HC Deb 29 March 1990 vol 170 cc654-6
2. Mr. Ian Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on Government funding to hospices in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Needham

A total of £530,000, a 100 per cent. increase in the present level of funding, will be made available in 1990–91 to provide, for the first time, a firm public sector financial base for the support of hospices in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Bruce

I thank my hon. Friend for that wonderful reply. Hospices have been funded through charitable donations in the United Kingdom—in my constituency, in Weymouth, people have been excellent in putting money into that sector. Does my hon. Friend agree that such community involvement is similar to the Government's opting-out proposals? Does he think that that will happen even more in the Province of Northern Ireland? Where will the additional funding be spent in the Province?

Mr. Needham

There is, of course, a need for a partnership with those involved with the terminally ill. There is a wonderful record of voluntary service and help to the terminally ill in Northern Ireland. The Government feel that they must do whatever they can to help and are increasing their spending this year by £530,000—£530,000 more than last year—and in 1991–92 they plan to spend a further £200,000. The objective is to obtain a 50:50 partnership with the voluntary organisations. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is crucial to keep the partnership going and to attract as many private donations and as much support as we can, particularly from the business side. I think that he will agree that the Budget measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will help in that.

Mr. Hume

As the Minister will be aware from correspondence from me, a vast amount of voluntary effort in the Derry area has gone into setting up the Foyle hospice, demonstrating the need for that service there. Is he now telling us that at last the Government will fund that hospice?

Mr. Needham

The hon. Gentleman knows that hospices in Northern Ireland are a regional service, but the Foyle hospice is not regional in that sense. However, he also knows that the Department has suggested to the boards that they negotiate the funding of the revenue element with the hospices, and that applies to the Foyle hospice. I hope that the discussions that I believe are about to take place between the Western board and the Foyle hospice will lead to a satisfactory conclusion.

Mr. Dickens

When my hon. Friend next considers the funding of hospices in Northern Ireland, will he also consider funding for hospices in the north-west, such as those at Oldham and Rochdale?

Mr. Needham

Up to now I have not considered that, but I shall bring it to the notice of my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State who has responsibility for health matters in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Ashdown

The Minister said that he hoped that the discussions to which he referred would lead to a satisfactory conclusion, but will he confirm that the Government's view of a satisfactory conclusion includes funding the Foyle hospice, which not only serves the people of the Foyle area in a way that no hospice in Belfast can, but serves the region across the border and so builds the type of cross-border relationships that must be necessary? Will he confirm that the Government's view is that the hospice should be funded?

Mr. Needham

Of course, the hospice has to be funded. Up to now it has not been considered to be a regional hospice, and I do not see why it should be. But, as I said, it is an important movement, which has been supported at all levels in the Derry area, and the Government and the Department have been saying through their policy that we look to the Western board to come to a satisfactory conclusion with the hospice.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I welcome the additional funds, having pressed for them in the past, and I should like to share in the tribute that has been paid to the hospice movement, but am I right to infer that it is looked upon as a regional service? If so, does that mean that there will be Government limitations on developments in Foyle, Newry or anywhere else where voluntary bodies come together?

Mr. Needham

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who has been a great supporter of the hospice movement and has done much to enable it to develop throughout Northern Ireland. As I said, the funds are earmarked for the boards and it is up to them to negotiate how those funds will be distributed in each area. The aim of the Government and the Department is to move to a 50 per cent. funding arrangement with the hospices.