HC Deb 17 February 1982 vol 18 cc281-2
18. Mr. R. C.

Mitchell asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will hold a public planning inquiry into the proposal to build a private hospital in Southampton adjacent to the Southampton general hospital.

Mr. Giles Shaw

My right hon. Friend can hold a public local inquiry only if he calls in a planning application for his own decision. He decided not to do so in this case because, although controversial locally, there were no issues of wider significance which would have justified his intervention.

Mr. Mitchell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his reply will cause dismay to hundreds of Southampton citizens? Does he accept that when the Southampton city council planning committee took its original decision to grant outline planning permission for the private hospital, it did not have all the facts at its disposal? Does he agree that the building of the hospital will add tremendously to the traffic congestion from which the area already suffers?

Mr. Shaw

It is evident from the hon. Gentleman's comments that all the matters to which he has referred are essentially local matters within the purview of the local authority. He will be aware that the local council at Southampton took a decision recently on this issue in the light of all the evidence that was then available.

Mr. Hill

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the decision was taken in the Southampton council chamber, certain councillors were barred from voting because they happened to be members of BUPA? Was that not an infringement of their democratic right to make a decision? Can something be done about it?

Mr. Shaw

I take note of my hon. Friend's observation. Prima facie it appears that a councillor was debarred from undertaking his normal duties as an elected councillor. That requires further investigation.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is it not a sad commentary on the Social Democratic Party that, led by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), it is prepared to throw overboard life-long principles of opposition to private medicine and support for the Health Service? Will the Minister condemn this piece of political chicanery, which is based on a new-found lust for votes and a departure from principle?

Mr. Shaw

I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman is entering into special pleading.