HC Deb 26 April 1991 vol 189 cc1393-4
Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This morning I raised a point of order calling for a Minister in the Department of Health to come to the House to take responsibility for and explain the cut of 600 jobs at Guy's hospital trust. The Minister was not available. We now have a Minister present. We have had further news that 300 jobs are to go in Bradford as a result of the setting up of a hospital trust. The Government are standing by and Ministers are failing to take responsibility while their business managers butcher the health service. Are we prepared to let this go on, or will you, Madam Deputy Speaker, use your influence to bring the Minister to the Dispatch Box to answer our points?

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I represent one of the Bradford constituencies and both St. Luke's and the Bradford royal infirmary treat my constituents. The announcement that 300 jobs are to go is a real blow to the people of Bradford. I urge you to support our request for the Minister for Health to make a statement because this is a serious and important matter. Just as we predicted, £7 million is being cut from the national health service budget through the trust in Bradford. The trust has nothing to do with the NHS. It represents the enemies within the NHS, and it is time that we had a statement.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. These matters are raised in the House of Commons because they are relevant to people outside. The House of Commons should debate the matter. The Government who introduced the legislation on opting out, which has already resulted in 900 job losses at two hospitals, have a duty to explain why this has happened. Furthermore——

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. I have listened carefully to the three points of order, all of which are related. As the House knows, on Fridays statements are made at 11 o'clock.

Mr. Skinner

There was none.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Allow me to finish. I know full well that no Minister has informed Mr. Speaker that he or she wishes to make a statement today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Order. If the Minister for Health wishes to raise a point of order, of course I shall hear it.

The Minister for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is important to make it clear that the whole philosophy behind the reforms in the health service is——

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Mr. Speaker has not given permission for a debate on this matter. If the Minister wishes to raise a point of order with me, I must listen to it.

Ms. Harman

Further to that point of order——

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister cannot make a statement on which she will take questions. Is she raising a point of order?

Mrs. Bottomley

indicated dissent.

Ms. Harman

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy speaker. Could the Minister, further to this point of order, please say that she will make a statement to the House on Monday about the cuts in services under the hospital trusts?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady must pursue these points of order on Monday when we resume our next parliamentary business.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Can you and your colleagues do something about the fact that the Government have abused our proceedings today? At 8.30 am I alerted the Minister's office to the fact that I intended to raise in the House today the cuts at Guy's hospital and that the matter should be dealt with. I was told that two Ministers in the Department of Health were available in London throughout the morning.

Subsequently, we debated the Radioactive Material (Road Transport) Bill. Although it is technically a private Member's Bill, we know that it is supported by the Government and that they sought a private Member to introduce it. There was a speech of two and a half hours on that Bill and, although it did not prevent the passage of the Radioactive Material (Road Transport) Bill, it stopped the Pig Husbandry Bill being debated to a conclusion. In all probability, that Bill would have had the support of the House. All that time we did not hear a word nor receive a visit from a health Minister.

It is not good enough for the Minister for Health to come to the House now simply to say, if she was minded to do so, that the Government have no responsibility. I am sure that the hon. Lady intended to say that the whole idea behind the health service reforms is that Ministers will not answer for independent, self-governing trusts. That is unacceptable.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I am sure that I can help the House. Mr. Speaker has ruled that it will not be too late for him to hear applications on this matter on Monday. The matter must now be left to our next parliamentary day—Monday next.