§ Mr. Gwilym Jones
For 1997–98, we have announced a cash increase of £6 million for Dyfed Powys health authority.
§ Mr. Dafis
The Secretary of State has recognised already the need to reconsider funding for health care in Dyfed Powys to take account of rurality. He must know also that some trusts in the area are heading for significant deficits this time next year, because of the present funding arrangements. Does he accept that that will lead to serious problems for some district general hospitals, especially Bronglais hospital, which serves a wide area? To prevent that immediate crisis from developing, additional funding is urgent and necessary. Will the Secretary of State commit himself or his successor to provide that additional funding?
§ Mr. Jones
I have already announced additional funding for Dyfed Powys health authority of £6 million. I have the strangest sense of déjà vu, because the first time that the hon. Gentleman raised the matter in the Chamber he started the scaremongering about Bronglais general hospital. Now that the scare over the community hospitals, which was so wickedly whipped up by certain people—not those on the Conservative Benches—has been resolved, scares are being raised about the general hospitals. That is a contemptible way to approach health care in west Wales.
§ Mr. Ainger
Given his answer to the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis), has the 616 Minister read the report produced by Dyfed Powys health authority, entitled "Effective Care and Healthy People", in which it offers three options to cope with the financial crisis? The first is to close all community hospitals in the area; the second is to close two out of four of the district general hospitals; and the third is to close some of the community hospitals and cut some of the district general hospitals. Opposition Members are not scaremongering: the health authorities are telling the truth, but the Welsh Office refuses to listen.
§ Mr. Jones
The new Dyfed Powys health authority, which has inherited an overspending tendency, is conducting a review. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State stated his regard for community hospitals during the Welsh affairs debate on 27 February, and added that he wanted them to continue their role. When he considers any proposals, he will have strong regard for local views about local health needs, and will not adopt the scaremongering approach advocated by the Opposition.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Will the Minister give a clear undertaking that there is no risk of closing any of the valuable community hospitals in Powys?
§ Mr. Jones
There is no need to say any more because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made the position clear on 27 February. I say simply to the hon. and learned Gentleman—before he flits off to pursue his more prosperous legal practices—that neither my right hon. Friend nor I is in the business of closing necessary hospitals anywhere in Wales. We are certainly not in the business of cutting the NHS. We are committed to expanding it—a commitment that the Labour party markedly refuses to match.
§ Mr. Ron Davies
Is it not disgraceful that the Under-Secretary seeks to avoid responsibility for this serious matter by claiming that the health authority has "inherited" the relevant responsibilities? I remind him that he created the health authorities and appointed the people to run them. They are directly his creation. Is it not clear that something is fundamentally wrong with the funding of Dyfed Powys health authority? I make it clear that the Labour party supports the campaign now being waged to conduct a fundamental review of the funding formula. Is not the Under-Secretary's opposition to the closure of community hospitals by the health authority both hypocritical and dishonest, as he is directly and personally responsible for that funding crisis? In addition, all his words this afternoon have not changed the fact that that crisis remains. Is that not typical of the Government, who practise deception and evasion and advocate the fraudulent making of policies today which they have no intention of honouring tomorrow? Is it any wonder that they have lost the trust of the people?
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Gentleman clearly is not aware of the circumstances. I have moved to assist Dyfed Powys health authority by extending one loan and providing another, and I am ready to assist it with transitional cash flow. It is the hon. Gentleman who is clearly ducking, as he will not make a promise—perhaps because he knows that he cannot honour it—to match our commitment to continue the real increases in spending for the health service each and every year in the next Parliament.