HC Deb 11 March 1981 vol 1000 cc866-8
3. Mr. Carmichael

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is now in a position to announce a possible date for a public inquiry into the construction deficiencies at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill, Glasgow.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Russell Fairgrieve)

No, Sir. The main aims of the Greater Glasgow health board are to complete the remedial works at the earliest possible date and to recover its costs from those held responsible. A public inquiry would be of no assistance in meeting these aims.

Mr. Carmichael

Does the Minister realise that there is no attempt on the part of myself or most others to be punitive about this? My reason for wanting a public inquiry is not to recover money but to discover what went wrong, perhaps as a guide to a lot of other public and private building work. Will he reconsider having an in-depth public inquiry on the non-punitive basis that I have suggested?

Mr. Fairgrieve

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not ruled out the possibility of an inquiry after the arbitration procedure is finished and after the remedial works have been done. At this stage such a move would only prejudice what we are trying to do.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Does the Minister accept that there is grave disquiet about the length of time being taken to resolve the problem of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children? May I seek a guarantee from the Minister that, whatever happens, ultimately the company responsible for building the hospital will be required to refund money to the taxpayer in Scotland and will not be allowed to keep the money that it has stolen as a result of this disgraceful structure, which was supposed to be a hospital but which is now a tumbledown building?

Mr. Fairgrieve

I regret that highly emotive and unnecessary language has been used by the Shadow Minister. We are proceeding with the remedial work, which we hope will be completed during next year. We hope that the arbitration decision will also be made next year. We are dealing with a reputable company which is not in the habit of stealing money of this kind. The company has said that it will be bound by the arbitration result. I have no doubt that justice will be done to everyone at the end of all this.

Mr. McQuarrie

I accept what my hon. Friend said about this issue, but what steps has he taken to have discussions with the chairman of the Greater Glasgow health authority to try to apportion the blame for what happened during the construction of the building? The remedial work is necessary because of inferior workmanship during the construction and has caused great difficulty to the nurses and other medical staff in the hospital.

Mr. Fairgrieve

I accept some of my hon. Friend's comments. Although we may know what went wrong on this project, we must move by way of arbitration so that we may recover our costs. On this whole problem, my hon. Friend recently asked for a detailed presentation of our controls over hospital building in Scotland, which he saw in the Scottish Office, and which lasted for three hours. Since the end of the Second World War we in Scotland have encountered only three building disasters of this type, which is a far better record than for the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must remind the House that supplementary questions and answers are approaching the length of those that I used to make, and that is unacceptable now.

Mr. Carmichael

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the nature of the Under-Secretary's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.