HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 cc365-6
1. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

What plans he has to visit Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain and Knockin to discuss (a) the impact of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill and (b) the funding of higher education as they affect communities near the border of England and Wales. [122060]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Peter Hain)

Although I have no such plans to visit at present, the Wales Office is working closely to ensure that cross-border issues in health and education are fully considered.

Mr. Griffiths

I am sure that the people of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain and Knockin would be pleased to see my right hon. Friend, but if foundation hospitals go ahead in England, can he guarantee equality of access for treatment for patients in Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, or any other part of Wales, if they have to have treatment in England?

Conversely, can my right hon. Friend guarantee for students from Knockin, or any other part of England, the prospect of the same financial treatment as students from Wales if they go to Welsh universities?

Peter Hain

As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Bill that is now going through the House has guaranteed that Welsh patients being treated in English hospitals and English patients being treated in Welsh hospitals will have their rights protected. As it happens, the numbers of English residents being treated in Welsh hospitals and the number of Welsh patients being treated in English hospitals appear to be rising, especially in such border areas. That is because more people are being treated under the NHS in Wales than ever before; the same is true of the NHS in England.

So far as students are concerned, of course their rights will continue to be the same. They will have the right to study in Wales, as many choose to, and as many Welsh students will continue to have the right to study in England.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)

Does the Minister accept that the many positive differences between Wales and England in relation to higher education and health, including Assembly learning grants for students, the retention of community health councils and the extension of free dental checks and free prescriptions were thanks to the Liberal Democrats when they were in government in Wales? Does he agree with the obvious conclusion that if the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) opposes top-up fees and foundation hospitals, which could poach nurses from the Welsh health system, he should vote for the Liberal Democrats?

Peter Hain

The hon. Gentleman is never afraid to exaggerate. Indeed, I quote from the Lib Dems' campaign guide to the last elections: Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly, and embarrass the Administration. Don't be afraid to exaggerate. He is at it again. In truth, a Labour-led Government in Wales has delivered all these excellent policies, and will continue to do so over the next four years.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

The Secretary of State needs to re-read the Bill on the bringing in of foundation hospitals, because it does not offer a guarantee that Welsh patients will have the same legal rights as English patients. As regards the good folk of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, their nearest acute hospital is the Royal Shrewsbury hospital, and they get their services there. What is the Secretary of State going to do to ensure that they get a guarantee of services equal to those on the other side of the border?

Peter Hain

As my hon. Friend knows, cross-border flows have been going on for many years, sometimes because people want specialised care, sometimes for geographical reasons and sometimes for traditional reasons. In the end, the issue comes down to who wishes to commission those particular services—the GP or the other relevant authority. Welsh and English patients alike will get the extra opportunities afforded by the massive investment that is going into our health service under Labour.

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