HC Deb 02 May 1955 vol 540 cc1336-8
36 Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware that there is anxiety existing in Coventry at the negligible progress made in phase three rebuilding at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, following his grant of £80,000 for this purpose in March, 1954; and what action he proposes to take in the matter to speed up progress;

(2) in view of the fact that the urgency for additional accommodation at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital was recognised by his Department more than a year ago, why steps were not taken by his Department before the end of the last financial year when the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board had failed to submit plans for three of the seven items contained in phase three rebuilding; and why steps were not taken to speed up the procedure in the case of two further items on which objections had been raised by his Department;

(3) whether he is aware that the working party, composed of members from the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board and the Management Committee of Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, announced last July that work on the kitchen, dining-room and clinical block would start on 1st September, 1954; that plans for these were not received by his Department until October; that they are not yet complete; and what instructions have been sent by him to the regional board.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Progress on this scheme has been slower than I should have hoped, but I cannot accept any implication of unwarranted delay by the regional board or negligence by my Department. There is no reason for special instructions to the board, with whom my officers have kept in touch throughout. I regret that earlier estimates for 1954–55 were over-optimistic; but I am not aware that any announcement about the starting of the kitchen and clinical block on 1st September, 1954, was made by the working party to which the hon. Lady refers.

Miss Burton

Is the Minister aware that that Answer is completely unsatisfactory? Is he further aware that we in Coventry did not believe that the delay was due to him? Does he really think that it is good enough to get up in this House and say that when a regional board has had a delay of seven months or more—in this case, some of the delay was 12 months—in submitting plans, he does not think that any blame should be attributed to the regional board? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to do nothing at all in this matter?

Mr. Macleod

The hon. Lady made some very tempestuous observations on this subject last week, which I now gather she has discovered were wrong after studying my answers. Of coure I regret the delay, as I regret all delays in these matters, but there is nothing unusual in this particular delay. It is, I am afraid, quite common for regional boards and hospital management committees to overestimate the amount of work they can do in any year. Of course, this does not mean that the money will be lost. It will be used in this particular year. I hope that it will be used as soon as possible and that Coventry will get its hospital as soon as that can be done.

Miss Burton

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that in view of his answers last week we feel far more tempestuous now than we did then? Is he prepared to do nothing at all to get the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board to get a move on? This really is scandalous.

Mr. Macleod

I am perfectly prepared to do anything I can to help the Coventry Hospital Management Committee and the regional hospital board. The services of the officers of my Department are at their disposal.