HC Deb 01 February 1982 vol 17 cc19-20
Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)

I beg to ask leave to move the adjournment of the House, under Standing Order 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the announcement of the imminent closure of the department of experimental chemical pathology at the Westminster medical school. I might add that the matter is a specific and urgent one of national and international importance.

The urgency is twofold. The decision to close this department, which has a worldwide reputation and is probably the most advanced unit in the world in the treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency in children, has only just become public and is due to take effect at the end of next month to gratify the cost-cutting voracity of the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

That the issue is specific and important will be vouched for by paediatricians not only throughout this country but in Europe and the United States of America.

The department did 35,000 pathological tests last year. One example of the view that this is an issue of great importance is the statement by the professor of medicine at the university of Pittsburgh quoted in The Guardian today that he could not believe the news. He said: They must have gone mad, since this appears as a most irrational act. The conditions resulting from B12 deficiency include mental retardation, progressive crippling diseases, blindness and cancer. The unit is a life-saving institution for sick children, and the Department of Health and Social Security must be as concerned about the news as I am and other hon. Members will be.

I hardly need to emphasise the urgent need for the House to debate the imminent closure of a department which has done pioneering work in the past 16 years and where a brilliant research team is now, apparently, about to be declared redundant.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) gave me notice before 12 noon today that it was his intention to seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing the announcement of the imminent closure of the department of experimental chemical pathology at the Westminster medical school in response to cuts imposed by the Department of Education and Science.

I listened with great concern to what the right hon. Gentleman said, because the House will be in no doubt that he has brought our attention to an important matter.

The right hon. Gentleman is aware, as the House is, that this is not the only way that this matter can be discussed. The House has instructed me under Standing Order 9, whilst taking into account the several factors set out in the order, to give no reasons for my decision.

I listened with special care to the right hon. Gentleman's representations about the proposed closure of this hospital at the end of the next month, but I have to rule that the right hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of Standing Order 9 and, therefore, that I cannot submit his application to the House.

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the importance of this matter, may I ask you whether you have had any representations from the Secretary of State for Education and Science about his coming to the House in order to make a statement?

Mr. Speaker

The answer to that is in the negative.

Mr. Ennals