HC Deb 06 February 1973 vol 850 cc201-3
2. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make it his policy to retain the regional hospital board headquarters in Sheffield; and if he will make a statement.

Sir K. Joseph

In order to crystallise opinion on this matter, I informed all the health and local authorities in the region that I had formed the conclusion that the headquarters should be at Nottingham. I have received a number of representations on this view. These are being studied, together with a number of other important factors, before a final decision is reached.

Mr. Duffy

Is the Secretary of State aware that all parties in the Yorkshire region and hon. Members on both sides of the House are completely impressed with Sheffield's case, on grounds of availability, accessibility, level of employment, nature of employment and the involvement of the university and the teaching hospital? If he is seriously considering such a move, will he now put to the House just one good reason for even considering it?

Sir K. Joseph

A number of factors lead me to doubt the present location. The creation of a medical school at Nottingham, for instance, removes the unique distinction of Sheffield as having the only medical school in the region. In addition a medical school is to be created at Leicester. But I am being assailed from many parts of the region for the honour of having the regional headquarters. I shall take all the arguments into account before a conclusion is reached.

Mr. Adam Butler

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the southern part of the region, in which my constituency falls, is the poorest area in the region and that the region is the poorest in comparative terms? For that reason the decision in principle is welcomed by my constituents. We hope that the administrative advantages of central location will be of benefit. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a feeling in the country that the National Health Service is becoming increasingly remote and that to place the headquarters in the centre would help in that respect?

Sir K. Joseph

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for showing that there are several arguments on the subject. Whatever decision is reached, however, there will be work to be done in Sheffield in connection with regional headquarters for a number of years.

Mr. O'Malley

As the decision in principle has been taken without proper consultation, and as it arises from private pressures exerted by the vice-chancellors at Nottingham and Leicester, will the right hon. Gentleman now take into account the publicly expressed views and arguments from the elected Members of this House from all parts of the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board area?

Sir K. Joseph

I reject the hon. Gentleman's courteously expressed imputations. In fact the subject has been in open discussion since 3rd February 1972, when I came to a decision about whether to split the region. Many local authorities have expressed conflicting views on where the regional headquarters should be.