§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the proposed closure of the post-operation recovery unit attached to Queen Charlotte's hospital, and the attempt by officials at the Department of Health and Social Security to prevent publication of this prior to the general election because it was considered to be a politically sensitive issue.I submit that that is of great importance to the public, not just because it involves the closure of a hospital that affects people throughout the south of England—about 40 hospitals send patients to the unit—but because it demonstrates clearly that the Government had a secret manifesto prior to the general election. There can be no question or doubt about that.
The matter involves the democratic rights of the House and of the people. On 8 June The Guardian referred to a document dealing with the closure which stated that itwas considered to be potentially a politically sensitive issue in the period immediately before the general election.The real issue is that the hospital committee had already agreed to the closure. It decided not to publish that decision because of advice by the DHSS that it was a politically sensitive issue pending the outcome of the general election.
Sir Kenneth Stowe, the permanent secretary at the DHSS, apparently wrote to all health administrators shortly before the general election warning them against publishing such politically sensitive material.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must stop the hon. Gentleman there and ask him to explain why he thinks this is an urgent matter.
§ Mr. Soley
It is an urgent matter precisely because the public and hon. Members have not had an opportunity to discover who told DHSS officers to issue such an instruction during a general election campaign. That cannot be a minor matter. It must be of serious concern to the House.
If this were a passing incident that would be one thing, but on 10 June another letter was sent by Mrs. Maggie Alexander, an executive officer in the DHSS, saying that the Department was now able to give a view on the closure and that it would be unwise to argue the case for closure on financial grounds. The letter suggested that the case should be argued in relation to medical practice and priority. The letter referred to a conversation with somebody else, whom I presume to be a DHSS officer —Joan Goldsworthy.
The rights of the public and hon. Members are involved. We must know who was giving instructions to 602 senior officers in the DHSS to keep the matter quiet or to hush it up during the election campaign. That is of great importance.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is this not a clear abuse of the system and is it not plain that it cannot possibly be urgent?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) had now finished his submission.
The hon. Gentleman seeks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the proposed closure of the post-operation recovery unit attached to Queen Charlotte's hospital, and the attempt by officials at the Department of Health and Social Security to prevent publication of this prior to the general election because it was considered to be a politically sensitive issue.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 10 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have given the submission careful consideration and listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's representations, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.