§ 2. James Purnell (Stalybridge and Hyde)
If he will make a statement on the private finance initiative in hospitals. 
The Secretary of
State for Health (Mr. Alan Milburn): The private finance initiative is helping to deliver the biggest hospital building programme in the history of the national health service. Of the 104 PFI hospital schemes announced since 1997, 25 are already operational and a further 23 are under construction.
§ James Purnell
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Over the past few years the doctors, nurses and administrators at Tameside general have done fantastic work, despite the fact that the hospital site is spread across many buildings, many of them old Victorian workhouses, and that patients still have to be ferried between buildings by ambulance. Without PFI we would have to wait decades for another hospital. Can 741 my right hon. Friend tell me when we can expect completion of a new hospital if Tameside is successful in the current application process?
§ Mr. Milburn
I am aware of the problems in Tameside because my hon. Friend has been to see me to talk about them and to present me with a petition that he and other members of the local community organised. We will make progress as soon as possible, but the process takes some time. Once building begins, we may be confident that the new development will be built on time and to cost. It is worth saying that, as a consequence of PFI, major capital investment is now going into the national health service. Since 1997, capital spending in the NHS has risen by 63 per cent., partly as a result of PFI. To give hon. Members a point of reference, investment fell by more than 20 per cent. under the Conservative Government between 1992 and 1997.
As a result of the extra investment that will come on line from April, over the course of the next four years capital spending in the NHS will rise by a further 144 per cent., to give the NHS, its staff and its patients precisely the sort of modern working environment and modern facilities that they need. People will draw a clear contrast between a Labour party that is committed to investment and the Conservative party.
§ Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)
The Secretary of State will no doubt be aware of the bureaucratic blunders in the Paddington basin project, which resulted in a 17.5 per cent. shortfall in space. People forgot to take note of the new regulations on elderly patients in hospital. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is time to reconsider the relocation of Harefield hospital to the Paddington basin? It is time to reinvest in Harefield and so save everybody money.
§ Mr. Milburn
I can always rely on the hon. Gentleman to accentuate the positive. On the subject of the Paddington basin, we have been through the process and, indeed, I have been to Harefield. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I met local people and members of staff, including Sir Magdi Yacoub. The decisions were difficult but I believe that they are right, not just for Harefield but for health services in the area. As a consequence of the extra investment that is now going into the NHS in the area, we will get modern hospital facilities that are long overdue.