HL Deb 12 November 1987 vol 489 cc1468-9

3.20 p.m.

Lord Ennals

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give an assurance that the Secretary of State for Social Services will not approve any proposal to close Westminster Hospital.

The Earl of Arran

No, my Lords. If such a proposal comes to be decided by Ministers, it would only be endorsed after the most careful scrutiny.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving that assurance. Is the noble Earl aware of the outstanding record of Westminster Hospital as a centre of excellence, being efficient, economic and caring? Is he aware that over the past 10 years, to my knowledge, there have been repeated proposals for the closure of this great hospital which successive Secretaries of State have refused? Does he understand the very serious problem of morale in the hospital when it is constantly being suggested that its future is uncertain?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I am, indeed, aware of the great contribution that the Westminster Hospital makes to London. The simple point is that no decision has yet been made about the closure of the hospital and in those circumstances I think it is difficult to answer more questions on that point.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the fact that I, in a professional capacity, have had occasion to send several noble Lords to the Westminster Hospital, and I am delighted to see two of them here today fully restored to health and vigour? In those circumstances, does not the noble Earl accept that any closure of the Westminster Hospital will have very serious consequences for your Lordships' House?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I am indebted to the noble Lord, and I am very much aware of the great services that the Westminster Hospital gives to the Palace of Westminster.

Lord Wise

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I can verify the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, because this time last week I was in fact lying in the Westminster Hospital after being taken there hurriedly from this building during the morning? Is my noble friend aware also that the care and attention I received and the kindness shown to me during the whole of my stay there could not have been bettered anywhere in the world?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I am aware of many wonderful, similar cases such as my noble friend has mentioned and I hear of circumstances the whole time which bear out precisely what he has said.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, the Minister's reassurances are certainly encouraging. Does not the Minister agree that there is a great strain imposed on the finances of the Riverside authority by its leading role in the treatment of AIDS, particularly at St. Stephen's? Does not the Minister further agree that if sufficient money is not provided for this purpose it will have an adverse effect on the authorities of other hospitals and this could possibly feed through, in the long run, to Westminster?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, with respect, the Question on the Order Paper relates to the possible closure of the Westminster Hospital.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are more than two noble Lords who have survived the attentions of my noble friend Lord Winstanley? Speaking as one who has benefited greatly from this excellent hospital, will the Minister bear in mind that not only is it excellent in itself but it covers a considerable part of London and a very large transient population of patients who have benefited greatly from it?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I am indeed aware of what the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, has just said.