HC Deb 15 January 1985 vol 71 cc175-6
7. Mr. Hargreaves

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what savings have been achieved through putting ancillary services out to competitive tendering.

12. Mr. Parry

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied at the speed health authorities are dealing with privatisation in the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Fowler

I am satisfied with the progress being made by most health authorities in drawing up and implementing their programmes for competitive tendering. We have asked health authorities to provide us with up-to-date figures on savings, but information available to us so far suggests that the policy will result in savings of nearly £20 million over the next three years.

Mr. Hargreaves

I welcome the news that savings are to be made. That is good news for patients, because of the increasing demands on the Health Service. What plans does my right hon. Friend have to extend competitive tendering to other sections of the Health Service?

Mr. Fowler

Our first priority is to ensure that the programme of competitive tendering for domestic services in the Health Service is continued and brought to a conclusion in 1986–87. That is our aim. There are substantial further savings still to be made. As my hon. Friend said, the point of savings is that the money saved goes to patient care. That is what our policy is about, and the House is beginning to see it work.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

Is the Secretary of State not worried that at least 40 Conservative Members have direct financial interests in profiteering from the privatisation of these services? Does he not recognise that the code of conduct laid down for local councillors at local level is much more stringent than it is for hon. Members of this House, who can go into the Lobby and vote to line their own pockets?

Mr. Fowler

I am much more concerned that some Labour Members take their line from trade unions such as COHSE and NUPE and apply an entirely uncritical attitude to those policies.

Mr. Maclean

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some health authorities may be including unnecessarily restrictive clauses in their tendering documents, which are designed to ensure that private companies cannot compete and that contracts are awarded to in-house, fully unionised labour?

Mr. Fowler

I shall consider any points that my hon. Friend may wish to raise with me. Of course, in some instances, the in-house organisation will produce a better price and a better service. That is also part of the policy of competitive tendering and it provides savings for the Health Service.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Secretary of State avoid grotesque exaggeration of the savings that may result from privatisation? Will he avoid misleading the House as the Minister for Health did on 23 July last year, when he told me that Merton and Sutton had made estimated savings of £126,000 compared with the in-house tender. That health authority has told me in writing that there was no in-house tender with which to compare the tenders that it had received, as the Minister had said. He said that Medway had saved £357,000 compared with the in-house tender, but that health authority told me that the figure is only £102,000. He said that north Warwickshire had saved £70,000, but the figure is £22,000.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is fighting the battles of yesterday's debates. We have asked health authorities to provide us with up-to-date figures on savings, and I shall ensure that those figures are at the disposal of the House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not continue to take the absurd position that there is a monopoly of skill in cleaning and domestic services inside the Health Service, and that he will support this sensible programme, which means that more money will go to patient care.