HC Deb 24 March 1982 vol 20 cc922-3
9. Mr. Carmichael

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the progress of repair, work at the Royal hospital for sick children in Glasgow; if accurate records of the necessary repairs are being kept; and if he will make these records available for public examination.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

I am satisfied that, given the difficulties of working in an occupied building, good progress on repairs is being made. Very detailed records are being kept for purposes of the arbitration, but their release will depend, to some extent, on the course of legal proceedings.

Mr. Carmichael

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I know that the hon. Gentleman has privately visited the hospital. I am surprised that he still refers to repairs. This is a massive rebuilding job. Does he not agree with many people in the West of Scotland who believe that all Ministers who have handled the problem have been badly advised and that a public inquiry is the only means of satisfying the nation about what has happened? Does he agree that it is sometimes more important to bring matters into the open and to find out why things went wrong than to indulge in punishment and retribution?

Mr. Stewart

The advice of counsel is that holding such a public inquiry could prejudice the board's legal position in seeking restitution. Full documentation of the faults is being prepared for the arbiter. I understand that the main document and supporting material will run, when complete, to over 1, 000 pages. I accept entirely that, at an appropriate stage, it will be desirable that the main facts should be made known to the public.

Mr. Corrie

Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to all the staff in the hospital for continuing work under difficult circumstances?

Mr. Stewart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish to pay tribute to the staff of the hospital who, over the years, have kept the hospital open and maintained services to children despite extremely difficult circumstances.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Is the Minister aware that the advice given to him by counsel is exactly the same advice given to me by, I suspect, the same counsel five years ago and given to my predecessor, again, I suspect, by the same counsel five years before that? Is not the problem and the reason for the lack of public confidence the time that has been taken to resolve the matter? Does the Minister agree that some people who entered the hospital as paediatric patients are liable to finish up as geriatric patients before the matter is brought to a conclusion?

Mr. Stewart

I am well aware of the replies that the hon. Gentleman gave to the House on 18 October 1976 and 15 February 1978, which indicated precisely the same advice from counsel. But that is the legal advice. We must obviously hope that the problems are sorted out and solved as soon as possible.

Mr. Carmichael

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply I give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

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