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Volume 560: debated on Wednesday 13 March 2013

Q6. In 1997 there were no excess deaths in the mortality data at Mid Staffordshire hospital, but as early as 2002 there were 120 excess deaths. That figure rose year on year, yet Labour Health Secretary after Labour Health Secretary did nothing apart from award the trust foundation status in 2009. In total, 1,197 excess deaths occurred, some of which were patients who died in their own faeces. Does the Prime Minister believe that the Mid Staffordshire scandal underlines the fact that Labour’s supposed claim to be the party of the NHS is the greatest lie in British politics— (147457)

Order. [Interruption.] Order. Members may cheer, but first I am afraid the question was too long, and secondly I ask the Prime Minister to bear in mind what is his responsibility and what is not, in a very brief answer, and then we can move on.

My responsibility is to respond properly to the Francis report, and I commend Francis for what he did. It is important to remember that it is this Government who set up a proper, independent inquiry into the disgraces that happened at Mid Staffs. Everyone has to learn their lessons from what went wrong, including Ministers in the previous Government, but I think we should listen to Francis when he says that we should not seek scapegoats. What we need to do, right across politics, the House and our country, is end any culture of complacency. I love our NHS; there are some fantastic parts to our NHS, but in too many parts we do see—as my hon. Friend said—very bad figures and we need to deal with them.

Q7. In a few weeks we will be 15 years on since the signing of the Good Friday agreement, and although devolution is in place, significant challenges remain in delivering on the agreement’s full potential and the commitments contained within it to build reconciliation, unequivocal support for the rule of law, and to deal comprehensively with the past and its legacy. Does the Prime Minister agree that there must be renewed urgency in progressing those outstanding issues, and will he outline, in the light of this week’s positive engagement with the Irish Taoiseach, the rule he sees for both Governments as joint custodians of the agreement in moving that forward? (147458)

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for her very constructive work in Northern Ireland. I know that the whole House wants to wish her well with the difficulties that she and her office have faced in recent weeks.

I think there is of course a responsibility for the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister to work together, and we had a very good set of meetings this week; but the greatest possible responsibility lies with the devolved institutions. It is great that they are working and that the agreement has bedded down, but I would appeal to the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and all those involved in the Assembly to put away the conflicts of the past, work on a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland, start to take down the segregation, the peace walls and the things that take people apart in Northern Ireland, find the savings from those things and invest in a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland.