HC Deb 23 October 1961 vol 646 cc545-7
14. Mr. Boyden

asked the Minister of Health if he will now make a statement on the ten-year hospital building programme.

18. Mr. Denis Howell

asked the Minister of Health what is the estimated total cost of proposals drawn up by regional hospital boards for their ten-year hospital development plans; and how much of this is in respect of the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board.

Mr. Powell

I have nothing at present to add to my reply of 3rd July to the hon. Members for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) and Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall).

Mr. Boyden

Is the Minister not aware that on this side of the House there is some suspicion that he and the Government may be soft-pedalling in this matter? Can he give some evidence that he is not by quoting figures of the additional staff he is employing in his Ministry to get on with the schemes, and also of steps taken by regional hospital boards to increase their staffs to cope with them?

Mr. Powell

The suspicion is ill-founded. It is a big job, and it must be done properly, even if it will have to be subsequently and continuously revised. I hope to present the results as early as is consistent with that work.

Mr. Howell

Is not the Minister aware that the suspicion that he is trying to conceal information from the House is well-founded? Is he aware that the total amount of money to be spent on the building of hospital wards is freely appearing in the Press, and yet the Minister cannot even give me that figure? How much longer must we wait before the House and the country can assess the total additional cost to the National Health Service, now that these regional boards have done their work.

Mr. Powell

While I am still working with regional hospital boards on the contents of the ten-year plan, it would be misleading and wrong to give the individual figure for which the hon. Member asked. I am sorry to have to ask the House to be a little more patient in this matter, but it is important that this work should be done properly, and presented as a whole.

Mr. K. Robinson

If the Minister cannot answer the question, how could the Prime Minister tell the Brighton conference that £500 million would be spent on the hospital programme over ten years?

Mr. Powell

I do not think that that is a new piece of information. It has been available for about twelve months and is a broad indication of the total sum likely to be available in the decade.