HL Deb 18 March 1976 vol 369 cc364-7

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the finance available to the Regional Health Authority housed in Newcastle-on-Tyne is less or more in 1976–77 than in 1975–76 and whether the Area Health Authorities covered by the region have yet received their estimates and which areas are requested to arrange for hospital closures.


My Lords, the overall financial allocations recently notified to the Northern Regional Health Authority are about 3 per cent. greater for 1976–77 than those for 1975–76. The Northern Regional Health Authority have not yet made their allocation to the Area Health Authorities in their region, but expect to do so shortly. Area Health Authorities have a general responsibility for considering the most suitable deployment of resources for the benefit of patients, including the use or continued use of particular health buildings. The Northern Regional Health Authority have not requested Area Health Authorities to make arrangements in connection with any closure.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very much indeed for the help which he has given. Is he aware that, as the estimates for the Northern Regional Health Authority have only recently been received and the other authorities have not yet received their estimates, it is very difficult for the Health Authorities in any part of the country to plan their future efficiently? Is it a fact that there is no money left in the Treasury for the Health Service?


My Lords, I do not think it is an unusual procedure, judging by the practice over a good many years. The Northern Regional Health Authority, along with all the other Regional Health Authorities, received notice of their allocation on 18th February, and the Northern Regional Health Authority are not meeting again until 23rd March, when they will decide what are to be the allocations to their Area Health Authorities. One must bear in mind that it takes a little time to work out how much money will be available nationally. Taking the Regional Health Authorities for the country as a whole we have been able to increase the allocation from £3,948 million to £4,052 million and, in the circumstances, bearing in mind the present situation, I should have thought that was quite reasonable.


Hear, hear!


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that any increase for the North, and other regions mentioned by the noble Baroness, is at the expense of the so-called over-bedded South-East where we shall have to face hospital closures?


My Lords, that is in some measure true, but I hope it will not be true from 1st April this year. We have put into operation a resource allocation working party, whose job will be to ascertain the real needs of each area. I accept that the Northern part of England has suffered rather considerably in comparison with the South. This has got to stop, and we are determined to stop it. That is why we have a resource allocation working party meeting at the moment. I should like to add that we are also introducing a new National Health Service planning system which will involve every hospital within a region, not just the Regional Health Authority and the Area Health Authority, so that they can make abundantly clear to their Regional Health Authority what their needs are. We regard certain areas in the North of England as deprived, and we intend to try to put a stop to that.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for all the information he has given, which is of great interest. But will he bear in mind, the regions having been extended under local government, that the Barrow-in-Furness hospitals are very badly equipped, and that more money is certainly needed to put them into better shape to look after patients?


My Lords, I would agree with the noble Baroness.


My Lords, may I draw the attention of the noble Lord the Leader of the House, and of my noble friend Lord Carrington, to the fact that four Questions have taken 21 minutes? Is this not an inordinate time to spend on Questions which, in many cases, are of very small interest to the generality of Members of this House?

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, I think the records will show that on Thursdays, when the House tends to be better filled than at other times, 22 minutes is slightly better than average. I must say that, having taken 10 minutes on the first Question, we have not done too bady on the other three. Having replied to the noble Lord, I agree with him that we should watch with care the time we take on Questions. But I know that your Lordships attach great importance to Question and Answer, and I think that with a little forbearance and restraint we have not done too badly this afternoon.


My Lords, will the noble Lord please consider referring to the proposed Select Committee the possibility, or perhaps I should say advisability, of having a chairman of this Assembly, rather than that there should still be an anarchist system to keep people in order, because those who have been in the other place know that it is one of the serious deficiencies of this place.


My Lords, one of the benefits of having no Speaker in your Lordships' House is that those who are adept at the use of the point of order procedure do not have their opportunity here.


My Lords, if we do have something like a Speaker to this House, I suggest that one of his first duties should be to prevent continual and audible conversations taking place on the Bench immediately to my left.


My Lords, like other noble Lords I tend to be led astray from our rules of order. I suggest that we now move to the next business.