rt Hon RichardShelton, Sir William
    Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
    McCrindle, RobertShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Macfarlane, Sir NeilShersby, Michael
    MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Sims, Roger
    Maclean, DavidSkeet, Sir Trevor
    McLoughlin, PatrickSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
    McNair-Wilson, Sir MichaelSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    McNair-Wilson, Sir PatrickSoames, Hon Nicholas
    Madel, DavidSpeed, Keith
    Major, Rt Hon JohnSpeller, Tony
    Malins, HumfreySpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
    Mans, KeithSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
    Maples, JohnSquire, Robin
    Marland, PaulStanbrook, Ivor
    Marlow, TonyStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
    Marshall, John (Hendon S)Steen, Anthony
    Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Stern, Michael
    Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Stevens, Lewis
    Maude, Hon FrancisStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
    Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
    Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickStewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
    Mellor, DavidStokes, Sir John
    Miller, Sir HalStradling Thomas, Sir John
    Mills, IainSumberg, David
    Miscampbell, NormanSummerson, Hugo
    Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Tapsell, Sir Peter
    Mitchell, Sir DavidTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    Monro, Sir HectorTaylor, John M (Solihull)
    Montgomery, Sir FergusTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Moore, Rt Hon JohnTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
    Morris, M (N'hampton S)Temple-Morris, Peter
    Morrison, Sir CharlesThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Moss, MalcolmThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Moynihan, Hon ColinThornton, Malcolm
    Neale, GerrardThurnham, Peter
    Needham, RichardTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
    Nelson, AnthonyTrotter, Neville
    Neubert, MichaelTwinn, Dr Ian
    Newton, Rt Hon TonyVaughan, Sir Gerard
    Nicholls, PatrickViggers, Peter
    Nicholson, David (Taunton)Waddington, Rt Hon David
    Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Walden, George
    Norris, SteveWalker, Bill (T'side North)
    Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyWard, John
    Oppenheim, PhillipWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
    Page, RichardWarren, Kenneth
    Paice, JamesWells, Bowen
    Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilWheeler, Sir John
    Patnick, IrvineWhitney, Ray
    Patten, Rt Hon JohnWiddecombe, Ann
    Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWiggin, Jerry
    Pawsey, JamesWilshire, David
    Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWinterton, Mrs Ann
    Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Winterton, Nicholas
    Porter, David (Waveney)Wolfson, Mark
    Portillo, MichaelWoodcock, Dr. Mike
    Powell, William (Corby)Yeo, Tim
    Price, Sir DavidYoung, Sir George (Acton)
    Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Rathbone, Tim

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Redwood, John

    Mr. Alastair Goodlad and

    Rhodes James, Robert

    Mr. Timothy Wood.

    Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas

    NOES

    Allen, GrahamGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
    Alton, DavidGrocott, Bruce
    Anderson, DonaldHardy, Peter
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterHarman, Ms Harriet
    Armstrong, HilaryHeal, Mrs Sylvia
    Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyHenderson, Doug
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackHinchliffe, David
    Ashton, JoeHoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
    Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Hood, Jimmy
    Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
    Barron, KevinHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
    Bell, StuartHowells, Geraint
    Benn, Rt Hon TonyHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
    Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Hoyle, Doug
    Bidwell, SydneyHughes, John (Coventry NE)
    Blair, TonyHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
    Boateng, PaulHughes, Simon (Southwark)
    Boyes, RolandIllsley, Eric
    Bradley, KeithIngram, Adam
    Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
    Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
    Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
    Buchan, NormanKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
    Buckley, George J.Kennedy, Charles
    Caborn, RichardKirkwood, Archy
    Callaghan, JimLambie, David
    Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Lamond, James
    Campbell-Savours, D. N.Leadbitter, Ted
    Canavan, DennisLeighton, Ron
    Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Lewis, Terry
    Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Litherland, Robert
    Clay, BobLivingstone, Ken
    Clwyd, Mrs AnnLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
    Cohen, HarryLofthouse, Geoffrey
    Coleman, DonaldLoyden, Eddie
    Cook, Frank (Stockton N)McAllion, John
    Cook, Robin (Livingston)McAvoy, Thomas
    Corbett, RobinMacdonald, Calum A.
    Cousins, JimMcKelvey, William
    Cox, TomMcNamara, Kevin
    Crowther, StanMadden, Max
    Cryer, BobMaginnis, Ken
    Cummings, JohnMahon, Mrs Alice
    Cunliffe, LawrenceMarek, Dr John
    Cunningham, Dr JohnMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Dalyell, TamMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
    Darling, AlistairMartlew, Eric
    Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Maxton, John
    Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Meale, Alan
    Dewar, DonaldMichael, Alun
    Dixon, DonMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
    Dobson, FrankMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
    Doran, FrankMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
    Douglas, DickMolyneaux, Rt Hon James
    Duffy, A. E. P.Moonie, Dr Lewis
    Dunnachie, JimmyMorgan, Rhodri
    Eastham, KenMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
    Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Mowlam, Marjorie
    Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Mullin, Chris
    Fatchett, DerekNellist, Dave
    Faulds, AndrewOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Fearn, RonaldO'Brien, William
    Field, Frank (Birkenhead)O'Neill, Martin
    Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
    Fisher, MarkParry, Robert
    Flannery, MartinPatchett, Terry
    Flynn, PaulPendry, Tom
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPike, Peter L.
    Foster, DerekPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
    Foulkes, GeorgePrimarolo, Dawn
    Fraser, JohnQuin, Ms Joyce
    Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Redmond, Martin
    Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
    Godman, Dr Norman A.Reid, Dr John
    Golding, Mrs LlinRobertson, George
    Graham, ThomasRogers, Allan
    Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Rooker, Jeff
    Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

    Ross, William (Londonderry E)Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
    Rowlands, TedTrimble, David
    Ruddock, JoanTurner, Dennis
    Salmond, AlexVaz, Keith
    Sheerman, BarryWallace, James
    Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWalley, Joan
    Shore, Rt Hon PeterWareing, Robert N.
    Sillars, JimWatson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
    Skinner, DennisWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
    Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
    Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)Wigley, Dafydd
    Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)Williams, Rt Hon Alan
    Soley, CliveWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
    Spearing, NigelWilson, Brian
    Steel, Rt Hon Sir DavidWinnick, David
    Steinberg, GerryWise, Mrs Audrey
    Stott, RogerWorthington, Tony
    Strang, GavinWray, Jimmy
    Straw, JackYoung, David (Bolton SE)
    Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Taylor, Matthew (Truro)

    Mr. Frank Haynes and

    Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis

    Mr. Allen Adams.

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Resolved,

    That the Order of the House [14th March] be supplemented as follows:—

    Lords Amendments

    1. The proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments shall be completed at this day's sitting and, subject to the provisions of the Order of 14th March, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be brought to a conclusion eight hours after the commencement of proceedings on this Order.

    2.—(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 above—

  • (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided and, if that Question is for the amendment of a Lords Amendment, shall then put forthwith the Question on any further Amendment of the said Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown and on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in the said Lords Amendment, or, as the case may be, in the said Lords Amendment as amended;
  • (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining Lords Amendments as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
  • (i) put forthwith the Question on any Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment and then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, or, as the case may be, in their Amendment as amended;
  • (ii) put forthwith the Question on any Motion moved by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in a Lords Amendment;
  • (iii) put forthwith with respect to the Amendments designated by Mr. Speaker which have not been disposed of the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendments; and
  • (iv) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Amendments;
  • (c) as soon as the House has agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith a separate Question on any other Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to that Lords Amendment.
  • (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

    Stages subsequent to first Consideration of Lords Amendments

    3. Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the consideration forthwith of any further Message from the Lords on the Bill.

    4. The proceedings on any such further Message from the Lords shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion one hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

    5. For the purpose of bringing those proceedings to a conclusion—

  • (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided, and shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair;
  • (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining items in the Lords Message as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
  • (i) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on any item;
  • (ii) in the case of each remaining item designated by Mr. Speaker, put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in their Proposal; and
  • (iii) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.
  • Supplemental

    6.—(1) Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons.

    (2) Such a Committee shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

    7.—(1) In this paragraph "the proceedings" means proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the Report of such a Committee.

    (2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

    (3) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

    (4) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on the Motion shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion.

    Orders Of The Day

    National Health Service And Community Care Bill

    Lords amendments considered.

    [The following Reports of the Social Services Committee are relevant: Second Report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Future funding of Private and Voluntary Residential Care ( House of Commons Paper No. 257); Third Report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Funding for local authorities ( House of Commons Paper No. 277); Fifth Report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Carers (House of Commons Paper No. 410); Sixth Report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Choice for Service Users ( House of Commons Paper No. 444); and the Government's Reply to the Second Report of Session 1989–90 (Cm. 1100).]

    Clause 5

    Nhs Trusts

    Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 6, line 6, at beginning insert

    "Subject to subsection (1A) or, as the case may be, subsection (1 B) below"

    5.11 pm

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Lords amendment No. 2 in page 6, line 14, at end insert—

    "(1 A) In any case where the Secretary of State is considering whether to make an order under subsection (1) above establishing an NHS trust and the hospital, establishment or facility concerned is or is to be situated in England, he shall direct the relevant Regional Health Authority to consult, with respect to the proposal to establish the trust,—
  • (a) the relevant Community Health Council and such other persons or bodies as may be specified in the direction; and
  • (b) such other persons or bodies as the Authority considers appropriate;
  • and, within such period (if any) as the Secretary of State may determine, the relevant Regional Health Authority shall report the results of those consultations to the Secretary of State.
    (1B) In any case where the Secretary of State is considering whether to make an order under subsection (1) above establishing an NHS trust and the hospital, establishment or facility concerned is or is to be situated in Wales, he shall consult the relevant Community Health Council and such other persons and bodies as he considers appropriate.
    (1C) In subsections (1A) and (1B) above—
  • (a) any reference to the relevant Regional Health Authority is a reference to that Authority in whose region the hospital, establishment or other facility concerned is, or is to be, situated; and
  • (b) any reference to the relevant Community Health Council is a reference to the Council for the district, or part of the district, in which that hospital, establishment or other facility is, or is to be, situated."
  • Amendment (a) to the proposed Lords amendment in line 6, leave out `consult' and insert ballot'.

    Amendment (b) to the proposed Lords amendment in line 13, leave out `consultations' and insert 'ballots'.

    Amendment (c) to the proposed Lords amendment in line 13, at end add

    'who shall not make an order under subsection (1) above, unless those consultations establish substantial support for an NHS trust among the staff of the hospital, establishment or facility and the local community it serves.'.

    Amendment (d) to the proposed Lords amendment line 17, leave out `consult' and insert `ballot'.

    Amendment (e) to the proposed Lords amendment in line 18, at end add

    'and shall not make an Order unless those consultations establish substantial support for an NHS trust among the staff of the hospital, establishment or facility and the local community it serves.'.

    Lords amendments Nos. 3 to 5 and 40.

    Lords amendment No. 41, in clause 30, page 31, line 26, at end insert—

    "(1A) The Secretary of State shall by regulations provide for such consultation as may be so prescribed to be carried out by a Health Board or the Agency, before he makes an order under subsection (1)."

    Amendment (a) to the proposed Lords amendment in line 2, leave out from 'regulations' to end of line 5 and insert

    direct the relevant Health Board or the Agency to consult, with respect to a proposal to establish a trust:
  • (a) the relevant Community Health Council and such other persons or bodies as may be specified in the direction; and
  • (b) such other persons or bodies as the Board or the Agency considers appropriate;
  • and the relevant Board or the Agency shall report the results of those consultations to the Secretary of State, who shall not make an order under subsection (1) above, unless those consultations establish a substantial body of support for an NHS trust among the staff of the hospital, establishment or facility and the local community it serves.'.

    Amendment (b) to the proposed Lords amendment in line 3, leave out 'consultation' and insert 'ballot'.

    Lords amendments Nos. 42 to 44, 118 to 122, 141 to 145 and 171.

    The amendments are concerned with the consultation process on the establishment of national health service trusts when our reforms are implemented, beginning in April of next year. In our discussions of the proposed reforms NHS trusts are often referred to as self-governing hospitals. That is a rather simplified description because the NHS units interested in self-governing status as NHS trusts extend beyond hospitals. As far as I am aware, the hospitals interested range from some of the biggest to the smallest. There is also a great deal of interest in NHS units delivering services to mentally ill people and community-based services of one kind or another. There are even two or three ambulance services that are interested in the prospect of having much more control over the way in which their part of the service is run inside the NHS.

    This is not the occasion for me to set out again at great length the virtues we see in returning to the NHS much more devolution of responsibility and accountability. That should be given back to those at the sharp end of the service—those people delivering care on the ground—where they have the necessary competence, enthusiasm and ability to discharge those responsibilities properly.

    The first NHS trusts will be established in the spring of next year, when leadership will be provided by local people sitting on a board chaired by a leading figure of the locality. That board will comprise executive and non-executive bodies on the smaller corporate-type model that we are advocating for health authorities and trusts under the regime. Those boards will put forward their particular plans for the development of their part of the NHS. Shortly after the Bill receives Royal Assent—I should imagine by the middle of next month—applications to establish NHS trusts will come to me and the regional health authorities from local enthusiasts. They will set out what they think they could do to raise the quality of care to their patients in their part of the NHS if given the necessary autonomy to do so.

    There are many people in the NHS who will welcome the fact that NHS trust status will give them a much greater control over the day-to-day affairs in their hospitals. There are many who are anxious to get away from the detailed supervision of their affairs undertaken by district health authorities, regional health authorities, my officials and Ministers of whatever party is in power. I believe that a further injection of pride will be given to those local units that take advantage of the opportunity to establish an NHS trust. The staff of those units and all those served by them will have an increased sense of identity with the local hospital—their local part of the NHS—that is such a great feature of the service we are discussing.

    5.15 pm

    The Labour party has throughout bitterly opposed NHS trusts for reasons that have, at times, totally mystified me. Once or twice during our proceedings on the Bill I was struck by the irony of the fact that this particular part of the Bill reverses the policy of the National Health Service Reorganisation Act 1973, introduced by the then Conservative Government. By a further irony I was the Government Whip who ensured that we had a majority when we implemented the 1973 Act which introduced the system of area and regional health authorities. That was done in the teeth of the bitter opposition of the Labour party.

    That Act brought to an end the long-standing system of local management of the NHS based on the old hospital management boards and similar arrangements throughout the service. Obviously we are not going back to precisely the way in which the health service was run in its first 25 years. We are introducing much more up-to-date and sensible arrangements that are capable of allowing local decisions. Nevertheless, it is right to go back to a system whereby the NHS, as in its first quarter of a century, brings out the best in local management, enterprise and ideas about how best to deliver care to local patients.

    In 1972 the Labour party did not have a clue about why it was opposed to the creation of the health authorities. It firmly committed itself to hand the entire service to local government once it came to power. I remember that the then Opposition spokesman was emphatic about that. The Labour party did not reverse Keith Joseph's reforms, but kept them untouched and untroubled by new ideas from 1974 to 1980. Now the Labour party is dying in the last ditch to defend the rights of the health authorities we created, which were introduced to provide detailed supervision of the day-to-day management of every part of the NHS. The Labour party is defending the right of the district and regional health authorities to second-guess day-to-day management even when we identify local people who want to take responsibility in their hands through an NHS trust. That is what the debate has been about.

    The amendments concern the necessary consultation on the establishment of NHS trusts when I receive applications from those promoters who wish to establish such a trust in their area. There is no change of policy behind the amendments and that is why I made a short plea earlier for us not to spend another five and a half hours talking about this, as we did on Report for reasons best known to those who face me in the Chamber.

    I have looked up the Second Reading debate when we first presented the Bill to the House. On 7 December 1989 in column 502 of the Official Report I first made it clear that there would be public consultation whenever an application for an NHS trust was made. On 7 December we had the first debate on consultation, ballots, and so on. No doubt the Opposition will rehearse those arguments as we proceed tonight.

    In the past few weeks the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has claimed that things have changed since December and that my timetable has slipped. The hon. Gentleman has been whistling in the dark with some enthusiasm in the hope that the introduction of the reforms will be put back. I recommend the hon. Gentleman to read column 505 of the Official Report of 7 December where I first made it clear that the pattern of service in the first year of our reforms would generally reflect the existing pattern of service, because most people wanted to persist with that existing pattern. The opportunities for change will begin in April of next year. Ever since I produced the White Paper and advocated the reforms, I have made it clear that, thereafter, the changes will evolve steadily with everyone learning from experience. They will take advantage of the greater opportunities that the reforms offer to change the service, raise the quality of care and improve the value for money for the taxpayer from the huge sums of money that the Government are not committing to the NHS.

    Our response to the repeated concerns that have been expressed in the House and in another place about how the consultation should be run and whether we really meant what we had repeated time and again—that there would be public consultation—was put into the Bill in another place. The amendments collectively ensure that a full process of public consultation will be undertaken.

    Returning to what I said a few moments ago about the likely state of progress, if we obtain Royal Assent in the next few days, I shall formally invite applications for NHS trust status. My current expectation is that in the next month the people who believe that they will be ready to form the first NHS trusts in April 1991 will put in their applications. I do not have an exact figure, because it is essentially a matter for local initiatives, but I should expect more than 70 applications from the part of the health service for which I am responsible in England. Thereafter, in accordance with the amendments, the regional health authorities will carry out a process of public consultation with every relevant interest, including the community health councils, that appears on the face of the Bill.

    Will the Secretary of State give way?

    I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I stress that the numbers to which I referred relate to England and not to Scotland.

    I appreciate that the Secretary of State was talking about the figures for England. However, he will agree that the principles remain the same north and south of the border. The new Ayr hospital is being set up in my constituency and the local health board informs me that there has been an expression of interest in self-governing status. From where does the Secretary of State expect that expression of interest? About whom is he talking and what groups does he expect to come forward with such proposals? If the vast majority of senior doctors and consultants in an area are against NHS trust hospitals, would he consider it viable to go ahead? I am asking not whether it would be acceptable or possible but whether it would be viable.

    The applications that I am expecting will come from groups of people comprising local clinicians, local nurses, local managers and perhaps local figures such as business people who may have had previous experience of the health service who, as a group, will put forward a proposition for the local NHS trust management of a particular unit. The formal applications will identify who is putting forward the proposals. I expect that most of them will identify the prospective chairmen and the people who would like to be members of the board. Most importantly, the applications will be the documents on which the consultation will be based and will set out proposals of that group for the management of the unit and the development of its services. It will set out the case for saying that that group should manage the unit with NHS trust status rather than continuing with the present direct management by the district health authority in England or the health board in Scotland.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that in Ayrshire, and I am sure elsewhere, there was no local spontaneous request for NHS trust status? The only reason anything is happening is that Don Cruikshank, on behalf of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, came and stirred things up. The managers of the hospital were promised that they would get phase 2 only if they were to consider trust status. They were then offered free the services of a consultant firm who will put up a package and stimulate interest in it. Interest is being stimulated centrally by the Minister and not locally. The proposal is being strongly opposed locally. It is being imposed from the centre by the Government without any local interest or support whatsoever.

    I do not know this Don Cruikshank, but he sounds a very enterprising fellow.

    I am not responsible for the Ayrshire hospital. I would advise the inhabitants of Ayr to wait and see who is really promoting the reforms and what they say. I cannot gainsay what the hon. Gentleman says, because, as he knows, I do not have direct contact with the health board in Ayr—that is the responsibility of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—but I know from my experience in England that opponents of NHS trusts have been given the most extraordinary descriptions of what is happening. The debate in the country has often been based on wild claims by the Labour party and local trade unions which will be gainsaid in July when real applications and promoters set out their plans. We are putting on the face of the Bill our commitment to consultation on our reforms and the nature of that consultation when we move on to much more sensible discussion.

    So far, people keep carrying out ballots among consultants and staff and local authorities organise ballots among members of the public based on daft literature giving daft descriptions of what they say is going on in the hospitals. I shall come on to some of the daft literature in a moment, as most of it is being put out by the hon. Member for Livingston. In July, for the first time people will be putting forward proposals for improving their local hospitals and, as I said on Second Reading, wanting serious local discussion on the issues involved and the future quality of care and access to services for the local residents if NHS trust status was approved and went ahead with a particular collection of promoters.

    Does the Minister realise that it has been proposed that the local hospital in Inverclyde should opt out? Why is he frightened of democracy and the right of local people such as the people of Inverclyde to conduct a ballot? There is a demand for a ballot. I thought that a ballot represented the process of democracy. The Conservative party is in government as a result of that process, so it should not be frightened of giving the local people of Inverclyde the right to a ballot to decide whether they want anyone other than the health board to run their hospital.

    I am grateful to the hon. Members for Renfres, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) and for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) for bringing me up to date on the process in Scotland. I am delighted to hear that applications for self-governing status are likely to flood in north of the border and that there is interest in Ayr and Inverclyde. We have no lack of confidence in ballots. I propose to argue yet again the case against reducing serious plans for local health care to semi-political yes/no ballots among selected groups organised by the local Labour party.

    It is not insulting. The hon. Gentleman was not here for the speech of the hon. Member for Livingston, who made it quite clear what his approaches will be when local enthusiasts put forward proposals next month for self-governing status. Was he interested in the quality of care? Was he interested in the health service? Did he want to have discussions about the details of its management? He said:

    "We shall treat every consultation on opt out as though it were a by-election."
    The Labour party has taken that approach to health reforms for the past 12 months. So far it has not produced one serious proposition to reform or improve the national health service. The Labour party's policy could be written on the back of a postage stamp. I regret that, since we first brought forward our proposals, the Labour party has joined some of the professional trade unions, as well as the TUC affiliates, in inventing ridiculous scare stories which they can exploit locally to win votes for the Labour party. I warn the Opposition that, if their reaction to local doctors, nurses, managers and people committed to the health service putting forward proposals is to run around behind front organisations such as Save our Hospitals, Health Emergency and other groups, trying to terrify patients into voting for the Labour party against illusory fears, it will rebound on them very badly.

    I shall give way in a second.

    The National Association of Health Authorities—an association of health authorities in England and Wales—is in favour of our reforms.

    Opposition Members will recall the Vale of Glamorgan by-election which they won by making a great deal of health service reforms. It was quite clear in Glamorgan that at that early stage, the Labour candidate and those helping him had persuaded the public in Glamorgan that our health reforms meant that they would have to pay for their treatment. That sort of by-election campaign is distasteful and discredits the Labour party. It should not repeat it on the consultation process on the NHS trust. I have my hands on a document that makes it quite clear that it intends to repeat that scurrilous behaviour.

    5.30 pm

    Mr. David Winnick
    (Walsall, North)