HC Deb 16 July 1984 vol 64 cc1-3
1. Mr. Ron Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the future of the Llandough hospital.

20. Mr. Coleman

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had concerning the proposed closures at the Llandough hospital.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

Far from being closed or contracted, Llandough hospital is being expanded at a total cost of about £7 million. Its future is therefore assured.

I understand that proposals have been made by a sub-committee of the Medical Research Council that the pneumoconiosis unit should be closed. This proposal will be considered by the council in October, and while it is primarily a matter for it and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, I have asked to be kept informed.

Mr. Davies

I am grateful for that reply and the note of hope that the Under-Secretary included in his answer. Does he accept that if the pneumoconiosis unit closes that will be an appalling blow to the medical and social services in Wales and to the morale of the Welsh people? Will he undertake to ensure that the Secretary of State will fight at Cabinet level for the maintenance of the unit, and if he is unsuccessful in that fight, as he is responsible for both the health and education services, will he guarantee to make available additional resources to secure the future of the unit?

Mr. Roberts

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the unit has a long and distinguished history and that it has done valuable work. I remind him that it is the responsibility of the Medical Research Council, which set up a sub-committee to examine the workings of the unit. My right hon. Friend's responsibility is limited in the sense that the land and the buildings for the unit are leased from him, but the Medical Research Council is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mr. Coleman

Is the Under-Secretary aware that as long ago as 1943 Llandough hospital became associated with the treatment of pneumonconiotic miners? Is he aware that as a result of that the Government of the day brought pneumonconiosis into the schedule of compensatable illnesses and diseases? Was he consulted by the Medical Research Council when it made this proposal, and if so, what did he say? What will he do to prevent the council from closing the unit, which is vital to the south Wales mining community?

Mr. Roberts

No decision has yet been taken to close the unit. We have a proposal from a sub-committee of the Medical Research Council, which is to be considered by the council in October. The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that there are 11 beds associated with the unit's work, and the South Glamorgan authority has made it clear that those beds will continue in use.

Sir Raymond Gower

Is it not a fact that some years ago strong undertakings were given to develop the hospital, which until recently was in my constituency, as a district general hospital with greatly enhanced facilities? Will my hon. Friend take that into account'' Are the undertakings being fulfilled, since the hospital is admirably sited to cater for the hospital needs of the people in the Vale of Glamorgan and the western parts of the city of Cardiff?

Mr. Roberts

I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that we are planning for the development of a 90-bed obstetric unit with associated work, some of which is already in progress, to extend the catering, pharmaceutical, X-ray and residential facilities of the hospital at a cost of more than £7 million. It will probably be the biggest development in south Glamorgan since the building of the University hospital of Wales. The obstetric unit is intended to replace that at St. David's.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Does the Minister accept that he cannot get away so easily from his Department's responsibility for science and research policy in Wales? Why, if the Medical Research Council and the science board are not prepared to fund the essential pneumoconiosis research in the present unit, does not his Department fund the research on the customer-contractor principle, which it has failed lamentably to do over the years?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman must agree that the progress and direction of research is a matter for the Medical Research Council, not for me or my right hon. Friend. As to the financing of the unit, he will know from the exchange between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) on 28 June about the funding of the Medical Research Council that in 1979–80 it received £54.4 million, and in the current year it has received £117.2 million.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is not this much-loved hospital, which provides a vital service to our mining communities, worthy today of a ministerial vote of confidence? Will the Minister undertake to tell the Medical Research Council that hon. Members do not wish the unit to be closed?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman was clearly not listening to what I said. I talked about a £7 million development of the hospital. I have also told the House about the pneumoconiosis unit. The proposal advanced by the sub-committee is still at an early stage, in that it will be considered by the Medical Research Council in October.

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