HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc402-4
2. Mrs. Irene Adams

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the criteria used for the appointment of non-executive members of Scottish health boards.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

The criteria for the appointment of non-executive members of Scottish health boards were that they should have the qualities and abilities necessary to make an effective contribution, individually and collectively, to the boards' new role.

Mrs. Adams

Will the Minister admit that there is only one criterion for selection to health boards in Scotland: membership of or affiliation to the Conservative party? Does he realise that Renfrew district, the biggest centre of population in the Argyll and Clyde area, does not have a single representative on that area's health board? Is he telling us that there are no able Conservatives in that area? If so, I agree with him.

Mr. Forsyth

I suggest that the hon. Lady has a word with her hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie), who suggested two members of health boards who were appointed by my right hon. Friend. I do not think that the criterion applied in their case was the one that the hon. Lady has in mind.

The hon. Lady is wrong to say that no one from Paisley is on the health board that covers her constituency. If she does her homework she will find that Mr. Bremner comes from Paisley.

Mr. Eadie

Does not the Minister realise that that answer is most unsatisfactory and does not fit the facts? The criteria for appointment of members to health boards are that people should be supporters of the Conservative party or card-carrying members of it. Does he not realise that his reply to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) was disgraceful?

Mr. Forsyth

No, I do not. The hon. Gentleman did not listen to my answer; I refer him, too, to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South. The criteria that have been applied are to establish whether people have the necessary qualities. Many members of health boards who are not members of the Conservative party and who work hard on behalf of the health service will take considerable offence at questions of the kind asked by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Galbraith

Why is it, then, that of the 15 chairmen of health boards, 11 represent either Conservative or business interests, two are from the National Farmers Union and only two do not fall into either category? Are not my hon. Friends correct to say that the only criterion for becoming a chairman of a health board or a non-executive member is to be a member of the Conservative party or a supporter of it?

Mr. Forsyth

I dare say that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) will be astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman assuming that everyone with a business background is a supporter of the Conservative party—although to judge from what the Labour party produced yesterday I am sure that that will shortly be the case.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. As the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) has been mentioned, I call him.

Mr. Lambie

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on accepting the two nominations that I put forward on behalf of the Labour party and the trade union movement in Ayrshire. Those two representatives, Angela Dunbar and Joe Cahill, have served the Ayrshire and Arran health board well in the past and I am grateful that they have been re-elected.

Mr. Forsyth

I wish to make it absolutely clear that the reason why those two people were appointed had nothing to do with their support for or membership of the Labour party; it was simply because of their record of service on the board and the contribution that they can make to it.