§ Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Welsh questions, in answer to my welcome and gentle questioning, the Secretary of State responded arrogantly and unpleasantly. That clearly is his choice and is not a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, but, more serious, his calculated gesture was inaccurate and misleading. He threw across the Dispatch Box a letter from a National Union of Public Employees official and challenged me to show that, in my capacity as spokesman on health service matters in Wales, I am not a puppet of health service employees. The letter asked me to write to all members of Pembrokeshire health authority —not the subject of the question—warning of the dangers inherent in that health authority becoming a trust. I well understand the deep worry among health service employees in Pembrokeshire about this decision, which will remove power and decision making from their area. I did not follow that request, although I supplied the authority's general manager with copies of answers from——
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is an important point of order, because the letter contains an instruction from a union official to a Member of this House:Individual letters to be sent by yourself, or Robin Cook, to each Member—before 6 June Area Health Authority meeting, if possible: setting up of trust.There is a need to stress the importance of NHS and a commitment if possible under the next Labour Government to the retention of Pembrokeshire Health Authority.686 That letter shows quite clearly that the Opposition, for all their talk, are puppets of the unions and that what is important to them is the interests of the producers and not of clients, customers or patients.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is a bit of a slanging match that is continuing from Question Time. It is not a matter of order for me.
§ Mr. Michael
The salient point is that I did not respond to that understandable request by writing to the members of the health authority. Therefore, inadvertently, Conservative Members have proved that we put consumers and employees first. I call upon the Secretary of State to show that he has the courtesy to withdraw a completely unwarranted slur.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think not today. The hon. Member is always very helpful, but we must get on with the defence debate.